Houseplants forum: Dracaena Fragrans - Mealybugs? Something else?

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Sep 21, 2017 8:58 AM CST
I've had my Dracaena Fragrans for about 6 months or so, and in the last month it has begun developing some problems. As you can see here, I keep it about a foot away from a north facing window.

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About a month ago, some of the leaves on the tallest cane began yellowing, and the tips began browning a bit. As I keep it right by the window, my assumption was that I had left the window open a crack on a night with unseasonably chilly weather (I live in New England, so summers are warm but strange fluctuations are to be expected, and I open the window from the top) and the draft had provided a bit of the shock to the tallest cane, and that was why the two shorter canes seemed unaffected. I made more of a point to shut the window at night and thought that the problem was under control.

Over time, the leaves on these top heads continued to yellow and brown. As they went, I cut them off, but did not actually pull the leaves off entirely (which I now see was a mistake). Today, after doing a bit more trimming, I started actually removing these bits of brown leaves entirely, and found that the stalks growing from the tallest cane were brown and rotting. Of the three, one is so far gone that it couldn't support the weight of the few leaves remaining on top of it, and it tipped to the side, a second is still strong enough to support itself but is entirely brown, and a third stalk looks mostly healthy with the exception of the beginnings of a brown spot on the bottom.

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Now, as I pulled these away there is some definite white residue clinging to these rotting bits of stalk, which are an automatic indicator of mealybugs, right? But these seem more damp than fuzzy, and don't look like the kinds of mealybug problems I've had in the past. So my question now is, what should I do going forward? Cut off these three stalks and hope the cane will produce new ones (the cane feels firm from top to bottom, no sign of rot)? Cut the top of the cane entirely and reseal with wax? Remove the cane from the pot and continue on with just two stalks? Throw the whole thing out entirely? I do have some indoor plant pest control spray, so I will definitely use that to treat the stalks on the other two canes if I choose to keep them. As the other two canes look perfectly healthy right now, I would be remiss to throw the whole thing away. And I would be more worried about buying a new one at this time of year, as I imagine most of the more robust plants have been bought up and I would be worried about the health of the plant transitioning to this new location as the days get shorter.
Name: Will Creed
Professional indoor plant consultan
Sep 21, 2017 2:16 PM CST
I regret informing you that the entire cane that the three ailing stems are attached to is dead and beyond recovery. It was not the open window or any pests that caused this. The location is fine and so is the pot size.

Sometimes, when nurseries put multiple canes together in a pot, one of them is poorly rooted or just doesn't make it for unknown reasons. It is hard to accept, but in those instances, there is nothing that you can do to prevent the inevitable failure of that cane.

However, the cane could also be responding to improper watering, keeping the soil too moist. Corn Plants do well in low light, but they need to dry at least a quarter of the way down into the pot before watering and they need to get that dry every week to 10 days. If yours has not been allowed to dry out sufficiently, then the other canes are also at risk for root rot.

Do not try to remedy the problem by replacing the soil or changing anything other than your watering routine.

Cut off the stems of the dying cane. In time, you will be able to rotate the stemless cane in place as the dead roots detach from the cane. When it spins freely in place, you can then pull it straight up and out without disturbing the roots of the remaining stems.

Sorry, I don't have better news, but all is not lost - just one cane!
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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