The Q&A Archives: dracaena tree

Question: I have a beautiful dracaena that consists of 5 trunks in a large pot. The tallest trunk has grown so tall that it is hitting my ceiling. What will happen to the top of it if I cut it down a bit. Also, can I propagate that top piece and add it to the pot as another plant??

Answer: There are a couple of things you can do with your overgrown dracaena. First, the growth habit you describe is perfectly natural for the plants. They generally grow a tall, skinny stem with just tufts of leaves on top. You can cut the stem of the plant back to where you'd like new foliage to begin. Doing so will leave you with a bare stem, but a new stem will grow from the old stem, within a few inches of the cut. This offshoot will develop leaves over time, which will disguise the cut until the new stem grows taller and the lower leaves fall off. This is best done in the spring when plant growth is most vigorous.

Or, you can try air layering the top. The process is simple but can take up to a year for roots to develop. I'd start about 12" below the foliage (this will be the bottom stem of your new plant). Wound the stem by cutting about 1/3 through and propping the wound open with a small stone. Wrap the injury with moistened spaghnum moss (that's where the new roots will develop), and cover the moss with plastic wrap to keep it moist. You can gently tape the top and bottom of this moss package to keep moisture inside. New roots will develop at the site of the injury and then you can cut your new plant away from the parent plant. Again, this is best done in spring. You can certainly try one or both procedures now, but it may take longer for you to see results.

If you decide to simply cut the stem down to a specific level, say 3', you'll have 4-5' of stem with a topknot of foliage. You can leave 6-8" of stem on the topknot and root that in moistened potting soil, and you can cut the rest of the stem into 3-4" pieces and root those, as well. Be sure to plant them top-side up and keep the potting soil moist, but not soggy wet. Each of these little sections should produce roots and top growth within a month or two.

Good luck with your propagation project!

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