Ask a Question forum→Help with Red Edged Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)

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Sydney, Australia
laura_a
Jun 12, 2020 5:28 AM CST
Hi there,

Really hoping someone could help me out, received this plant as a present and I am worried it won't last through winter here in Australia! Sad

I recently lost one of the dragon trees, and now another one seems to not be doing too well in the same pot. The leaves have been slowly falling, and becoming limp at where they meet the "trunk". The other two plants within the same pot seem to be fairing better and only drop leaves from the bottom of the plant.

Notes:
- Watering it usually around every 3 weeks, letting the soil dry out as its winter time here.
- When it is sunny, I do mist the leaves now and then. But not on rainy/cold days.
- It gets indirect sunlight, but it has been pretty rainy/cloudy/cool here (10-20C). So I would say its getting perhaps less than ideal sunshine.
- I recently moved it further away from the window because I thought maybe a draught was getting in.
- We have had the central heating system on for a few days here and there because of the cold.

Would really appreciate any feedback you could offer and thank you in advance!

Laura


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Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Jun 12, 2020 6:18 AM CST
Your Dragon Tree (Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia 'Tricolor') might be experiencing root issues. In your third photo, the tip of the short stem appears to be yellowing; if it feels soft and pliable when squeezed, it may be rotting.

The container of your plant looks a bit large for the size of the plant, which can make proper watering difficult. I keep all of my D. marginata's tightly potted and although I live in Florida where it's quite humid, I find these plants to be very drought tolerant.

I do hope someone will be able to diagnose the exact issue with your dragon tree. Our member @WillC is a professional plant caretaker and may be able to offer advise and suggestions to help you save your plant.
~ I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot!


Sydney, Australia
laura_a
Jun 12, 2020 6:27 AM CST
Hi @plantladylin - thanks, yes I think the pot is too large too but we are in winter here in Australia and reading through some of the other posts about Dracaena marginata's has me thinking repotting won't solve the issue. When we purchased it, it was in a similar size pot from the nursery, and we repotted it using the same soil from the nursery pot but may have topped it off with some typical indoor potting soil.

When my partner removed the one plant that died (it lost all its leaves and the stem portion became soft), I am now worried that he may have disrupted the roots of the others too.. Crying

@WillC was very helpful with another one of my posts and I would be very grateful if he could provide his expertise again.

Please let me know if you need any further pictures or details.

Thank You!


Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 12, 2020 1:18 PM CST
Thanks, Lin!

I agree that the pot is larger than necessary, but I think there is also a light problem. The Tricolor requires more light than the non-variegated Marginata. A normal window draft is not a problem, but a lack of light definitely can be. Keep it close enough to an uncovered window so that it gets at least several hours of direct sunlight every day, especially now in winter. The lack of light may also be part of the reason the soil is not drying out sooner.

The large pot has excess soi that retains moisture around the roots for too long and is probably suffocating them. Repotting it into something smaller may cause more harm than good.

As an alternative, I suggest that you remove all the soil that was added to the top of the original rootball so that the uppermost roots are just barely covered. That will allow oxygen to penetrate the root zone more readily. Then wait until the top 3 cms of remaining soil is dry before adding just enough water so that it dries out similarly again in a week. Experiment a bit to see just what the right amount of water is. It's probably not very much.

At best, recovery will be slow because we don't know how many healthy roots are remaining. Do your best. Crossing Fingers!
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Sydney, Australia
laura_a
Jun 12, 2020 5:24 PM CST
Hi @WillC,

Thanks for responding.

I have moved the dragon tree back to its original position closer to the window. However, what if it continues to be cloudy here? I have had the plant for 2-3 months and our window only ever gets brief direct sunlight early in the morning, other than that its always indirect. I live in an apartment so I don't have another window I can move it to unfortunately. Does some sort of artificial light work, or is that not a worthwhile path to go down?

I will remove the top soil from the rootball. However, I recall when we repotted it when we first got it that the tallest tree had hardly any roots - it almost looked like a stem cutting? Confused

The top of the smaller, yellower tree still feels firm for the moment but you can definitely see that it's starting to cave in on itself.

Thanks again!
Laura




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Sydney, Australia
laura_a
Jun 12, 2020 5:42 PM CST
@WillC - I used my hands in gardening gloves to slowly remove some of the top soil, I wasn't exactly sure if this was the best method or how far I should go, but I started to see a couple roots on the two smaller trees so I stopped.

We watered this plant about a week ago, so you're definitely right that its not drying out properly.


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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 13, 2020 9:07 AM CST
Hi Laura - I am concerned that there were few roots when you repotted it. Larger pots tend to discourage healthy root growth because the soil stays moist for so long. I suspect that the roots have been slowly dying back as a consequence and it may already be too late. I don't think the shortest stem will make it.

Light is important, but if the roots are slowly dying from lack of oxygen, then even perfect light won't help. Otherwise, a plant grow light might provide some benefit.

You can remove more soil from the top until you see larger roots or a netting of many roots. If you don't find any, then there may not be many healthy roots remaining. Otherwise, leave the healthy uppermost roots barely covered.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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