The Q&A Archives: Please Identify My Plant and Help Me With Problems

Question: Dear Whom It May Concern,
I recently purchased this tall plant which I can't identify. I have had it for several weeks and suddenly the leaves are turning yellow and limp. I moved it from a shady part of the room to a front window where it seemed to be doing well until recently. The soil is somewhat dry right now, but I try not to over water it. I have started to use plant food. Here is a picture of my plant.
Sam Falk

Answer: From the photo, I think your plant is Dracaena 'Janet Craig'. Dracaenas are generally rugged, carefree houseplants with a robust and tropical appearance. They are widely used for both home and office plantings. Many tolerate low light conditions.

Dracaenas can grow 2 to 10 feet tall, depending on the cultivar. It is easy to maintain these plants at shorter heights if desired. Upright types will usually be no more than 2 feet wide.

In the home, plant diseases are very rarely a problem. Too much or too little water plus insects and mites are the main problems. Root rot usually results from a soil mix that does not drain quickly or overly frequent watering. Scale insects and mites are the most common insect pests of dracaena.

Dry tips and edges are usually caused by too little humidity. Round dry patches and streaks on the leaves may be caused by excessive sunlight on the foliage. A sudden loss of many leaves can be caused by changes in temperature, drafts, too much water, poor drainage or heavy insect infestations. Leaf tips and margins may burn or become yellow if plants are fertilized too heavily.

Dracaena is very sensitive to fluoride. Symptoms include yellowing of the tips or margins of the leaf or dead, scorched areas. Avoid potting soils that have a high percentage of perlite and keep the soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5 to prevent fluoride from causing injury. Do not use fertilizer which contains superphosphate since it often has high levels of fluorine.

Most dracaenas grow best in bright, indirect light, but many are also tolerant of lower light. If a plant that has been growing in dim light is moved to a brighter spot, the new leaves will be thicker and stronger and growth rate will increase.

Allow dracaenas to dry slightly between waterings. Wait until the soil surface is dry to the touch, then water them thoroughly. Avoid watering with cold water.

Dracaenas are best grown in normal house temperatures of 60 to 70 ? F during the day. Ideally, night temperatures should be about 10 ?F cooler. If the humidity in the house is below 30 to 40 percent (it probably is during winter), plants will benefit from an occasional misting of their foliage.

A standard commercial houseplant potting mix may be used. Feed dracaenas with liquid foliage plant fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer months. Time release fertilizer pellets may be used also.

If the plant?s stems become too long and bare, cut them off at the desired height and new leaves will soon appear.

Hope this information will help you determine just what the problem might be.

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