How to Care for Song of Jamaica Plants

If you're looking for a large plant with attractive foliage that can brighten an indoor spot, the "Song of Jamaica" (Dracaena reflexa "Song of Jamaica") could be the solution. A type of dracaena that can also grow outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, it does well in most areas, except near the coast where air and soil might be salty. The plant has sword-shaped leaves typical of this group of plants, but its leaves are yellowish-green, with darker green striping and edges. "Song of Jamaica" is a dependable, easy-to-grow plant that needs only basic care to thrive.

Ideal Light Conditions

"Song of Jamaica" develops rosettes of leaves that surround strong, upright stems. When mature, it can be about 8 feet tall, with a width of 6 feet. This plant does best when it gets partial sun or bright, lightly filtered light. If the climate is warm and frost-free, and you grow the plant outdoors, give it some morning sun but protect it from strong, hot afternoon sun, which can scorch its leaves. For a potted outdoor specimen, a spot under a roof eave or near a wall that provides afternoon shade is ideal. If the "Song of Jamaica" plant is indoors, keep it in a bright spot, such as in a lightly curtained, south- or west-facing window, or give it artificial light from a grow light that emits light in the entire spectrum.

Soil and Water

This plant is quite drought resistant and tolerates dry spells well, although its growth is best when the soil is kept evenly moist. During prolonged drought, give an outdoor plant supplemental water, aiming for 1 inch per week, including rain. Add some organic mulch under the plant's canopy to help retain soil moisture during dry spells. For an indoor-grown plant, water whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, but let it drain well after watering and never let the plant stand in a water-filled saucer.

Feeding and Pruning

Fertilize a "Song of Jamaica" plant every month during its growing season, which is generally in spring through summer. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 formula, diluted at a rate of 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water, but check the product label for additional directions. Regular pruning of tall, bare stems on this plant stimulates new growth at the cut ends and promotes bushy, dense growth, helping prevent a leggy appearance. Prune early in spring, before a new flush of growth begins, and prevent spread of plant disease by wiping your pruning knife or shears in rubbing alcohol between cuts.

Possible Problems

Although "Song of Jamaica" is usually pest- and disease-free, it can attract spider mites, especially when the plant is grown in dry indoor air. These microscopic pests produce web-like coverings on young shoots, eventually killing them if not controlled. Spray an infected plant with insecticidal soap, diluted at a rate of 6 tablespoons per gallon of water; wet all plant parts completely and repeat the spray every two weeks as needed. This plant also benefits from extra humidity, so mist it regularly and keep a potted specimen on a pebble-filled tray containing water that reaches just below the pebbles' tops.