Dracaena is a plant that most home gardeners have planted or at least come across on their plant parenting journey. When you look at a Dracaena you first notice the sword-like leaves, with a deep green color paired with red edges. These elegant beauties are easy to care for and are not very fussy, to begin with. But sometimes things can go terribly wrong. This article focuses on the most pertinent question, how do you save a dying Dracaena?
Caring for the Dracaena plant is not a difficult task, they do not require fancy care equipment or expensive pots. Before getting into details about the Dracaena plant and how to look after it, let’s have a look at the origins of the Dracaena plant.
So, where does the name Dracaena come from?
Interestingly the name Dracaena is derived from the Ancient Greek work δράκαινα – drakaina, meaning “female dragon”. These plants are commonly known as the dragon tree/plant or the Madagascar dragon tree.
The name dragon is apt for these plants on account of the red gum-like resin present in the stems of the dracaena. This resin was likened to dragon blood.
In ancient times this red resin was used as a pigment as well as a toothpaste and in some cases medicine. They are native to Madagascar and Mauritius and other islands on the Indian ocean.
This makes it obvious that the dracaena loves tropical humid conditions. When planted outdoors in the US the Hardiness Zones they are well suited for are 10 to 12.
These plants as mentioned above have beautiful sword-like leaves that are edged with a beautiful red border. They grow to about 1 foot in length and a few inches wide.
These leaves rest on a slender grey stem and are shiny and arching a little like the ponytail plant. The stem grows rather tall as compared to the leaves making them look like a bushy palm.
Outdoor variants of this plant develop flowers in spring. These white flowers are fragrant and are followed by circular yellow-orange berries. Unfortunately, when these plants are grown indoors, flowers rarely appear.
Along with the ability to grow flowers when these plants are grown indoors, the Dracaena grows to about 6 feet in height. But when grown outdoors in warmer conditions they can grow up to 20 feet tall.
The best feature of this plant is that it can tolerate an array of conditions when planted indoors, unlike other indoor plants.
The Dracaena is an interesting plant to grow as this plant has a secondary thickening meristem. This tissue that helps the plant grow allows the plant to grow wide and thick
This plant is extremely easy to plant and care for and hence has gained popularity as indoor plants over the years. They can withstand extreme conditions including drought and have an aggressive rooting system. These features make them unbeatable.
How can you decorate your living space using Dracaena?
The dragon plant is a tough yet beautiful and elegant plant. All variants of this plant are equally beautiful and can be placed in both living spaces as well as office spaces. The three common ways in which this plant is placed are.
As a single stem
These plants can be placed in corners or close to windows as tingle stems. Like the ponytail plant, the leaves of this plant drape over the stem beautifully and add structure to the rooms they are placed in. as the foliage of this plant is not very thick it looks minimalistic and can be a welcome addition to any décor.
Grouping together 2 or more
The fact is that these plants do not have foliage and a stem that is thick, two or more plants can be planted in the same pot or planter. grouping makes these plants look fuller and add an interesting touch to the rooms they are placed in.
Creativity is what makes life worth living. These plants are flexible in a way that they can be bent and molded in different ways. You can either braid them or create an arch with two pots encircling a doorway. The possibilities are limitless so get creative.
Bonus: you can also mix and match two or more variants of the Dracaena and fuse them to make an interesting mixed pattern.
Which Dracaena variant is the best?
Dracaena comes from the asparagus (Asparagaceae) family and these plants have more than 40 variants including the hybrid ones. These come in a variety of patterns and color combinations.
The most popular variant is the yellow-edged variegated type. The Dracaena not only looks beautiful and becomes the focal point of any space they are in; they are extremely helpful as they purify the air around them.
There are often questions asked about this plant and its variants. Almost everyone wants to know which one is best to have at home.
We think that it is something you need to consider after deliberating over the amount of space you have and the general plant growing conditions at your place.
Here is a list of Dracaena variants that are popular in the US:
The Dracaena Reflexa commonly known as the Pleomele is a widely grown variant. This plant is the most virtually striking houseplant with its leaves as the main attraction. It has narrow leaves with yellow stripes making it an excellent choice in terms of décor.
They are adaptable and thrive indoors or in a partially shady outdoor spot. They are not only a great addition to the living or office space but can also add glimmer to the patio.
The Dracaena Marginata commonly known as the red-edge dracaena or Madagascar dragon tree is an evergreen variant. These plants can grow up to 15 feet tall and stretch up to 8 inches wide. The leaves of this plant are stiff and slim with a beautiful purplish-red tint.
It has unique curving stalks for trunks making it uniquely beautiful. this variant of the Dracaena cannot tolerate low light and hence you often see it in rooms that are brightly lit.
Another reason these plants are preferred as houseplants is that they are drought tolerant and extremely forgiving. This makes them easy to care for and a pleasure to grow.
Dracaena massangeana or Dracaena fragrans massangeana is commonly known as a mass cane or corn plant. This variant of the Dracaena is rather inexpensive as compared to other variants.
This makes it the number one reason to prefer planting them in their living or office space. They have distinct features, their thick, woody canes and long strap-like leaves set them apart.
These plants can tolerate low light. Another plus about having this plant is the fact that it grows rather slowly. This makes them a perfect fit for indoors as you do not need to worry about them growing too tall too quickly or them outgrowing their pot.
How do you plant a Dracaena?
The Dracaena is available in most gardening supply stores or local greenhouses across the US. The popularity of this plant makes it a common site at most greenhouses. In stores, you will generally find 2 to 3 common variants of the plant depending on the location.
There are stores that sell up to 10 variants of the Dracaena. Simply purchase these as saplings and you are good to go. If you have a variant in mind that is not available it can be sourced from e-commerce websites like eBay, Amazon, or other websites dedicated to the sale of plants.
Another way to plant the Dracaena plant is by propagating them. You can use cuttings from an existing plant and grow your very own Dracaena. There are three simple ways in which you can propagate the Dracaena.
How to propagate the Dracaena?
In Dracaena propagation happens with the help of the stem. before propagating it is important to cut off the leaves at the bottom of the cutting.
This will reduce the chances of rotting and will help the plant grow roots faster without losing energy sustaining the leaves leave the leave on the top as they are if you have new nodes at the top.
Another important factor is looking for the nodes while cutting this will help the plant grow well.
There are 3 ways in which the Dracaena can be propagated.
- Propagation using stumps
Stumps are nothing but small 1 to 2-inch cuttings of the stem. when propagating using stumps, it is important to look for nodes and use them. This will increase the chances of the plant growing well.
To plant stumps, simply take 2 to 3 stumps and plant them in a single pot. cover them with a good quality potting mix and let them sit for about a month. Water them regularly.
- Propagation in water
Water is a common medium used for propagation for most plants be it indoor or outdoor. For propagation using this method all you need is a stem cutting and some clean water. you could either use a pet bottle or a glass container to propagate.
Fill the container or bottle with normal tap water or distilled water depending on the amount of minerals in present in the water.
To prep the stem, remove the leaves at the bottom to avoid rotting. Insert the stem in the bottle or container and wait for them to root. Be sure to change the water every 3 to 5 days to avoid bacterial growth.
In a few days you should have a cutting that’s rooted and ready to pot.
- Propagation in soil
Planting cuttings directly in the soil is the most common way in which most plants are propagated. In the case of the Dracaena, you can use stem cuttings that are about 6 to 8 inches long.
These can then be planted in the soil and watered regularly. This is the most common method and most gardeners prefer planting about 8 to 10 cuttings just to negate ones that do not make it through.
Using a rooting agent is optional. You can either use a rooting agent commercially available or one that is made at home. Either way, these help the cuttings root faster.
Most rooting agents can be aged to the water you are using for propagation. If a commercial brand is what you are using check the instruction for use beforehand.
Tip: planting more than 1 plant per planter or pot makes the Dracaena look bushier.
The Dracaena is an easy plant to care for and these plants can also grow in an array of conditions but it might so happen that the plant for some reason starts to wilt.
The question is how do you save a dying Dracaena? This can be done easily once you understand how to care for the Dracaena
Dracaena care tips
These plants are easy to maintain and hence care tips for these plants are fairly simple
Like most plants, they require soil that is of decent quality, adequate water, and light. Even though these are basic requirements lets have a look at them in detail for a clear picture.
Dracaena is a fan of loamy soil. They like moderately wet soil, they do not do well in soggy soil. It is, therefore, necessary that the potting mix they are in is one that drains well.
Any regular store-bought or home-made potting mix works fine. You will only need to add a draining agent to the mix. anything from gravel to broken pieces of clay pots works fine.
You can also add cocopeat or perlite to the mix along with worm casting to help the plants grow well. compost can be added to the soil once in a while but it is not something that the plant will miss.
Tip: check for drainage holes in the pot before adding the potting mix.
Rule of thumb while caring for a Dracaena plant – Do not place them under direct sunlight.
These plants love light but cannot stand direct sunlight. this will cause the leaves to burn. If you place them close to a window see that they receive only indirect light.
These plants do well in rooms that are not very well lit and hence it is important to regulate the amount of light the plant receives.
Filtered sunlight – one that comes in through cheer curtains is the best. if you are planning to plant these in your balcony or the porch you can place them in a semi-shady spot.
Can the Dracaena grow under artificial lighting?
A simple answer to this question is Yes, the Dracaena can grow under artificial lighting. These plants require indirect light to grow they also do well in areas that are not very well lit. hence you can place them under artificial light, be careful of how close the light is as it can also damage foliage.
Why is my Dracaena dying even though it receives enough sunlight?
It may so happen that the sunlight that the plant receives is too strong for it. this can be the case with artificial light as well. when the plant is exposed to strong light the foliage will start to burn and turn a crispy brown. The same way if the plant does not receive enough light it will start to wilt.
How do you save a dying Dracaena caused due to faulty lighting?
The simple solution to a plant that is dying due to too much light is keeping them away from direct light. If the plant is at a window make sure that it receives only indirect light through curtains or blinds. If possible, change the position of the plant so that it can heal.
If the plant is dying due to low lighting make provisions for it to receive sunlight. if that is not possible where you live, invest in an artificial lighting source available at stores across the US.
These lights are a gardening aid that most home gardeners swear by. Get one and your plant will start to show improvement.
The Dracaena plant detests too much water. These plants love moist soil. Be careful not to overwater the plant as it can cause the roots to rot eventually killing the plant.
As mentioned in the previous section, these plants are not fussy about the potting mix they are placed in as long as the mix is dry. Hence before watering the plant, let the top layer of soil dry out.
Sticking your finger in the soil helps if your finger comes out wet you wait a few days whereas if it comes out dry you can water the plant. apart from the potting mix being drainable you also need to have drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
The water collected in the tray after watering needs to be discarded within 15 mins or else the soil will soak it back up.
There are questions asked when it comes to watering, the top question is why is my Dracaena dying even though I am watering the plant well?
The answer to this my friend is that you might be over or under watering the plant.
How do I know if I am overwatering my Dracaena?
Overwatering causes a large number of house plant deaths all over the globe. Plant parents are sentimental about their plant babies and tend to shower them with a lot of love, in this case, water.
If you are one of those you will notice that the Dracaena in your care is droopy or the leaves are turning yellow. If you see this happen stop watering immediately. Drain out the excess water and let the plant heal.
There is no need to worry if you see the leaves at the bottom turning yellow and falling, this is normal for the plant as part of its growth cycle.
Can you underwater a Dracaena?
These pants are adaptive and can withstand even droughts. This being said the plant will be able to sustain for a while without water but will eventually start to wilt. Yellow crispy leaves are a sign of underwatering the plant. So, yes, you can underwater a Dracaena.
The key is to find a watering pattern and stick to it. these plants will generally require to be watered once in 10 to 12 days depending on where in the US you are located. You can check if the plant needs water if the top layer of soil is dry and cracky.
So, if watering is the problem how do you save a dying Dracaena?
If you notice that the Dracaena in your care is dying due to watering there are a few ways in which you can help the plant.
Stop watering immediately if you feel that you have overwatered the plant. wait for a day or two and check if the plant is getting better. The plant will not wilt only because of overwatering.
It is always a combination of a bad potting mix that does not drain well and excess watering. in such cases, you can consider repotting the plant.
To repot Dracaena plant, carefully remove the plant from the pot it is in and brushes off excess soil from the roots. Now inspect the roots to check for rotting. If you notice black soggy roots cut them off. You can then place the plant in a new pot with a fresh parch of potting mix. Set the plant in and water it thoroughly.
Let the water overflow and drain completely. This way the plant will set into the new soil. allow the soil to dry before the next watering session.
If you notice that the plant is dying because you have neglected it a little too much, its ok don’t panic. Cut off the dead leaves and let the plant be. Do not overwater it or put in a bucket load of water all at once it will not do any good.
The plant is in its present state due to neglect over a period of time and hence you need to give it time to revive. Therefore, water it slowly and give it time to come back to life.
I am not underwatering nor am I overwatering but why is my Dracaena dying?
The Dracaena plant is sensitive to fluoride. This may be one of the reasons the plant is dying even when you are following a fixed watering schedule. If you see that the plant is developing brown tips with white stripes on the side it is indicative of the fact that the water you are using for the plant contains excess fluoride.
How do you save a dying Dracaena that has been exposed to fluorides?
To be sure of the fluoride content in water it is important to get the water tested before acting on it. water testing kits are available over the internet and also at local gardening supply stores.
Once you are sure that the water contains fluorides you can choose to treat it. fluoridated water is not harmful to humans and hence no drastic steps are required. Simple use bottles of water or one that has passed through the distillation or filtration process.
Along with switching the water that you use it is also important to flush the fluoride deposits in the soil. this can be done by watering the plant till it overflows. Continue to do so for a few minutes and let the water drain out.
Repeat the process two to three times for the best results. this will get rid of the fluorides in the soil and will help the plant regain strength over time.
If the damage is too much consider repotting the soil and letting it grow naturally. If the damage is not that severe you can trim the leaves using sharp sterile equipment and let the plant grow naturally.
Fertilization is not essential when it comes to the Dracaena plant. these plants are ok with no fertilizer at all but if you choose to fertilize the plant it is important to do it in moderation. Use a fertilizer that is of a broad spectrum type and is more balanced in terms of composition.
Why is my Dracaena dying even though I am fertilizing it?
The Dracaena is not a plant that is a fan of fertilization. These plants do well when fertilized but will not miss it if not done. Overfertilization can cause the leaves of this plant to turn yellow and crisp.
How do you save a Dracaena dying due to over-fertilization?
It is recommended that you use a liquid fertilizer for the Dracaena. These plants can be fertilized once a month or every other month. If you have overfertilized the plant wash off the excess fertilizer by watering the plant till it overflows.
The same process as getting fluorides out of the soil. if you think there is too much fertilizer in the soil – get rid of the soil. repot the plant and let it be. Give it time to recover.
Dracaena is a tropical plant but strangely enough, this plant does not prefer humidity. They do well with general humidity found in apartments and are not very picky.
They might show signs of discomfort if the temperature drops below 55 degrees but other than that that the plant will be just fine. If your place is low on humidity invest in a commercial humidifier.
These are available in local stores and off the internet and will do considerable good for the plant.
This plant is an excellent addition to homes and offices and adds spark, color, and structure to rooms they are placed in but these plants are highly toxic to animals.
Especially cats and dogs will display symptoms of poisoning like vomiting, excess saliva, or a lack of appetite. In cats, you will also see dilated pupils. If you have pets be careful. Place the plant out of their reach or skip the plant altogether.
How do you save a dying Dracaena?
Before strategizing about how to save a Dracaena it is important to understand that the number one thing that kills a Dracaena is neglect. Though it is said that this plant likes to be left alone and the plant thrives on neglect, too much of anything is not helpful.
Hence it is first important to understand why the plant is dying. We have discussed specific causes and solutions in previous sections of this article. But what if you are not sure what the problem is?
If that’s the case then the simple solution is repotting the plant. while repotting the plant you have a fair idea of the condition of the plant looking at the roots and the leaves.
If you see the root rotting you can be sure that you are overwatering the plant or the soil is not of good quality. If the roots are ok but the plant is dying it could mean anything from fluorides in the water to underwatering.
Hence is better to repot the plant and start afresh.
After repotting the plant, trim off the leaves that are dead and do nothing for the plant. this will help the plant conserve energy and focus on recovery.
One of the repotting process is complete water the plant regularly and let nature take its course healing the plant.
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To sum it up
When a plant is dying it is not one factor that is causing it but a combination of factors unless of course, the plant has contracted a disease. Generally repotting the plant helps, this will allow you to inspect the plant carefully to look for damage to the roots. The other thing while repotting is that some of the growth needs to be cut off, so cut off all the leaves that are yellow or brown.
It is necessary to cut off structures of the plant that are practically useless as this will help the plant recover faster. At the same time, it will not have to spend time caring for part s of it that have already withered away. So, to answer the question of how to save a dying Dracaena? The solution is simple, be vigilant, and if there is nothing you can do to make things better repot the plant.
I’m Elsa, and I love gardening. I started GardeningElsa.com as a resource for other gardeners, and I offer expert advice on gardening topics such as plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetable gardening. On my website, I share my latest tips and tricks for creating beautiful gardens. When I’m not working on my website, you can find me in my own garden, tending to my plants and flowers. Read more about me.