Ask a Question forum: Please help me save my beautiful dracaena (Song of India)

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NYC
hannahnichols
Jul 7, 2017 11:06 AM CST
Hello! I have come to this forum to ask for your help and expertise. I live in NYC, and purchased my Song of India about 2 months ago from a garden center where it was growing indoors. It has consistently been losing leaves, which I was told was normal for the plant, and normal when a plant is transitioning to its new home. I repotted the plant 3 weeks ago. I started giving it liquid plant food (measured according the the bottle) with its waterings (once every 12 days) in the hopes of giving it some extra strength. I am concerned because I decided to count how many leaves it was losing, and it has lost nearly 100 in the past week as you can see from the picture below. I am nervous that the plant will continue to lose leaves at a fast rate until there are no leaves left. Initially I thought that because there was a healthy amount of new bright green growth (pictured) that the plant was doing fine and just getting used to its new environment, but now I'm not so sure. Could it be getting too much light? Not enough? As an inexperienced plant owner, I don't know what to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Hannah



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Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Jul 7, 2017 11:49 AM CST
Hi Hannah and welcome to NGA!

Dracaenas are very sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Is it by any chance sitting under or near and A/C vent?
"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. "

Abraham Lincoln
NYC
hannahnichols
Jul 7, 2017 11:57 AM CST
Xeramtheum said:Hi Hannah and welcome to NGA!

Dracaenas are very sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Is it by any chance sitting under or near and A/C vent?


Hey Xeramtheum! Thanks so much for your reply. When I'm not home the AC is off, so could it be possible that leaving it home all day with no AC and then turning the AC on when I'm home (and creating a fluctuation of 10-15 degrees or so) could be part of the problem?
Name: Anne
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Xeramtheum
Jul 7, 2017 1:29 PM CST
That's a possibility going from heat to cold rapidly. You said you repotted too. This might be what's called Transplant Shock as well if you disturbed the roots too much.

These guys are from Africa and used to extremely hot and dry climates. I'd hold off on the water and food for awhile as they don't like wet feet either. I water mine when the pot starts getting light in weight and actually don't feed mine ever.

I'm thinking it's a combination of things but all in all the plant in total and new growth looks to be actually quite healthy.

Here is a link to an article I did on how to transplant plants without stressing them out.

https://garden.org/ideas/view/...
"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. "

Abraham Lincoln
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
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purpleinopp
Jul 8, 2017 6:45 AM CST
What your article describes is potting-up. That is fine for some plants, but if one wants to keep woody entities alive for decades, it's completely impractical to always increase the size of the pot when new soil &/or more room for roots to grow is needed, and is not how bonsai masters keep bonsai plants alive for *hundreds* of years, which is by repotting. Repotting is when the old soil is removed, roots are trimmed back to a healthy shape and size, and replaced back into the same pot with new soil.

I've never seen a Dracaena plant of mine go through "transplant shock" from being repotted, something I've done many times over the decades I've had the oldest one. If it had always been potted-up instead of being repotted back into the same pot most of the times, it would be in a 55-gal drum or kiddie pool by now.

It sounds like way too much fertilizer is being given. Dracaenas are sensitive to various chemicals in tap water. If the pot does not have a drain hole in the bottom, concern about tap water chemical build-up is very real, and simply adding too much water at one point could cause the roots to rot. Roots need oxygen and moisture at the same time to function. If the new soil contains "moisture control" crystals, that can cause root rot, as well as packing soil down into the pot, which eliminates the tiny air spaces from which roots can access some oxygen.

A fluctuation of 10-15 degrees between night and day is perfectly normal, more close to what plants experience outside.
๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ - SMILE! -โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Žโ˜ปโ˜ฎ๐Ÿ‘ŒโœŒโˆžโ˜ฏ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿพ
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[Last edited by purpleinopp - Jul 8, 2017 10:08 AM (+)]
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NYC
hannahnichols
Jul 8, 2017 8:53 AM CST
purpleinopp said:What your article describes is potting-up. That is fine for some plants, but if one wants to keep woody entities alive for decades, it's completely impractical to always increase the size of the pot when new soil is needed, and is not how bonsai masters keep bonsai plants alive for *hundreds* of years, which is by repotting. Repotting is when the old soil is removed, roots are trimmed back to a healthy shape and size, and replaced back into the same pot with new soil.

I've never seen a Dracaena plant of mine go through "transplant shock" from being repotted, something I've done many times over the decades I've had the oldest one. If it had always been potted-up instead of being repotted back into the same pot most of the times, it would be in a 55-gal drum or kiddie pool by now.

It sounds like way too much fertilizer is being given. Dracaenas are sensitive to various chemicals in tap water. If the pot does not have a drain hole in the bottom, concern about tap water chemical build-up is very real, and simply adding too much water at one point could cause the roots to rot. Roots need oxygen and moisture at the same time to function. If the new soil contains "moisture control" crystals, that can cause root rot, as well as packing soil down into the pot, which eliminates the tiny air spaces from which roots can access some oxygen.

A fluctuation of 10-15 degrees between night and day is perfectly normal, more close to what plants experience outside.


Hello purpleinopp. Thank you for your reply. I am watering once every 12 days, using a moisture meter to make sure that the plant is dry before watering. The first two times I watered I used tap water that had been sitting out overnight. The next two times I watered I used distilled water mixed with plant food (pictured) that is 10-10-10 (1 tsp per gallon of water as per directions). I am going to include a photo of the plant food. The reason I started using it was to help give my plant a boost through this period of losing leaves, but do you think I should stop fertilizing?

Also, I watered the plant 10 days ago and used 1 and 1/2 gallons of water (is that too much?) thinking I should water until I see water draining out of the bottom, but the water never came out of the bottom, which makes me think that the one drain hole isnโ€™t enough. I am going to include a photo of the pot. The pot is 22.5 inches in diameter, so it's very large. I'm thinking of drilling more drainage holes into the bottom of it and propping it up on some bricks to ensure that water won't get trapped underneath it, because it appears to me that the pot is so heavy that regardless of the drain hole, the water doesnโ€™t have any space to drain out from. I hope that makes sense.


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[Last edited by hannahnichols - Jul 8, 2017 8:57 AM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
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WillC
Jul 8, 2017 9:11 AM CST
The problem with your plant is that it is too tall for the space it is in. The upper portion of the plant is above the top of the window. The light coming in angles downward so the upper portion gets almost no light. A plant's ability to retain its leaves depends on how much light it receives; in general, the more light, the more leaves it can support. The direction that the window faces and how high up you are also important factors in the available light.

The unnecessary repotting has complicated the plant's ability to adapt to the reduced light and makes watering properly more complicated. The extra soil added makes it more likely that you will inadvertently overwater.

Fertilizer is not medicine and is intended only for plants that are healthy, growing vigorously and depleting the nutrients in the soil over an extended period of time. Thus, it will not help yours and may cause damage.

You should consider pruning back your Song of Jamaica substantially so that it will have fewer leaves to support in the reduced light you have available.
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Baja_Costero
Jul 8, 2017 9:58 AM CST
Work on getting the exit hole unplugged, for starters, maybe the ways you have described. Try to water until it comes out the bottom, that's the best way to know you've saturated the soil and make sure you're flushing the container regularly. I'm guessing the amount of water you used is about right but visual confirmation is the key to get it fine tuned. Try watering part way then waiting a few minutes before watering again, repeating as necessary. This can make a huge difference when soil turns into a huge brick after it dries out all the way.

Regular bottled purified water may be near neutral pH or quite alkaline if it's ionized for drinking (like our purified water) in which case it's probably going to work worse than tap water, unless your tap water is as alkaline and salty as ours. I would think the salt in the water (or fertilizer, in measured doses) is never going to be a real issue if you're careful to always flush the container when you do water.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jul 8, 2017 10:03 AM (+)]
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