Houseplants forum: Question about feeding a Dracaena Marginata

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Connecticut (Zone 6b)
Jan 28, 2017 7:33 AM CST
So I am PRETTY sure this is the plant my mom bought last year.
My mom has a bad habit on buying plants and not taking note of how to care for them.
So I've been googling about how to keep it alive (turns out my mom was over watering it before) she also keeps the apartment cool in winter which I think is bad for this plant (heat is set to kick on a 66 degrees)

When I was reading up on how often to give it plant food (we use the miracle gro you add to water) it said only feed it like twice a year. Is that right? And if so how can I encourage it to grow more and develop good strong roots?

Also when my mom repotted it she used a cheap soil so I am not sure how I'm "nutritious" it is already (the soil)

Any help would be appreciated!
Thumb of 2017-01-28/Zella/ee5d63

Name: Francis
Ohio (Zone 6a)
Jan 28, 2017 8:24 AM CST
I'm not too sure if you have a dracaena maginata. It looks to be in the dracaena family, but maginata have a stalk. Could be some sort of spike, maybe?

Anyway, I don't personally feed my dracaena and it seems to be doing pretty well. Granted, I've only had it for a few years, but as a young plant I think mine is ok without any food. If you're concerned about nutrients in the soil, you could always mix a fertilizer into your potting mix. I water mine once every two to three weeks, and let the soil dry out pretty thoroughly between waterings. I think the dry spells may help with encouraging strong roots, if that's your question. Dracaena are typically pretty hardy plants, and do well with little attention, so I think it'll probably be ok.
Name: Carter Mayer
Houston, TX (Zone 9b)
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Jan 28, 2017 8:51 AM CST
I think either it is a young one that hasn't developed a stalk or they buried the stalk when it was repotted into this oversized pot (the pot is way big for this young plant, so be especially careful not to overwater!). Dracaenas are pretty hardy indoor plants - probably the biggest killer would be wet feet which will make it rot. I think you are on the right track with what you are doing care-wise. It's not optimal, but it will be ok. I would feed it more than twice a year, but maybe not when your temps are colder. In the warmer months you can feed a weaker solution of you fertilizer with each watering - just make sure you let it dry some what between waterings. Moist to slightly dry is good for these guys. As much light as you can give it will also be appreciated. What out for spider mites and mealy bugs. Those two types of pests love dracaenas, but are fairly easy to get rid of if it gets either of them.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
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Jan 28, 2017 10:39 AM CST
Ditto to Carter.
The pot is much bigger than it needs to be, meaning watering too often is even more of a problem. If you really cannot stand letting it dry,you might move it to a small pot so it dries out faster.
Do not fertilize right now.
Temps in the 60s is not hurting it.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Connecticut (Zone 6b)
Jan 28, 2017 4:40 PM CST
Thumb of 2017-01-28/Zella/07e4ab

Here is another picture

When I started looking up the plants (in the beginning of December) I told my mom I thought she "over potted" it, which earned me a look of "what is wrong with you". Honestly and I know I am being petty here but it's nice to hear I was right and not crazy.

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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Jan 28, 2017 8:38 PM CST
Hi Zella, Welcome!

I agree with what Carter said. It looks like your Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) is in a pot a bit too large for it's needs. Your plant looks very healthy so good growing! Thumbs up

As to fertilizing, I can't answer that; I've been growing D. marginata for quite a few years and have never fertilized them.
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot! ~

Name: Will Creed
Professional indoor plant consultan
Feb 4, 2017 7:35 AM CST
Over potting tends to deter growth because the plant puts most of its energy into filling the pot with roots at the expense of top growth. Plants grow best when kept moderately potbound.

Fertilizer is vastly over-rated. Plants use nutrients in minute quantities and cannot be forced into growing faster by adding more fertilizer. Light is the primary determinant of plant growth.

Marginatas are fine in temps as low as 50-55 degrees F..
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Gene Staver
Portage WI 53901 (Zone 5a)
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Feb 4, 2017 12:18 PM CST

Maybe yours will look like this someday. Gene
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Feb 6, 2017 9:35 AM CST
WillC said:Over potting tends to deter growth because the plant puts most of its energy into filling the pot with roots at the expense of top growth. Plants grow best when kept moderately potbound.

Some plants grow best this way but many of them will get larger faster if they are in a bigger pot to start out with. Over potting is a well known and useful nursery technique for driving growth. Your first statement is untrue as a generalization, at least for the plants that I grow (including Dracaena). I usually try to match the size of the pot to the size of the plant for economic reasons, which is a different justification, and because I'm not in a great hurry to see them grow up.

The main issues here with a pot that's too big for the size of the plant are (1) it takes much longer to dry out, which could lead to problems relating to excess moisture if you don't adjust the watering interval; and (2) the roots are situated outside the zone at the bottom where water is concentrated after all the drops have left the bottom of the pot, meaning they are not in the best place to make use of the water until they grow into it.

WillC said:
Fertilizer is vastly over-rated. Plants use nutrients in minute quantities and cannot be forced into growing faster by adding more fertilizer. Light is the primary determinant of plant growth.

This is another untrue generalization. Adding fertilizer can lead to faster growth, and will do so in many cases, provided good uptake and active metabolism. If nutrients are not limiting to start with (for example, right after repotting), then the effect of fertilizer will be less obvious. It serves a role similar to the compost in the soil. But try the experiment yourself before reaching unfair conclusions. The reason people use fertilizer is because of exactly the opposite of Will's claim: it makes a difference in how fast and how well plants grow. Dosing is another matter; the indicated dose on the fertilizer package is usually several fold greater than you actually need for a useful response.

I can speak about the relative effect of fertilizer because I grew my plants for years with none at all. The plants did okay. Then I changed my routine and started adding low level nutrients to the water and they did better. I can tell you the difference caused by the nutrients because I have directly observed it. In any case I would encourage the curious to try out different ways of doing things and see what works best for themselves.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 6, 2017 11:19 AM (+)]
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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Feb 6, 2017 11:09 AM CST
I agree with most comments, it does seem overpotted. My Dracaena marginata does not get fertilized either, and it thrives well indoors.

If it will not be repotted to a smaller container, maybe make the media just a tad more grittier, add some pumice. That plant is quite drought tolerant, and grown indoors, dry out time takes longer.

With our varying indoor growing conditions, got to be really observant with new plants as it acclimates. Some newbie growers first mistake at times, is thinking frequent watering will hasten the growth and applying fertilizers right away. But got to remind them, wait a bit till plant recovers from transplant shock, or wait for much warmer conditions. Winter is rest time, they still do photosynthesis but their needs are lowered at this time.

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