Your dracaena plant is dying and you don’t know what to do? Here is a comprehensive article on how to save a dying dracaena plant.
The elegant dracaena is easy to plant and care for. Distinguished from other houseplants with their tree-like growth pattern, they are popular as indoor or outdoor ornamental plants. Their glossy bright green, sword-like leaves with red, yellow, or white edges add a tropical feel to the space and are even touted as air purifiers.
Though the dracaena is easy to grow, things can go horribly wrong. They could start showing signs of distress and your best efforts to arrest the decline won’t produce the desired results. Saving your dracaena would now seem like an impossible mission.
The situation isn’t unsalvageable though. Fixing the problem is all about deploying the right strategy. The article would focus on the correct methodology to follow. It is a complete guide on how to save a dying dracaena including how to spot the early warning signs so you can prevent a budding problem from becoming bigger.
How to Save a Dying Dracaena Plant
There are over three dozen varieties of the dracaena plant with the yellow-edged variegated leave type being the most common.
Outdoors, dracaenas can grow to over 15 feet while with careful pruning, the indoor varieties can be kept to between 3 – 6 feet tall. However, due mainly to improper plant care, the dracaena might start dying on you.
The instinct to save the plant from dying is natural. Before outlining how to revive your dracaena plant, let’s look at the signs or symptoms of a dying dracaena and the causative factors.
The Signs and Symptoms of a Dying Dracaena Plant
Knowing all the indicators of a dying dracaena plant is key to properly addressing the problem. These are the critical indicators that something is wrong triggering you to take action before the problem becomes irredeemable.
Below are some of the things you’ll notice of your dracaena is dying:
- Dropping plant
- Loss of leaves
- Soft yellowish or brownish leaves
- Dry, crispy leaves
- Brownish weak trunk
- Root rot
Reasons Your Dracaena Plant is Dying
Overwatering is usually the first variable to consider when there are signs of the dracaena faring badly. Too much water can lead to root rot, a serious issue that in extreme cases, presents no redemptive path for the plant.
Some of the first indications of too much water include yellowing leaves and/or drooping leaves.
While dracaena can survive several days or even weeks of dry, unwatered soil, prolonged underwatering can lead to the plant dying. Yellow crispy leaves and wilting are the signs to look for here.
Soil drainage issue is closely linked to water problems. If the soil is too compacted, water won’t drain down easily. This can lead to soggy soil and all the issue related to overwatering.
On the other hand, a loose soil, sandy soil, for instance, would have poor water-retention properties. For the dracaena plant, that means insufficient water and all the issues related to underwatering.
As tropical plants, you’d expect them to do exceptionally well in sunlight. However, when exposed to strong and direct light for too long, the leaves would become brown and crispy. If the condition remains unchanged, the plant would die
Dracaenas also thrive badly in low light conditions.
Fertilization isn’t essential when it comes to growing a dracaena plant. This makes over-fertilization an all too common problem if folks decide to use fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can turn the leaves yellow and crispy.
Dracaena pests problems are not very common. But when it happens, the culprits are usually mealybugs and spider mites. These pests can quickly destroy the leaves of the plant when given the chance.
They usually feed on the leaves’ juices. Drooping and ugly holes on the leaves are classic symptoms of the activities of these pests.
Fungus infection can also be devastating for dracaena plants. The infection usually starts from the roots. Drooping leaves from the stressed plant indicates that the infection has moved up stalk and stems.
Fungal issues are usually the by-product of soil that is too wet or over-watered.
Temperature and humidity
Extreme temperature fluctuations are bad for dracaena plants. They prefer stable temperatures between 60 – 70°F. If the heat is too much, the plant can’t take up water fast enough to replace water loss due to evaporation. This leads to unhealthy-looking weak and limp leaves.
Pot size (rootbound)
The rootbound issue is not a typical problem for dracaenas because they grow slowly. This might be considered as a causative factor when all other possible issues have been tackled with no positive outcome
Dracaena plants become rootbound when the roots outgrow the pot making this limited to potted dracaenas only. When rootbound, water and nutrient absorption becomes inefficient leading to growth issues and ultimately a failing plant.
How to Save Your Dying Dracaena Plant
Often, saving a dying dracaena is all about proper plant care. Outlined below are actionable steps on how to save a dying dracaena plant.
The first step is proper diagnosis. This ensures that applying the fix is pretty straightforward.
The solution to dracaena plant watering issues
Over-watering – If the plant is getting too much water, it’s best to adjust the irrigation schedule. You might be watering the soil too often if the topsoil isn’t dry in between watering sessions. The best schedule should not be more than once a week.
Irrigate only when the top 1 inch is dry. Sticking a finger into the soil is the easiest way to know how wet or dry the soil is.
For dracaenas planted outside, avoid watering when it rains. Water after a few days of a dry spell and when the soil looks dry.
And when it comes to water quality, distilled water is the best for dracaena because the plant is sensitive to fluoride and salts found in tap water.
The signs of too much fluoride and salts are yellow spots and brown tips on leaves.
You can get rid of the fluoride and salts by flushing the soil with distilled water. Use as much distilled water as possible and allow it to drain out of the soil. You can repeat this two or three times for the best results.
Underwatering – If the wilting plant and yellow crispy leaves point to lack of enough water, there is no need to panic, and don’t rush to drench the plant with water.
You can start saving the plant by cutting off the dead leaves. Then water it carefully and slowly. This gives the plant time to get used to water once again. It should gradually perk up again.
Root rot – Root rot diagnosis involves carefully uprooting the plant to examine the roots. Black, soggy roots are what you are looking for in a root rot diagnosis.
Cut off the part of the root that is affected by the root rot. Then repot the plant with new, high-quality potting soil. If you are using the same pot, ensure you disinfect it by washing it thoroughly with soap solution.
After successfully repotting it, water the soil deeply. This allows the plant to set in the new potting soil.
The solution to soil drainage
First, ensure the pot has drainage holes. Then check to see if the holes are blocked. Unblock the holes if they are so excess water drains out easily.
If there is nothing wrong with the drainage holes, it might be the quality of the potting mix. You could either amend the soil with perlite or cocopeat to improve drainage or simply use better potting soil.
Fixing dracaena fertilizer issues
Quit using fertilizer if you have been using them. The plants don’t need them especially if the soil is of the requisite quality. If you have to, apply a bit of compost around your dracaena in early spring.
But if there are growth problems due to poor soil quality, and repotting or amending the soil isn’t an option, use a broad spectrum fertilizer once every couple of weeks preferably in spring and summer. Reduce the amount in fall and quit fertilization completely in winter.
You can wash off excess fertilizer by flushing the soil with distilled water as described above.
Saving dracaena from pests
If your dracaena is stressed due to pests attacks, simply spray the leaves with insecticide soap or a pyrethrin-based insecticide. Dousing the leaves with neem oil can eliminate pests like bugs and spider mites.
The solution to dracaena fungus infection
Generally, by the time a fungus problem is diagnosed, the plant can’t be salvaged. But you could give repotting a shot and see if it works.
To diagnose fungal infection, dip your fingers into the soil as far as it can go and squeeze the dracaena stem. A soft, slimy, or slippery stem indicates the infection has progressed upward from the roots to the rest of the plant.
Try flushing the soil, sprinkle cinnamon on the roots, and then repotting the plant to see if it works. It’s worth a shot but your best bet is to dispose of the plant.
Saving dracaena from unfavorable temperature and humidity
Keeping the indoor temperature at the optimal temperature range of between 60 and 70°F is the best way to fix problems due to temperature fluctuations. An overnight temperature drop of about 10 degrees, though, would not affect the plant severely, if at all.
For indoor plants, ensure they are kept away from heaters, cooling vents, and drafty windows or passageways.
Dracaenas can adapt quite easily to indoor humidity. But you can place a humidifier near the affected plant if you think it is not getting enough air moisture. A humidifier helps to raise the moisture levels.
Another option is to mist the leaves once every few days.
Fixing root bound dracaena issue
This is about the pot’s size. The plant would have to be transplanted to a larger pot. It is recommended that the new pot should be about 2 inches bigger than the dracaena’s root ball. A new pot that is too big might lead to soggy soil – the recipe for root rot and other problems.
Dracaenas prefer bright indirect or filtered light though they can survive in places with low to medium light.
For lighting issues, you want to relocate the potted dracaena away from direct sunlight. If the pot is close to the window, allow the light to pass through a curtain.
But if you are somewhat pessimistic about natural light, you could opt for artificial light.
If the plant is outside in the garden, you could improvise and provide it with shade so it is not impacted by direct sunlight.
The best strategy though is prevention. Simply plant it in a shaded area. Planting them under the shade of tall trees like palms is also a good option.
Summarily, when thinking about how to save a dying dracaena plant, the first step is to understand the underlying issues affecting the plant. From that point on, saving the dracaena is all about applying the appropriate solution. Fortunately, the solution is more often about providing proper plant care.
Some fixes could be as easy as making sure the plant is not exposed to direct sunlight, adjusting the watering schedule, or simply repotting it when it becomes rootbound. However, for serious issues like root rot and fungal infection, disposing of the plant remains the best option.