The Dragon tree or Dracaena draco takes years to grow from seed and mature into an unusual umbrella shaped flowering tree, but the wait is worthwhile.
Native to the Canary Island of Tenerife where it can be seen growing wild, the Dracaena draco, popularly known as the Dragon tree, can be found in many Mediterranean areas and more southerly locations.
Dragon trees are very slow growing once the seeds have germinated and are not ideal for gardeners who are seeking an ‘instant garden.’ As an investment, however, young and more mature trees can be bought at nurseries, although they tend to be expensive.
Every tree has a slightly different appearance which depends on age and number of branches that twist and turn attractively crowned with light green spiky (but not sharp) leaves. The younger trees have a single trunk topped with an umbrella-like canopy of leaves. It can take many years for a Dragon tree to flower; up to 15 years is not unusual!
Once the Draco tree has flowered, two additional stems will shoot out from either side of the flowering stem to form new trunks. Over the course of the next few years, the dramatic shape of this almost prehistoric looking tree begins to develop. The age of a tree is estimated by the number of branches; this, in turn, indicates the flowering seasons.
Rounded green berries follow the small white delicately scented flowers and in the sunshine, they ripen to a dark orange. Inside the berry is a hard, round seed which has to be soaked for a few days to soften a little to aid germination. In a cooler northern climate, they can be helped along with a little heat or sealed in a plastic bag.
In the warmer southern climates, germination will be much easier and the process will naturally occur outdoors in pots or in the soil surrounding the parent plant. In either case, patience is needed because germination can take two months and it may even longer for a decent shoot to appear!
Patience and a warm climate are ideal. The tree is frost tender and enjoys plenty of sunshine so in a warm climate, it is pretty trouble free. If grown in a cooler climate with a winter temperature of 10degrees or less, the draco tree will only survive in a heated greenhouse or conservatory. It can easily be grown as a houseplant, as is often the case with other varieties of Dracaena.
Gardeners living in the warmer southern regions will need a fair-sized sunny spot in the garden to plant their tree because a mature tree can attain a spread of 3 meters.
Dragon tree seeds are available on the internet from sub-tropical seed sellers and nurseries. In southern regions, particularly around the Mediterranean potted plants of various sizes can be bought.
Draco trees are an unusual addition to any garden and a talking point at any stage in its life. Growing a Draco tree from seed to maturity will take decades but what a wonderful legacy to leave to another keen gardener
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