The first time I moved house, my mother insisted on giving me a couple of plants, including one with a woody trunk and a plume of green and yellow leaves, beautiful, with a red ribbon tied around the stem. My mother called it the "Palo de la Felicidad" and said it attracted success and good fortune. As it stretches its trunk, almost reaching the sky, your life is filled with joy and good tidings.
I don't know how true all this is, the truth is that the Palo de Agua is one of those plants that should never be missing in your collection, it is very beautiful and easy to take care of, it also has other interesting applications. I can't prove that it attracts good luck, but at least it makes your spaces look happier and brighter.
All about the palo de agua
The scientific name of this plant is Dracaena Fragans. You can find it under a lot of names: water stick, happiness stick, Brazil stick, Brazil log, corn plant, dracaena, among many others. Originally from tropical Africa, it has been used as a decorative element in Europe since the middle of the 19th century. It is a perennial plant, which means that it does not lose its leaves with the change of seasons. It is distinguished by its woody trunk with rings, at the ends of which grows a tuft of green leaves or green with yellow in other varieties. For this reason it has been called a 'false palm tree'.
It is slow growing, reaching up to 2 to 3 metres if grown in a pot indoors. Outdoors and planted in the ground it can easily exceed these dimensions. I have seen specimens in gardens that measure about 5 metres. Another curious detail is that it produces a white flower, in a beautiful bouquet, in spring but rarely flowers when grown in pots. In any case, this happens only twice in the life of the plant.
The palo de agua usually has completely green leaves, but there are variegated species, which exhibit other colours. There are many varieties of this plant, the most common being:
- Dracena fragans Massangeana: the leaves have a lemon-yellow line down the centre
- Dracena fragans Lindenii: the leaves are green, but have yellow edges.
- Dracena fragans Lemon Lime: leaves have light yellow lines around a greyish green centre line.
It is important to note that this is not a good plant for pets, as its sap can be a little toxic. For some strange reason cats may find it attractive and tend to chew on the leaves. This is not fatal, as it only causes vomiting and some intestinal problems, but if you see the symptoms worsen or persist for a long time, you should take them to the vet.
what is Palo de Agua good for?
Although this plant has always been appreciated for its beauty and ornamental value in interior decoration, dracaena has incredible properties, as it is known to be one of the most potent species in the world of purifying plants.
As the famous NASA study proves, the water stick is one of the plants capable of absorbing harmful substances from the environment and processing them into oxygen. Toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichlorotoluene, xylene and a long list of other pollutants are processed by this plant, which purifies the environment. It also works as a natural humidity regulator, so if you gather a few in your green corner you can do wonders for the air you breathe.
Within Feng Shui, the Water Stick is a plant that is positioned in corners and edges that interrupt the flow of Sha energy in the house. Because it has a shape reminiscent of a miniature tree, it is great for replacing smaller plants and because it grows straight up it attracts good chi. They can also be used lined up to delimit spaces if necessary.
As I mentioned at the beginning, it is considered a plant that attracts good fortune, in fact, its sap known as "dragon's blood" was used as an ingredient in incense and incense burners to ward off negative energies.
How to care for Palo de Agua
Palo de Agua is a grateful plant, which responds vigorously to minimal care. It is perfect for people with little gardening experience and can be used as an indoor or outdoor plant. It is great for adding visual height to your decor because of its long, slender shape, so it will look great in your living room. The most important thing is to create the environmental conditions similar to its place of origin, then you can let it grow at its own pace and let it fill your spaces with its happy silhouette.
The Palo de Agua comes from tropical locations, so it prefers places with semi-shade or indirect light. In these spaces, the large trees filter the sun's rays that reach this type of plant, so you should never expose it to direct sunlight, as its leaves would burn. It can be in very luminous places, but where the sun's rays do not reach it directly.
The Palo del Brasil prefers warm temperatures, ideally between 20 to 26° C. The minimum temperature it can withstand is 10 C, a colder environment than that will make it start to lose its leaves and die. During the winter, avoid placing it near a radiator or heater, as this will cause it to lose humidity.
This is a perfect plant for those who forget to water at times, because it prefers drought to excess. The substrate should be fairly moist (not soggy) and it is best to wait for it to dry out between waterings to avoid problems with over-watering. These plants are a little sensitive to the fluoride that is added to the water in some places, so it is best to water them with rainwater. If this is impossible, use water from the filter or water that has been left to stand for at least 24 hours.
As a good tropical plant, it requires acceptable humidity levels. You can spray the plant with a little water from time to time or group it with others to create its own humidity bubble. Another trick is to place it on a plate of pebbles and fill it with water, so that the water evaporates without touching the plant's roots.
You can use universal substrate, as long as it is loose and aerated, so that the roots can get all the oxygen they need. The substrate should also have very good drainage, because this plant is susceptible to root rot. To avoid any tragedy, don't forget to put a layer of pebbles or similar in the bottom of the pot to facilitate drainage.
Palo de Agua is very easy to propagate. It is recommended to do it at the beginning of spring, to give it time to develop roots. Just cut a section of its trunk or a stem from the ones that have sprouted and put it in fresh substrate. I prefer to do it in water, until they develop roots. Some people use rooting powder, but it is not really necessary. This plant grows easily if it has enough light.
Dracaena is an undemanding plant, however it is best to fertilise it from spring to summer. You can use liquid fertiliser every two weeks or time-release fertiliser. Avoid using fertiliser in winter, which is when the plant goes dormant.
Move your Palo de Agua once a year to a slightly larger pot with fresh, suitable substrate. When transplanting, try to transfer the entire root ball with the soil attached to the roots to the new pot, as this ensures that they are not damaged by handling. Always remember to put something at the bottom to facilitate drainage.
- Potential problems with the water stick
Even if you take care of your plant with care and attention, there are certain problems typical of this type of plant that you should pay attention to. The first thing to look at is the leaves. They should look green and very shiny, this is the primary indicator of their health and well-being. Remember to take a look at your plant, including the leaves, on a regular basis to detect any problems early.
- If the leaves turn yellow and stop growing, or if the new leaves are dwarfed and weak, it is a sign that your plant is lacking nutrients. It is time to use some organic fertiliser to restore vigour.
- If the leaves turn bright yellow and start to dry out, then there is too much light. You need to move it. To a place where it is protected from the sun's rays.
- If you see brown spots on the leaves, it needs water. It is true that this plant can withstand drought, but if it goes on for too long, the leaves will dry out.
- If the tips of the leaves turn brown and the edges of the leaves are yellow, it is being drafty. It is better to move it around, increase the humidity and give it a slightly warmer environment.
- If the central stem becomes soft, sort of floppy and spongy, it is because it has been over-watered for prolonged periods, but it can also be a symptom that the temperature is too cold. Don't let it get to this point, but if it does, cut off anything that is soft and if there is any solid section of trunk left, cut it off and try to propagate it.
- Palo de agua is hardy, but watch out for aphids and the pesky cottony bugs. If you see any of these pests, you can use an organic insecticide.
- If the lower leaves turn yellow and start to fall off, don't worry because this is normal. Leaves have a life cycle and are replaced by other leaves.
- If you find a leaf with reddish spots, don't worry because the sap of this plant is red when it oxidises, not for nothing does its name Dracaena mean dragon in Greek.
- If the leaves curl back on themselves, forming a tube, it is because they need more humidity. Spray the leaves with water and check if watering is necessary.
What you should NEVER do with your watering can
- Overwater. If you water too often, moisture accumulates in the roots causing rotting. It is best to let it dry out between waterings.
- Transplanting to an excessively large pot. Because there is a possibility of moisture accumulation and root rot.
- Leave it in full sun. Direct sunlight is the water stick's worst enemy, as it causes brown spots, dries out the leaves and can kill your plant.
- Leave it next to the air conditioning or heating outlet. These devices, although they provide air conditioning and create a pleasant environment for the plant, tend to dry out the environment too much. Move them away from these devices and spray them with some water if they show signs of dehydration.
- Leaving the leaves covered with dust. The leaves of the water stick benefit from cleaning, as it allows them to capture light better. Remove dust when necessary with a clean, dry cloth. Avoid applying products to keep them shiny, there is no need.
- Leave it outside in winter. This plant cannot survive if the temperature drops more than 5°C. It is best to keep it indoors.
- Skip the fertiliser. Although this is a rather hardy plant, it doesn't hurt to apply some fertiliser in the spring. If you are one of those who forget and get lost with concentrations and frequencies, you can try some time-release fertiliser.
Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.