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Transplanting a Dracaena Draco Dragon Tree

7 December 2009 43 Comments

The best way to move or transplant a Dracaena Draco Dragon Tree is to follow these handy tips.

Lucky Jane  scored a mature tree approx 10ft tall with five sprouts.

“It was going to be demolished so it was a very hasty transplant. I am worried that it will not survive the transplant because I didn’t prepare the soil well or do much research into what is required.

Do you have any tips that will help with the survival of this gorgeous tree.”

  1. The worst thing to do is plant a Draco too deep. At ten years, the roots at the base of the trunk should be exposed.
  2. If it’s over six foot you’ll need two stakes and at ten foot three stakes to support the Draco for the first year. Don’t try to get it too support itself as that is the surest way to plant it too deep.
  3. Trim the leaves, the lower ones aggressively.
  4. Make sure the area doesn’t get sodden, the Draco will root at the bottom if its feet get too wet.
  5. Soil should allow good drainage. Like almost all plants Dracos will appreciate good organic matter.

The plant will look wilted and dry for one to two months. Check around the base every week or two, make sure you can see the top roots. Water after the soil has dried out.

If you plant a Draco or any plant too deep it will rot around the collar.

draco-transplanting-roots

I moved this Dracaena Draco, heroically, by myself with a hand trolley. It almost killed me, but I had already abused the friendship of friends and family in moving my other cacti and succulents, so with more than a little drama I moved and staked up my Draco. See the exposed roots. I staked this plant with three ropes to distant stakes, with hose sections slipped over the rope to protect the plant.

Lucky you Jane. I scored my Bird of Paradise in exactly the same way so know how fabulous it is to give mature plants a new home.

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More Tips on Moving / Transplanting a Dracaena Draco Dragon Tree

Once established Draco’s are hardy and should survive transplanting.

  1. First make sure the plant is as healthy as possible. A good soaking with a seaweed solution prior to transplant is a great idea.
  2. If you have time dig half way around the plant and undercut part way, say around 1/3 to a 1/2). Cover the root ball with hessian or similar, an old potato sack would work well and leave for a few days or a week if you can. To be safe put some bricks or similar under the undercut section to support. This gets the plant used to the idea of moving and that half of the roots healed and ready for the move. If moving by hand trolley dig this side out so you can get the hand trolley under the Dragon Tree,
  3. Dig out the other side and undercut. Cover with hessian.
  4. Prepare the spot where you will be moving the plant to. The new hole should be wider than your root ball. The soil should have good drainage.
  5. Move plant. Ensure it is planted at same or higher level compared to surrounding soil than it was. Do not plant it lower. Stake up plant for support. This can be done with ropes or a collar arrangement, though in both case make sure you have something soft protecting the trunk.
  6. Give a good feed of seaweed solution once a week for two weeks, starting right away. Then feed once a month for a few months.

If you don’t have time to do one side first then don’t stress too much as they are hardy and should survive. Either way make sure you leave as big a root ball as possible. The limit is really how much you can move.

43 Comments »

  • Jane Chami said:

    You are fantastic ! Thank you so much for the information. I have removed some of the soil from the base as I think I did plant it too deep. I just love him and I hope he will survive. I am taking care not to over water and have have put a little seasol on as I hear that can be good for newly transplanted trees.

    I have to laugh at the abusal of friendship comment ! I was lucky enough to have three of my strong mates happen to rock up for a beer. Their help coupled with my dad and myself we managed to move it. I am amazed that you moved that one all on your own, I was shocked at how heavy they are.

    If I can work out how to upload a photo I will try and put a picture of here so you can check it out.

    Thanks again

  • Adrian said:

    FINALLY!! I have found a site with someone that knows plenty about the Draco. I can stop fretting. I live in Adelaide and recently had to re-plant my Draco which is aproximately 2.5M (16yrs.)tall because it was sittig in the middle of my driveway after I renovated my house. Unfortunately, someone liked the plant that much that they chose to saw off (steel) 3 of the 9 top branches 4 months prior to me moving it. When I moved it I kept 90% of the root structure but unfortunately again lost another 2 branches when it made its own way into the trailer for transportation purposes. (Heavy buggers aren’t they!)It has now been in the ground for 12 weeks & so far has been looking O.K. but in the last 2 weeks has started to look a bit yellowy & wilted on the lower fronds. After reading all of your postings I think I may have replanted it slightly deep as the roots are not showing as they were prior to moving, however it is in an area with a fairly well drained soil. What can I do to ensure it’s survival? How would I go about raising the tree?
    The flip side of the broken branches was that I dipped them in some rooting compound, planted them in a very well drained soil in full sun with plastic bags over them & they have both shooted already!Bewdy.The branches are about 600mm long.
    The tree has 1 branch flowering which has now turned to seed, at what stage can I cut the seed branch off for propogating & what is the best way to go about doing this. Do I need to dry them out for a period of time before planting etc…. Any assistance would be appreciated so that I can sleep at night. Regards ADRIAN.

  • admin (author) said:

    Hi Adrian, I’ll write a post a addressing your questions when I get time, hopefully later this week. First though why do you want to cut the seed branch off? You know that is where it will branch again so I’d leave it on unless you have a good reason. (unless you mean the seed throng rather than the whole branch)

    It is possible to lift a plant, but it is a lot easier to clear dirt from around the roots. First thing you should do is remove mulch dirt from the base and check if there is rot. Let me know if there is.

    It is natural for a Draco to look yellow and wilted on the lower leaves after transplanting. If you check the base and there is no rot then cut off the lower leaves, as the plant is wasting energy on them. Cut off any leaves that are below the horizontal, i.e. pointing down.

    Make sure you collect the seeds. Once the seed throng (not branch) shows any sign of colouring (yellow/orange) you can cut that off where it joins the plant and put it somewhere safe for the seeds to ripen. There is no hurry to plant these. What colour are the seeds?

    Check the plant and get back to me with answers. I’d also love to include some photos of your plant in my more detailed post, so if possible can you email me some photos to dean-at-this-site-dot-com (hopefully you can work that email)

    Some people are complete a*holes. I can’t believe they’d saw off branches from a fantastic plant like yours.
    Dean

  • Adrian said:

    Thanks Dean, will take some pics & e-mail you back. Correct Throng not branch. Seeds are curently a Golden yellow.

  • Leah said:

    Does anyone know what the best season for relocating a draco might be?
    I planted our 5 year old Draco two Falls ago. It had been doing just okay, – not flourishing either. I think we put it in a dumb place, – we have it on a raised mound, (trying to make it look taller) where it gets the most sun and heat in the Summer, and the full brunt of any frost in the winter, and I think it really should be moved. Does anyone have any thoughts?

    Thanks,
    ~Leah

  • admin (author) said:

    Hi Leah
    Raised mound and full sun sounds perfect. I’m not sure about frosts as we don’t get any here. Dracos are very slow growing. Does the soil have good drainage? Have you tried to fertilize it or add compost as a mulch, but not right up to the trunk.

  • glenn said:

    Hi All
    I live in Perth and can buy a 3.5mtr Draco for $2000 but i have to dig it
    up and move it .I have a truck and all terrain fork lift so picking it up
    is not a problem but can you give me some advice about the following
    1.I have to get it down to the back of my house by hand ,how much do you think it would weigh?
    2.I want to plant it inside some decking im building next to a pool so how big and deep is the root structure i dont want it to crack the concrete pool or eventually ruin thefootings to the decking ?
    3.How hard are they to dig out ie what size hole would i need to dig,can i use a shovel and what are the odds of it living?
    any advice would be appreciated
    Cheers
    Glenn

  • admin (author) said:

    Glenn,
    Has the Draco branched? If so, at what height and how many branches. That will help determine the weight.
    Is 3.5m to the very tip of the leaves?

    Draco’s are slow growing so. Consequently the root structure is not invasive like a ficus. However, over time any plant can become a problem if planted too close to structures. You could use that root stop material next to the pool to be absolutely safe. I wouldn’t worry about the footings or pool, but root stop material should ensure you don’t have any problems in ten or twenty years.

    I dug my 2m Draco out by hand and moved it with a 250kg hand trolley. What do you mean by hand? No trolley or barrow or anything? If so then eight strong guys would be my starting point. I’d consider hiring a gantry and chainblock from the likes of Kennards Life and Shift.

    You need to leave a decent sized root ball, but obviously the larger the root ball the heavier the load. The best way to do it, is to dig out one side first and leave it for a week or three, all staked up to prevent it falling. That allows that side to heal, then dig the other side out and move it. However, that is not essential.

    Odds of survival. Pretty good if you take care and make sure not to plant it too deep. Remember the roots at the top coming down from the trunk should be exposed. You need to support the plant with at least three guy ropes.

  • glenn said:

    Hi Admin
    thanks for taking the time to reply,sorry i havent emailed you earlier
    but been busy with building and havent been on the computer.
    the Draco in question is 3.5m high to the very top of the leaves
    there is 5 or 6 main branches growing from the trunk at 1.7m
    ive decided to put it in the front yard now so ill dig it with a bob cat
    and hiab ,but still interested in what you think the weight may be
    cheers
    Glenn

  • raylene said:

    Hi, just wondering if anyone can help with my problem of my two 2m dragon trees. They are in very large pots with the top roots exposed.I lived in a very wet area so hardly ever watered them.Last year was extra wet – and the dragon trees would shoot new shoots then rot off. I have since moved to a very hot area and the same is happening although I give them very little water. I transplanted one and it is still doing the same thing after three months. Help I don’t want to lose these beautiful trees!!

  • admin (author) said:

    Hi Raylene, Sorry I can;t help with that one. Hopefully another reader can. – Dean

  • bec said:

    Hi there, My tree is only a couple of years old. It lives in a well drained very large pot with the root exposed. Everything was going great, but recently two of the five branches have gone mushy and so i have cut them off. Im worried that maybe it has a disease?? thanks for your help.. Bec

  • admin (author) said:

    Hi Bec, I’ve never seen this before but another person left a comment recently asking a similar question. It does sound like a fungal infection. Judging my your IP your live in WA, so it can’t be frost. When you cut it off did you make sure to cut back to fresh growth and apply some anti fungal or similar? Perhaps talk yo your local nursery.

  • Chris said:

    Hi Dean

    We have a large (~30 y old) dracaena which was transplanted for us by our builders. It had to be moved as it was in a raised garden bed and the retaining wall was failing. It must be about 6 months ago now. It was supported by cables for a few months. We painted a product (akin to steriprune but can’t remember its name) on as we were told that this may help. We were also told to keep it well watered so have tried to do this though it suffered over summer a bit. Over the last month all of the leaves fell off.

    We feel like we are murderers and are not sure what to do at this point. Is it worth trying to salvage the whole tree (eg digging out roots etc as per above) or is it too late?? Would it be better to cut off the few healthiest looking branches and plant them separately (before the whole tree dies completely)??

    Thanks for any advice!!!

    ps can email pics

  • admin (author) said:

    Hi Chris , Check your email. – Dean

  • Todd said:

    hi , i have 2 dragon treees approx 2.2mtr high and 2mtr wide with 7 -8 heads on each nice looking plants i was considering transplaning out the frount but worryed they will go to big in the future for this spot, how much would a nice pair like these be worth to sell?? iam in Perth if anyone is intrested
    cheers, Todd

  • Stressed Dracaena Draco after Transplanting | DoYaDigIt Exotic Plants said:

    [...] making sure you don’t bury them too deep, e.g. some roots should be exposed. See this post for more [...]

  • Greg said:

    Hi,

    I have a problem that may bring some tears!! I was driving along in my suburb when someone had put a beautiful draco on the kerb for council pick up. It is about a metre tall and has about 10 or so heads on it but the previous owners didn’t know what they were doing and just cut it off at the base. Argh! I happily rescued it for the sake of the pups but I am going to try to save the whole thing. Anyone have any ideas on how or if they have done this? I visited the horticulturalist at the nursery who said you could try rooting strike and keep it potted in the shade with lots of TLC and see how it goes. Any suggestions?

    Cheers

    Greg

  • Not Kim Gordon (author) said:

    Hi Greg
    Sounds like your local horticulturalist gave you some good advice. I have never rooted a Draco, but have done so with large fan aloe branches and the like. Make sure you don’t keep it permanently wet, i.e. let it dry out between watering. 100% shade.
    Good luck, I’d love to know if it strikes, so please pop back and let us know how it it is going.

  • Lili said:

    Dear Dean,
    I didn’t realize what a gem of a tree that I inherited when I moved to this house. The trunk is at least 10 – 11 feet tall and then branches out to about 40 – 45 heads. I have seen it flower several times in the three years that I have been in this house. Yellow berries everywhere and I used to be upset that so many berries everywhere. Ha! I was laughing at gold dropping on my patio. Anyone who comes to the house is in awe at the sheer size of it. It is so tall that it goes up through the roof of the patio is almost the height of our roof. I was wondering if I could cut off some of the arms and sell them. There are so many arms/heads (whatever you might call them). Each arm is about 1 & 1/2 meters, that is, the trunk part and the leaves. It is a spectacular tree and wanted to harvest and sell some. Taking 10 arms off would make a dent at all in the density of this tree. Any ideas, thoughts and counsel?

    Thanks, Lili

  • Lili said:

    Oppps, meant to say that “taking 10 arms off would NOT make a dent in the density of the tree”.

  • Not Kim Gordon (author) said:

    Lucky lucky you Lili. The seeds are really easy to propagate, so make sure you collect them up and raise some Draco’s for yourself, friends, family, school fetes etc.
    I’d love a photo of your plant to post on this site. You should be able to guess my email address :-) Yes it is possible to grow a new Draco from a cutting. You should start with one or two cuttings, make sure you let the cut heal over, i.e. dry out. Then apply a rooting hormone and plant out of direct sunlight and keep moist, but not wet or it will rot. I have never actually done it, as I’m happy to grow new plants from seeds, but that is the theory of how to do it. Please let me know how it goes.
    All the best
    Dean

  • Lili said:

    Thanks for that Dean. I shall be sure to get a pic of it for you. It really is quite an outstanding tree but hidden by the patio roof that surrounds it. When is the best time to take some cuttings and dry them out? I had a guy last year that was going to come in and take out the whole tree. I was going to sell it to him for only $2,500 as at that point I really didn’t like it. Dumb blonde. He was going to have to remove it by getting a crane arm come up and over our roof. Was going to cost him $15,000 to rent the crane, another lorry to put the tree on, the laborers etc., when western power said he had to pay them several thousand dollars for them to turn off the power in the lines and that was the straw that broke the camels back. He couldn’t justify paying all that on top of what he was going to spend to get the tree for his wife’s new house. Ha! Hence, I still have that glorious tree in my back yard. How rich am I?
    Lili

  • Not Kim Gordon (author) said:

    Hi Lili, great story. Early spring is the best time and you should also use an anti fungal to help prevent rot. Apply that to both sides of the cute, i.e. the tree and the cutting.

  • Nina said:

    Todd, your post was a year ago, but was wondering if you still have the Dragon Tree’s?

    Todd said:
    hi , i have 2 dragon treees approx 2.2mtr high and 2mtr wide with 7 -8 heads on each nice looking plants i was considering transplaning out the frount but worryed they will go to big in the future for this spot, how much would a nice pair like these be worth to sell?? iam in Perth if anyone is intrested
    cheers, Todd

  • Matt TURNER said:

    I have two, both over 3 m 4 sale

    0408096899

    Regards

    matt

  • Marie said:

    Hi.
    I was lucky enough to find a dragon tree at a garage sale.
    It was in the lady’s back garden – but I had been looking for one for quite a while!
    I offered the lady $1000 and she accepted.
    It’s around 12-14 feet to the top of the greenery, and it’s also branching off.
    So – yesterday I sent 4 landscapers and myself to dig it put. Wow-that was a solid day of hard work!
    Driving the ute about 60km/ph for about 45 mins!
    It is now placed next to my pool.
    We cut off over 120 leaves.
    We watered it in quite well to help compress the soil.
    We have put a little weedmat and some rocks on top to help hold it in place.
    3 stakes using hessian around the trunk.
    We noticed a small graze on the trunk about the size of your palm, from rubbing on the back of the ute.

    Is there anything else we can do to ensure the survival of this beauty?

  • Not Kim Gordon (author) said:

    Wow Marie! What a bargain!
    The most important thing is to make sure you didn’t plant it too deep. The soil should be at the same as it was at, or lower, i.e. more roots exposed. If you planted deeper, as many people do, then scrape soil away from the trunk.

    Let the soil dry out between waters.

    A good feed with a liquid seaweed fertilizer or similar now and every couple weeks will help.
    An anti-fungal spray / root-rot prevention may also be good, talk to you local nursery about that.

  • Marie said:

    Thank you so much.
    The leaves have started to wilt and are not as green now.
    Am going to give it a big big drink tomorrow with seasol – and keep my fingers crossed.

  • amber taylor said:

    Hi there I have 2 Dragon trees for sale, they both need to be dug up. One is over 6 meters the other about 4 meters both have 8-10 heads and are in good condition. I can be contacted on 0427 845555.
    Thanks

  • Sarah said:

    Amber… where are you?

    OK now I have a question for everyone and am desperate for some help…

    We have an established dragon tree, about 2-3m high. We transplanted it over a year ago. Its leaves are covered with spots which are a rust colour in the centre, surrounded by black and then a yellow aura. ALSO the stems are one by one starting to rot. The centre goes all mucky, the leaves fall out and then the stem starts to rot back.

    I have sprayed the affected stems with fungicide but really don’t know if that is the right thing to do. I am worried it is part of a bigger problem given that ALL of the leaves have these spots.

    Can anyone offer any advice please? We LOVE our tree and don’t want to lose it.

    I can email pics if you shoot me an email – exec@npcaa.com.au.

    Thanks,
    Sarah

  • Roy said:

    Hi, thanks for all the great information on your page as this is the only site I have found which assists in the replanting of this fabulous tree. I took my Nursery’s advice and knocked on the door of a house and asked if they were willing to sell their tree (and thankfully they are). It is around 2 metres tall with the head having just cracked recently with around 4 small arms coming off it. The tree is right up against their house in a garden bed which is around 500 mm to 600 mm wide surrounded by a rock border. Before digging it out, (actually my 73 year old father in law is doing it as he is a work horse) I was wandering if you could give me an indication on the expected size (Diameter) of the root ball so we know what to expect and also what size hole to dig in our yard to allow for it.
    Also, while talking to my local nursery who has a dragon tree planted the ground of a similar size, we noted some large roots (around 50mm diameter) branching out from it close to the surface. Do you know if these roots are generally very long and also if they are able to be cut?
    Thanks in advance for your assistance as I would like to make sure I do everything possible for this tree to survive as it is a beautiful specimen.

    Cheers Roy

  • Not Kim Gordon (author) said:

    Hi Roy
    The short answer is dig out as big a root ball as you can transport. You won’t get all the roots. I moved a 2 meter Draco by myself. Yes it almost killed me and my trolly, but I was forced to go with a very small root ball and my plant survived.

    You’ll have to cut through the roots. The roots coming out above ground can be cut, but the more roots you save the better. The roots are all long and travel far, try and make nice clean cuts with a sharp spade.
    The hole for replanting should be the same depth as the hole you leave, though make sure you have dug done further down and replaced with good fresh soil, with good drainage and some dynamic lifter or similar fertilizer.
    The hole should be around 50% wider than the root ball to allow for back filling with the same good soil with good drainage.
    Make sure you plant at the same level as it currently is. Take some photos or mark the trunk with a marker so you know. If unsure it is better to plant too shallow than too deep.

    You’ll want to have three good stakes to secure the plant to and something soft to protect the plant from the tie ropes.
    Make sure you give it a good fertilizer with fish emulsion when you transplant it.

    Finally, make sure you let it dry out after each water. The biggest danger is rot caused by keeping it wet.

  • Roy said:

    Hi again, I did my transplant yesterday and now have a stunning tree in a feature spot in my backyard. (happy to supply photos, however don’t know your email. Feel free to send to my email address and I will pass on photos). I have a couple of concerns.
    Firstly I did have some over anxious assistants who did not appreciate what we were moving and were more interested in getting the job done rather than getting it done properly. Because of that, the tree moved during the relocation and now has a rather large scrape out of the bark around 50 mm wide by 250 – 300 long. Is there anything you suggest to put on it to assist the mending process or is it ok to leave alone. (I did pour some seasol on it in the hope it helps).
    Secondly, the fist placement had it too low. I insisted we raise it and as the hardest part of the process was getting it up into the hole; my helpers were loath to do it again. The solution ended up being that we managed to lift if up high enough for someone to place a large block of timber under it and then filled the surrounds with organic Potting mix (remember my helpers wanted to get out of there). It is now at a reasonable level, however the idea of leaving the piece of timber under it is driving my mother in law (who loves and appreciates the plant) crazy. She is trying to talk me into taking the plant out again, removing the piece of timber and setting it up correctly. My thoughts are that in a natural environment they will grow around rocks, timber etc, and as the timber breaks down it will make for good mulch/fertiliser.

    What are your thoughts?

    Lastly, our plant does not look to have the small finger like roots coming out of the bottom of the trunk. It had several (around 5-8) larger roots (50 mm in diameter) branching out with some having smaller roots off that. I was also surprised at how small a root ball was under this plant, only around 800 mm diameter and not even 400 mm deep. Should I try to ensure the Larger roots are exposed on the top rather than being covered?

    Look forward to your reply and thank you again for being such assistance to all us novices in such a worrying time.

    Cheers Roy

  • Natalie said:

    Hi, I hope you can help. The centre of my dragon tree has been knocked off. What will happen to the tree now?

  • Not Kim Gordon (author) said:

    Hi, once the centre of your dragon tree has been knocked off it should sprout multiple new branches from near the top.

  • Brian said:

    I will be moving a large 20 plus dragon tree soon. how wide and deep will the root system get. i am planting it close to my syptic system and dont want
    roots getting into the leach lines.

  • Not Kim Gordon (author) said:

    Hi Brian,
    Sorry I don’t know how far the roots go or how invasive they are. Good luck with the transplant and remember it is better to bury it to shallow than too deep. :)

  • Brian said:

    Thanks Dean,
    i have a friend that has a real old one and he finds roots 75 feet away from the tree but he thinks they are only a few feet deep that far out.

    also he has a patio right next to the tree and has never had any up lifting of the patio. the house and tree are about 125 years old

    Brian

  • Nigel said:

    Hi Guys,
    I have a beaut Dracaena Draco I have just put on gumtree for sale, looking at the posts in this thread i’m still in the dark as to what is a fair price for for this beautiful tree. any help with a valuation would be much appreciated.

    see the ad here – http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/midland/other-home-garden/dracena-draco-dragon-tree/1009010290

  • Not Kim Gordon (author) said:

    Hi Nigel,
    I’m not sure how much it’s worth, sorry. But perhaps if you included some better photos of it in your ad you’d get a better price.

  • Silvana Letts said:

    Hi There

    I am hoping someone can assist me here.
    My mum passed away this year and we have just recently sold her house. She has a tree on the back patio that she absolutely loved and always told me to take it out if the house was sold. I have rung a few places about removal and it all seems to hard (most just want to buy it from me for $500 bucks lol). I have been hold by a couple of people is it a dragon tree and it does seem to look like one but a couple of others have told me it is something different but similar to a dragon. The thing that looks different about this one compated to pictures I have seen of other dragon trees is that is has about 3 or 4 trunks coming out from the bottom of the plant not just one big trunk. I would love to move this tree to my house as it would be like having a piece of my mum with me however I have a few issues …

    1. Removal … is this something I can tackle myself without heavy machinery ?? It is a couple of metres high.

    2. We will be moving house in about 18 months time … will the tree survive a move now and another in 18 months or can I plant it in a large pot for 18 months ??

    Any pointers or tips anyone can give me would be much appreciated.

  • Nigel said:

    Thanks Kim,

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