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Gardening 101: Song of India

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Gardening 101: Song of India

December 20, 2019

Dracaena reflexa “Variegata”: “Song of India”

Are you always on the pursuit of easy-care but also fabulous looking houseplants? Me too. And when you throw in anything chartreuse colored—at least for me—I am seriously all in. So obviously when I stumbled upon the Song of India plant and learned more about what it takes to make it happy (very little, in fact) I immediately purchased one, brought it home and introduced it to my growing interior plant family.

Here’s what you need to know about your potential new plant friend.

This 4-inch potted Song of India Houseplant from JacquelineHomeGarden is \$\1\1 on Etsy.
Above: This 4-inch potted Song of India Houseplant from JacquelineHomeGarden is $11 on Etsy.

Native to a collection of islands in the Indian Ocean such as Madagascar and Mozambique, Song of India is a Dr. Seuss-looking plant with bright chartreuse striped leaves that are narrow, pointed and that are spirally arranged on its stems. While this evergreen plant is slow to grow, this is not a bad thing as this quality makes it the perfect (and popular) houseplant.

Plant Song of India in a pot, where it fortunately will not quickly outgrow its home and will instead sit happily on a desktop or shelf. Of course, you can buy a large specimen at the nursery and let it be a focal indoor shrub or small tree; it can grow to about 3 to 6 feet over many years. And, if you are a lucky dog and live in the mild temperature zones of 11-12, Song of India can be planted outside in a partly sunny spot and used as an evergreen focal plant in a tropical garden setting, where it can grow to an impressive 18 feet with an 8 foot spread.

Various cultivars of Dracaena reflexa exist, although the most popular one is the yellow-edged type. And know that like all Dracaenas, this plant is considered slightly poisonous, especially to curious cats and dogs who like nibbling on plants. Also note that this plant’s lower leaves can start to turn yellow and fall off but don’t stress as this shedding is totally normal and the plant is actually self-pruning to make way for new, lovely leaves.

Cheat Sheet

Photograph of Song of India grown outdoors, by Choo Yut Shing on Flickr.
Above: Photograph of Song of India grown outdoors, by Choo Yut Shing on Flickr.
  • This easy to grow and forgiving plant is perfect for the novice gardener.  Use as a bush, table plant or short tree in a home or office. If grown in a frost free zone, use this evergreen plant as an unique hedge or flanking an entry.
  • Consider propagating new plants by taking a stem cutting, removing the lower leaves, and then placing it in a jar of water where it will produce roots. After new roots appear, transplant to a pot filled with soil.
  • The genus name is derived from the Greek word ‘drakaina’ which means a female dragon.
  • Song of India is very popular in Hawaii for using the dramatic leaves in leis and tropical flower arrangements.

Keep It Alive

This Dracaena &#8\2\20;Song of India&#8\2\2\1; in a White Ceramic Cachepot is \$49 at White Flower Farm.
Above: This Dracaena “Song of India” in a White Ceramic Cachepot is $49 at White Flower Farm.
  • Song of India needs bright, indirect light. Intense, direct sun will unfortunately burn the leaves and low light will cause the plant’s  yellow-lime striped vibrancy to fade and the plant to turn spindly. Mild morning sun can be an option.
  • Plant in quick-draining soil to prevent root rot or overwatering. And like all dracaenas, reflexa likes to live on the dry side which means let about half of the top soil dry out before giving it a drink. If your potting soil seems too heavy, add some sand to the mix.
  • In the spring and summer while the plant is actively growing, feed it with a diluted basic houseplant food.
  • Hailing from high humidity places, this plant may display brown leaf tips if the humidity is too low. Simple fix? Either place the pot on a bed of wet pebbles or regularly mist with water to raise humidity, plus this trick clears potential pests away.
  • Top pest that may trouble Song of India is fusarium leaf spot which causes exactly that, leaf spots.  The spots may grow larger, turn reddish-brown or tan so simply remove any affected leaves. And while not common, also keep an eye out for mealy bugs, spider mites or scale.

For more houseplants we love, see:

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