Houseplants forum: Dracaena marginata droop

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High desert in California.
BCady83
Oct 5, 2020 3:24 PM CST
I'm curious as to whats going on and could use a little help.

I've had this plant for over a month now, and it's been doing great (was on an end table with indirect light) when all of a sudden overnight it started heavily drooping. A few of the leaves fell off (i'm not sure it coincides with watering as the soil was rather dry), and i'm just not sure whats it is going on. I live in the high desert of southern California so it is a little arid, but i do mist it occasionally as directed from a local nursery. The weird part is if you kinda look at the photo (it's one plant) half of it is still at a attention and point upwards while the other side has the droop.

any advice would be great appreciated.

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[Last edited by BCady83 - Oct 5, 2020 3:33 PM (+)]
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High desert in California.
BCady83
Oct 8, 2020 8:52 AM CST
Maybe it was an overwater issue, now that it's drying out a bit it seems everything has stopped falling off (but it's still got a bit of a droop).
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
Oct 8, 2020 9:24 AM CST
Hi BCady83, Welcome!

Can you hold up the leaves and take a photo showing the leaning/drooping stem of your Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) ? Misting doesn't really help and I don't believe that humidity is the problem, it's more likely a watering issue. Does the container have drainage holes in the bottom? There are probably two or three separate rooted stems in the pot which is how most nurseries grow them. Does the droopy stem feel soft when squeezed or is it fairly rigid and woody? I'd be concerned that the drooping stem may be experiencing issues at root level and rot may be occurring up into the stem. I find D. marginata to be quite drought tolerant once established but proper watering is essential. It should be watered until water exits the drainage holes and then the soil should be allowed to dry sufficiently before adding more water. Never let the pot sit in water but to raise the humidity around the plant, you can sit it on a tray of moist pebbles, replenishing the water in the pebble tray as it evaporates.

~ 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!


High desert in California.
BCady83
Oct 8, 2020 11:17 AM CST
plantladylin said:Hi BCady83, Welcome!

Can you hold up the leaves and take a photo showing the leaning/drooping stem of your Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) ? Misting doesn't really help and I don't believe that humidity is the problem, it's more likely a watering issue. Does the container have drainage holes in the bottom? There are probably two or three separate rooted stems in the pot which is how most nurseries grow them. Does the droopy stem feel soft when squeezed or is it fairly rigid and woody? I'd be concerned that the drooping stem may be experiencing issues at root level and rot may be occurring up into the stem. I find D. marginata to be quite drought tolerant once established but proper watering is essential. It should be watered until water exits the drainage holes and then the soil should be allowed to dry sufficiently before adding more water. Never let the pot sit in water but to raise the humidity around the plant, you can sit it on a tray of moist pebbles, replenishing the water in the pebble tray as it evaporates.



Thank you for the response! When i get home i'll update with better pictures, i did repot (A week before the droop) with small stones on the bottom for drainage, but i don't water it enough for the water to drain out (it does have drainage holes for sure). Their are two separate Plants in the pot, when i got it the one i picked (un known to me) when i went to repot legit had two separate plants. You can kinda see the big one which dropped is laying over the small one which is still upright and solid. Was a little weird the smaller one that is still straight had a MUCH smaller root structure than the bigger one which was quite large if i recall.

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!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
Image
plantladylin
Oct 8, 2020 11:36 AM CST
Placing pebbles, stones, pieces of crock, etc. into the bottom of a pot actually deters proper drainage, depleting oxygen and causing rot.
~ 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!


High desert in California.
BCady83
Oct 8, 2020 11:39 AM CST
plantladylin said:Placing pebbles, stones, pieces of crock, etc. into the bottom of a pot actually deters proper drainage, depleting oxygen and causing rot.




ohhhh well shoot, i guess i have some work to do this weekend, this is what i get for listening to my mother LOL
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!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
Image
plantladylin
Oct 8, 2020 11:56 AM CST
Although the theory of placing pebbles, broken pottery, gravel or crock shards into the bottom of a plant pot for drainage was common practice for many years, studies have shown that the practice is actually detrimental to the health of the plant. Plants need adequate air circulation around their roots and having drainage holes in the container is critical; drainage holes are there for a purpose, to allow oxygen to reach the roots and to allow water to drain freely from the soil.

I've been growing houseplants for almost 54 years and I must admit that back in the late 60's and early 70's, I too placed pebbles into the bottom of my pots and I could never figure out why I had such poor luck with keeping plants alive for long. Then one day I was chatting with a wonderful elderly neighbor who had an amazing outdoor garden, as well as many beautiful, healthy indoor plants and after asking me a few questions about my potting habits, she advised that I should never place pebbles in the bottoms of the pots; I have not lost a houseplant to rot since following her advice. Green Grin!
~ 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!


High desert in California.
BCady83
Oct 8, 2020 12:03 PM CST
plantladylin said: Although the theory of placing pebbles, broken pottery, gravel or crock shards into the bottom of a plant pot for drainage was common practice for many years, studies have shown that the practice is actually detrimental to the health of the plant. Plants need adequate air circulation around their roots and having drainage holes in the container is critical; drainage holes are there for a purpose, to allow oxygen to reach the roots and to allow water to drain freely from the soil.

I've been growing houseplants for almost 54 years and I must admit that back in the late 60's and early 70's, I too placed pebbles into the bottom of my pots and I could never figure out why I had such poor luck with keeping plants alive for long. Then one day I was chatting with a wonderful elderly neighbor who had an amazing outdoor garden, as well as many beautiful, healthy indoor plants and after asking me a few questions about my potting habits, she advised that I should never place pebbles in the bottoms of the pots; I have not lost a houseplant to rot since following her advice. Green Grin!


That makes sense, my mother is very old school and while she does have tremendous luck (heck i still have her rubber tree that she started back in the 70's still kicking) she is a bit old school.

you can kind of see it in the back but that Jade i'm actually trying to rescue from a bad case of root rot (had to trim the entire thing down to it's stubs a month or so ago, dry out, clean/trim the roots and re-pot) but i did end up going with a soil meant for succulents and i did add pebbles which i'll be removing, but almost all the plants i have ( except that Snake plant in the picture i haven't touched since i bought since it's doing so well i didn't want to jinx it) i re-potted in better, specific soil and i added pebbles in the bottom. Going to have to fix that especially the jade, that one is very slow going.

High desert in California.
BCady83
Oct 8, 2020 5:28 PM CST
plantladylin said:Hi BCady83, Welcome!

Can you hold up the leaves and take a photo showing the leaning/drooping stem of your Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) ? Misting doesn't really help and I don't believe that humidity is the problem, it's more likely a watering issue. Does the container have drainage holes in the bottom? There are probably two or three separate rooted stems in the pot which is how most nurseries grow them. Does the droopy stem feel soft when squeezed or is it fairly rigid and woody? I'd be concerned that the drooping stem may be experiencing issues at root level and rot may be occurring up into the stem. I find D. marginata to be quite drought tolerant once established but proper watering is essential. It should be watered until water exits the drainage holes and then the soil should be allowed to dry sufficiently before adding more water. Never let the pot sit in water but to raise the humidity around the plant, you can sit it on a tray of moist pebbles, replenishing the water in the pebble tray as it evaporates.





So I'm home it feels weird like almost hollow like the bark is ready then fall off if I man handle it enough. It feels dry just almost detached?
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!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
Image
plantladylin
Oct 8, 2020 5:41 PM CST
Sounds like it either rotted or wasn't getting enough water and just withered away but it's kinda weird that the other plant in the same pot is okay. Shrug! Hopefully others will be along with suggestions as to what may be the cause.
~ 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!


High desert in California.
BCady83
Oct 9, 2020 8:00 AM CST
plantladylin said:Sounds like it either rotted or wasn't getting enough water and just withered away but it's kinda weird that the other plant in the same pot is okay. Shrug! Hopefully others will be along with suggestions as to what may be the cause.



Well i'll take a look at it this weekend, it's one of those pebble pots i did, so i'm going to remove the rocks and replant anyways i'll guess i'll check it out more then. i do have more photos i'll upload here in a few mins.

Ignore the little fly catcher, apparently one of mine or my step daughters plants has brought in a number of little flies we need to take care of before all of our housplants gets thrown out while we are at work and school.. LOL

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[Last edited by BCady83 - Oct 9, 2020 8:05 AM (+)]
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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!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
Image
plantladylin
Oct 9, 2020 8:45 AM CST
The top of that stem is definitely rotting and the issue may have begun at root level and worked it's way up through the inside of the stem. You can snip off the tip of the stem and see if there is any viable woody stem. If the stem hasn't completely rotted through, new branches will sprout just below the cut.

My photo below from our database is a Dracaena marginata in my backyard that I pruned back this summer; you can see the new sprouts below where the top was cut:


This photo shows a different plant in my yard and the top of this D. marginata was broken off during high winds; eventually new growth began to push out below the broken top:



The small flies you are noticing are likely fungus gnats, which are often present in overly wet soil. Although the adult flies don't cause any harm to the plants, they are certainly a nuisance. The larvae on the other hand can be a problem; the adults lay eggs in the soil and when numerous, the larvae can damage a plants roots. Here's an article from our Learning Library regarding these pests: https://garden.org/learn/artic...

This article has information about Fungus Gnats as well as other houseplant pests: https://garden.org/learn/artic...
~ 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!


High desert in California.
BCady83
Oct 9, 2020 9:01 AM CST
Oh ok, yea i was definitely going to trim i think after more research and see how it will do. As far as the gnats go i already have a plan attack like mentioned in that article they just decided to become a nuisance lastnight (as far as flying around plants and people) so i'm going to isolate (i need to re-pot anyways) so i'll be using fresh soil, along with a decorative top layer to smother as well as a little neem oil when i get home tonight, to try and handle the little buggers before my wife throws all of our plants on and replaces with fake ones! lol
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!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
Image
plantladylin
Oct 9, 2020 9:06 AM CST
I'm curious as to what you mean by using a decorative top layer to smother the gnats?
~ 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!


High desert in California.
BCady83
Oct 9, 2020 10:16 AM CST
plantladylin said:I'm curious as to what you mean by using a decorative top layer to smother the gnats?


I think the article you even mentioned suggest sand on the top layer to help mitigate and discourage the female gnats to lay eggs. Other articles i read referred to them as "decorative top layers" like using sand, Aquarium rocks, small pebbles but pack them tightly, so i think it was maybe just a play on words or something as doing this could potentially make the soil layer more visually appealing to the eye to some people i think.
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!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
Image
plantladylin
Oct 9, 2020 11:03 AM CST
I have heard some plant enthusiasts talk about placing a thin layer of sand atop the soil to deter female gnats from laying eggs but I prefer to allow the soil of my plants to dry sufficiently so as not to attract gnats in the first place.

I have seen plants with pebbles, or colored aquarium gravel atop the soil and I suppose aesthetically to some, it's prettier to look at than dirt but I'd be concerned that it could hinder proper aeration and it might also hinder one being able to stick a finger into the soil on a regular basis to test moisture levels. Shrug!

I hope other members will pop in to share their advice and suggestions.
~ 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!


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