Houseplants forum: My Dracaena Marginata is suffering...

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Name: Kristi
South Bend, IN (Zone 5b)
Houseplants
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grafiti4u
Oct 3, 2016 5:18 PM CST
Hi! I have had my Dracaena Marginata for probably 5-10 years. Now I am wondering if it is dying of old age. For the last few months, one of the branch tips is dying out and sad looking. The leaves on this branch are also drooping. The other branches and leaves are perky and continue to have new growth, although one of them is now starting to look a little distressed. I have it in a South window, water it regularly, and just last week did a complete change of dirt, as I wanted to check out the roots and see if there was something going on. There was a large rock that the roots had been growing around, as my husband suggested it would take up space in the large pot so I didn't need so much dirt. I removed the rock and repotted the plant with new potting soil, and filled in the root area that was shaped around the rock. I am just not sure if I should just cut this branch off . . . I never propagated my dracaenas - I don't want to kill the whole thing!

I have attached a picture of the problem (click it for a full view) - I would sure appreciate any helpful advise. I love my plants, especially this one as it has always been so hearty.

Thanks for any help!
Kristi

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Matt68005
Oct 4, 2016 11:57 PM CST
Looks pretty healthy and beautiful, especially that last photo. I dont see whats wrong with it. Ya its a bit droopy, but maybe this is just a result of being grown indoors. (especially in a low humidity, south facing (high respiration) location.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
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sallyg
Oct 5, 2016 5:46 AM CST
I think it looks moderately to very droopy and have no idea what the brown growth point means. I agree something is wrong. But it has been happy in the past.
true, it isn't fair to compare this to one living outdoors. All of these look outdoors except the first one by tarev
Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

With tarev's plant you can see non droopy leaves, and a stem with many more leaves along the stem.

Has the drooping changed since repotting, or was it doing all that before?

Cutting off one branch won't hurt the plant.

Assuming you used decent potting mix, and got it in between all the roots to fill up the hole from the rock, and it is a pot with drain holes, just water not too often, let the soil dry on top between watering, don't fertilize until early spring, and wait.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
[Last edited by sallyg - Oct 5, 2016 7:42 PM (+)]
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Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
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lauriebasler
Oct 5, 2016 7:15 AM CST
I have heard two explanations for drooping leaves on your plant. One is the plant was too dry a bit too long at some time. The other is the plant got too cold. Either way the condition does not go away. It is not unsightly tho, and some people actually like the droop.

Yellowing of new leaves can mean an iron deficiency. Repotting leaves plants a little wimpy, for a while. I think your plant is quite lovely, and you have done all the right things so far. There could be some expert tips you can try, but you have sure not done any harm. Good Luck and Welcome to the forum! Welcome! Welcome!
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
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tarev
Oct 5, 2016 11:07 AM CST
Hello grafiti4u, when you say you water it regularly, how often is that? My Dracaena Marginata is quite drought tolerant. It actually prefers to be on the moderately dry side here. Our area is also extremely dry and our sun is very strong during summer, so it is always in that corner of my dining area, where it never gets too hot. Can't grow it outdoors here during summer, it will just get toast with our extremely poor humidity, so always indoors for mine with a bright light access through our west facing windows.

Also I do my repot if I need to during Spring, not when Fall has come about. The indoor plants naturally slow down too as I observe them, so all the more be careful in watering. They return vigor when mid Spring is here. Give it time to adjust, since you have already done the repot anyways. I hope your media is very well draining. New leaf growth will come from the top eventually. They are a bit temperamental, but will come back nicely again. Drooping leaves tells me it may be reacting to the root disturbance, not drinking properly, but you have already repotted, so give it time to adjust. Feel the soil, stick a skewer in the soil and if it comes out damp, delay watering.
Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
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lauriebasler
Oct 5, 2016 9:49 PM CST
Because this plant has been healthy for years for you, I am wondering if you have some sort of bug, (in soil) or a disease. I remember moving to a new home, years ago and my 6 ft Ficus Benjamina just would not adjust, and I lost it. I don't think you are looking at that at all. Good luck. Keep us posted please.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Oct 8, 2016 8:59 AM CST
When the growing tips of Marginata stems discolor or die back, it is a sure sign of damaged roots. Most commonly, that is a result of keeping the soil a bit too damp for an extended period of time. This is a common phenomenon with older, established Marginatas.

I don't mean to be critical but replacing the soil was the worst thing you could possibly do. The soil was not the problem. In removing the soil, you no doubt inadvertently damaged many of the tiny root hairs that do most of the work. I don't have the details, but the chances are the pot is too large and the potting mix is not porous enough. I hate to write this, but I expect that your Marginata will now go into a more serious decline. I hope I am wrong, but be warned. Sad
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
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lauriebasler
Oct 8, 2016 10:35 AM CST
Well, WillC, as I have found your articles all over the internet, and read with interest, I was so glad and curious to read your opinion for this plants future. @grafiti4u, I feel WillC's expertise trumps mine, and it made me want to respond in a different direction.

The reality is, you are may be looking at a period of time, where you struggle a bit hoping for the best. If the plant is at the point of no return, I hope you will be considering what new plant you would absolutely be thrilled to try in it's place. Distract yourself with researching other big species you may find are even cooler than this old friend. There are some amazing indoor tall plants you could grow. A Coconut Palm, a Japanese Yew Pine, (love love) A tall Yucca, A tall Ponytail plant, Ficus Alli, (prettier in person), etc etc.
Just keep your eyes open, and your mind open to accept you may lose an old friend, but reward yourself, for a job well done with a nice big replacement, you will love just as much. Spend as much as you can on this one. Tall plants are expensive, but worth it. So, say no to the urge to pout, and give yourself something to celebrate, for the green thumb it takes to keep a Drac so healthy for 5-10 years.
Name: Kristi
South Bend, IN (Zone 5b)
Houseplants
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grafiti4u
Oct 9, 2016 2:25 PM CST
Thank you all for your advice and suggestions! I think I am going to love this forum Smiling I decided that branch was not going to get any better, so I pruned the branch off. I am hoping I will get a new sprout now, but if I don't, and if I really hurt it by changing the dirt . . . well I will take it as a learning lesson. I tend to do this with my betta fish too, I try too hard and end up killing them. Again, I appreciate your comments - if something develops on the plant, I will post a new pic! Now I have a question about my weeping fig . . . so I have to find that forum.

Happy planting!
Kristi
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Oct 9, 2016 2:59 PM CST
"I will take it as a learning lesson."

That is a great attitude, Kristi. I know some people who stay with their plants as long as there is an ounce of life remaining and then get depressed when it eventually dies. Plants should give pleasure, not sadness.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

kylejw27
Nov 28, 2017 7:46 AM CST
Meet Lucy,
I have had her for 3 years now and I DONT KNOW WHATS WRONG!!! more importantly what to do??? I might have over watered her, I don't know much about plants and failed to do proper research when I got the plants... can anyone tell me what to do to save her? what is wrong with her? thank you in advance... it is super weird how you get attached to plants... I loved lucy so much I went and got two more, Calvin and Klein.

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Georgia (Zone 8a)
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Hamwild
Nov 28, 2017 11:51 AM CST
That stem is definitely rotted. Was she outdoors recently, it almost looks like it froze.

kylejw27
Nov 28, 2017 2:10 PM CST
she was not outdoors... it has gotten a little cold in my office.. like 60 degrees off and on... I know I have over watered it... that could of made her colder... should I cut the trunk?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Nov 28, 2017 3:48 PM CST
I'm sorry to tell you that when the stem of a Dracaena marginata shrivels and dies, as yours has, it is because the roots have already died and are no longer able to support the plant. Unfortunately, there is no salvaging it at this point. It is very understandable that you are attached to this plant. Many folks get attached to their plants. But plants don't live forever.

Why did this happen? The problem started when it was repotted into a larger pot. When repotting is done unnecessarily and/or incorrectly, a lot can go wrong. In addition, a larger pot with more soil increases the chances of inadvertent over watering because the added soil stays moist for longer than necessary.

Many folks make similar mistakes, so don't be hard on yourself. Try to learn from the experience so you will have more success in the future.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

kylejw27
Nov 30, 2017 8:18 AM CST
thank you so much Will! how do you know when to transfer the plant to a bigger pot?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Dec 1, 2017 11:13 AM CST
It is not commonly understood that most indoor plants do best when their roots are kept moderately potbound. That means many indoor plants, especially larger ones, may never need to be repotted.

My rule of thumb is that when a plant needs to be watered THOROUGHLY more than twice per week, then it is probably ready for a larger pot. As long as there is enough soil to keep the roots appropriately moist, then there is no compelling reason to repot. Repotting prematurely and incorrectly can cause serious problems.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

TheBloke
Mar 29, 2018 2:57 PM CST
HELP...... I think I have infestation on my Dracaena , does anyone know what it might be. Crossing Fingers!
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Cheers

Kenny

Name: Lin
Florida Zone 9b, 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
Mar 29, 2018 3:01 PM CST
Hi Kenny, Welcome!

It appears that your Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) has scale insects ... those tiny little round, brown things on the leaves.
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot! ~


Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Mar 29, 2018 3:08 PM CST
Kenny - Those hard round bumps are scale insects with protective coatings. A solution of 5 parts water, 1 part alcohol and a squirt of liquid dish soap will dissolve and eliminate them. The problem is that the juvenile scales are translucent and nearly invisible so if you treat only the ones you see, the juveniles will survive, reproduce and the infestation will return.

To be successful, you will have to spray all leaf and stems surfaces until they are dripping wet. It is a very messy task, but the only way to achieve success, regardless of what you use as a spray, including neem oil.

You may be advised to wipe the leaves. That is fine as long you spray thoroughly first so that the spray penetrates tiny crevices that wiping will not reach.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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