The Q&A Archives: Dracaena Marginata losing leaves

Question: Last fall we spent a large sum on one Dracaena Marginata almost 4 ft tall from a reputable nursery in San Francsico. We brought it home and transplanted it into a larger pot with additional loamy soil. We water regularly (about 6 to 8 cups) when the top soil is dry. It stands behind the sofa and gets light all day(not direct sun). Now the leaves are quickly yellowing, drying out & falling off. When all the leaves have gone a stump of a branch remains with a shriveling end where the leaves use to be. We have We have six shivled stumps and one threatening to join them within days. I last watered December 30th. What are we doing wrong?? Thanks for being available.

Answer: Although mature plants will lose lower leaves over time, and their stems may develop a twisting appearance, what you describe doesn't sound normal. These plants need moderate light and will adapt to both moist and slightly dry soils. Overly wet soils, however, will cause root rot. I'd unpot the plant and check the root system. Healthy roots are creamy white inside; dead or dying roots are brown or rusty colored. Root rot will have a foul odor and the affected roots will be mushy. Inspect the root system carefully, cutting away any dead or dying roots. Repot in fresh potting soil and water well to help settle the soil. Wait until the top inch or two of potting soil dries out before thoroughly watering your plant. It will need less water in the winter months when growth is slow and more frequent watering in the spring and summer months. Plants in pots can sometimes develop bone-dry areas of soil because the water drains out too quickly to saturate the soil. You may think you're providing enough water but the roots can actually be dying from drought. You can overcome this common problem by immersing the pot in a larger container of water and allowing it to soak for 15-20 minutes. Then allow it to drain before setting it on a saucer. This method of watering will thoroughly saturate the soil and drive out any air pockets.

Best wishes with your dracaena!

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