Ask a Question forum: Problem w/Chlorophytum & Dracaena

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Kentucky (USA) (Zone 6b)
FeathersAndFins
Dec 5, 2017 8:25 PM CST
Hello. I'm happy to have found this site. We are having a problem with both our curly Chlorophytum & our Dracaena fragrans.

The Chlorophytum is approx 3 yrs old. It was repotted this past Spring and put outside where it was quite full & happily producing pups until we brought it in this Fall. A few weeks after bringing it inside it began to develop thin brown hairlines lines at the center of some of the leaves. The lines gradually grew wider until they covered the entire width of the leaf. Over the past two months I've tried several things including giving it a little water, misting the plant with RO water, and setting a grow bulb 2ft from the plant (4 - 6 hrs per day) but there has been no improvement. I've also tried cutting the leaves past the brown lines before they have a chance to expand but the bit of leaf left eventually develops the problem as well. I'm at a loss as to what is causing the problem or how to solve it.

The Dracaena is 19 yrs old. It was last repotted about 1 yr ago. Like the Chlorophytum it is set outside in the Spring and brought into the house in the Fall and was doing well until recently. (The stalks have always be spindly though I do not know why). Recently, two of the stalks have turned brown at the base of the plant and it is spreading towards the crown. The stalks are dry and one of them is nearly hollow.

I'm attaching photos of the plants. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.
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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
Dec 5, 2017 9:25 PM CST
The spider is getting too much water. Have you eliminated the possibility of any pests. Houseplants outside take so much water, it's quite an adjustment to give so much less in winter time.

It sounds like your wonderful tree has root rot, if it is, it's been overwatered too. Slip the plant out of the pot, and see how the roots look. If they are all black and mushy with a strong foul odor, clean off the nasty roots. If you have some roots that look ok you can put it back in the pot when the bad have been removed and see what happens. Do not use the old soil. If you feel there is a good chance the plant is dying you can lop off the Stem at any height you wish, and repot it. It will take root and you will still have your tree when it turns 20.
Kentucky (USA) (Zone 6b)
FeathersAndFins
Dec 5, 2017 10:18 PM CST
I appreciate the response. Overwatering is not the cause as the Chlorophytum hadn't been watered at all when the issue developed. Although the main spider is quite pitiful now, it does still have it's pups, a few of which I'm rooting in case the main plant dies and doesn't come back. I'd still like to save the main plant if I can though.

The Dracaena has five stalks. Thus far, only two are dying. The leaves have been misted because KY has terribly low humidity this time of year but it too is watered sparingly in Winter.

I've not seen any pests on either plant. We have several long-lived houseplants and we've moved them all outdoors in the Spring and indoors in the Fall since 1998.
Greece (Zone 10b)
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Faridat
Dec 5, 2017 11:59 PM CST
Both of the plants have probably been overwatered at some point and the part of the roots sustained damage. I'm afraid most of the times it is not reversable. Leave them to dry, I have even heard people wash away the roots and then leave to dry, then cut away the rotten ones and repot in a lighter soil with more perlite, etc. But I know from a hard experience that stalks that are soft and mushy, never come back. I hope yours prove an exception and can be saved! Smiling
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Dec 6, 2017 6:09 AM CST
Overall your Spider Plant is in poor shape. The brown lines are relatively minor symptoms. It is hard to know exactly what has caused its decline. However, it is difficult for many plants to make the transition from outdoors to indoors. Indoor light is many times less intense than outdoor light and plants are very sensitive to changes in light intensity. In reduced light, everything slows down and the plant will use less water. If you don't make an appropriate watering adjustment, over watering is very easy. But I believe that light is the primary issue. Make sure you keep it right in a sunny window.

The healthy stems on your Dracaena appear to be fine, as does their foliage. The other stems are dead and should be cut off at the base. There is no way to tell what happened to those stems, but as long as the remaining stems are healthy and producing healthy new growth, I don't think any significant changes are warranted. As soon as you start messing with the roots and soil you are asking for potential trouble.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Kentucky (USA) (Zone 6b)
FeathersAndFins
Dec 6, 2017 6:43 PM CST
Thank you for the replies.

The Spider has had a rough life and really should be classified as Chlorophytum resurrectio. It was given as a gift to my spouse who kept it in a classroom -- lots of light but it was in a glazed ceramic pot with no drainage. By the time I saw it there were only three short soft limp brown leaves. My spouse asked if I could save it so I repotted it and set it outside in the spring and was completely surprised when new growth began to appear in late summer. Unfortunately, by the time it developed several long leaves it was time to go back to the classroom where it languished again until spring returned. It was then placed back outside where it burst to life producing curly leaves and plantlets. (It was only then that we realized it was the curly variety). I decided to try keeping the Spider here this winter but had to put it a good distance from the window to keep our pets from eating it. The leaves quickly straightened and a couple of weeks later the first tiny brown hairline appeared. It was/is very slow to form and spread. That's part of what confused me about it. I'm a chronic under-waterer and when I've seen Spiders overwatered in the past the brown didn't form this way, grow so slowly, or feel so dry. (Were it under-watered I'd expect the dry brown areas to form on the perimeter of the leaf). If it was thoroughly wet when it was brought in could that account for water damage? It's only been very lightly watered twice in 12 weeks. Would moving it closer to a window be better than the grow light? (The leaves on the side facing the bulb curl while it's on). We tend to keep our home at 70°F and it is considerably cooler in front of the windows. Regarding the plantlets -- there are eleven and all but two have aerial roots to some degree. What would be the best way to go about propagating them given this isn't the best time of year for that kind of thing?

In regards to the Dracaena, I tend not to pull plants from their pots unless I have to (insect infestation, new dirt, dividing, etc.) especially if they're already stressed. Currently there is new growth on the live stems and there is a new .5" shoot poking up from the soil. I wish I knew what caused those stems to die though as I'd hate for it to spread and finish off the plant. Any thoughts on the spindliness? Genetic? Is there anything I can do to get the cut crowns to root given it's so near winter?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Dec 6, 2017 7:01 PM CST
Whatever problems your Spider Plant is having are due to the inadequate light. In poor light, it is easy to keep the soil too moist because the plant does not use very much in low light. If you don't provide enough light, nothing else you do matters so stay focused on that. Natural light would be preferable to the artificial light. Chlorophytum is not very cold sensitive so I don't think you need to be concerned about that if you put it near a window, which is where it belongs. I don't know what to tell you about your pets, but I can tell you that your Spider Plant needs more light.

When small plant shoots appear at the base of a Dracaena stem it usually means the roots of that stem are in trouble and that stem may be on its way out. Not a good sign.

My educated guess is that your Dracaena problems are due to improper watering.

The thickness of plant stems depends on the light intensity at the time any portion of the stem is emerging. If just the lower stems are spindly, it means that long ago when those portions of the stem were merging the light was quite low. There is nothing you can do about that now.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Kentucky (USA) (Zone 6b)
FeathersAndFins
Dec 6, 2017 7:42 PM CST
Our laundry room has an east facing window where I might be able to put a hook in the ceiling. I'll see if I can move the Spider Plant back there.

The Dracaena's little shoot is growing from the second brown stem. It is normally watered when I can put my finger into the soil 2" and find it dry and loose, though in winter I will often let it go a quite a bit longer. The plant has done okay in previous years when I've gauged it using this method so I've just continued doing it that way. What would be the better way to gauge it? Is there nothing I can do to assist it in recovering?

Any advice on late fall propagation of spider plantlets and Dracaena crowns?

Edit: I removed the drip dish from both pots. The four roots growing through the Spider's drainage holes look healthy. The Dracaena did not have roots poking through the drainage holes of it's pot.
[Last edited by FeathersAndFins - Dec 7, 2017 5:10 PM (+)]
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Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Dec 7, 2017 11:55 AM CST
Has your tree had the same soil in its' pot since 1998?
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Dec 7, 2017 5:40 PM CST
I understand that a couple of the Dracaena stems have died, but I don't see any photo evidence of the remaining stem(s) declining at all. Indeed, it looks like there is some healthy new growth on top. Therefore, I am reluctant to suggest making any significant changes.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Kentucky (USA) (Zone 6b)
FeathersAndFins
Dec 7, 2017 5:44 PM CST
The Dracaena has been repotted several times over the course of its life. (I can't imagine it's possible for a plant to live 19 years in the same dirt or pot). I received it as one or two tiny sprigs in my grandmother's funeral arrangement. It was last repotted in spring or summer of 2016. We switched the dowel rod out this year because the plant was pulling the smaller diameter rod over. Other than that we've been doing our regular routine. WillC mentioned Dracaena's send out shoots near the base when the plant is in trouble. I don't remember if there is one plant or two in the pot but five crowns grew on their own from the same stalk, including the hollow one I just removed, with no assistance from us.

We have two pots of Sansevieria from that same arrangement that are about to split their containers. There is also some Pothos left though I had to do an emergency repotting of it last winter -- found a tree frog languishing in the dish & had to set her up in an aquarium till spring arrive.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Dec 7, 2017 5:51 PM CST
I care for many Dracaenas that have been in the same pot and soil for 20 years and they are all doing fine. I know this goes against the conventional wisdom, but I have learned over the years that low light plants growing in low light indoor environments can stay in the same pot for very long time.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Dec 8, 2017 9:50 AM CST
Good luck with your frog!

You can cut off whatever piece of Dracaena and stick it in the same pot or a new pot. I've shown some bigger cuttings in this discussion:
The thread "A big cutting." in Houseplants forum

I can't say what a Dracaena might do when unhappy. If any of mine have been that way at some point, it was not apparent to me.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
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👒🎄👣🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌸🌼🌹🌽❀☀🌺
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