Since my indoor dracaena recently took a turn for the worst, I thought
I'd ask some basic questions before I replace it. It was healthy for
two years, except for brown at the edge of the leaves so I guess my
first question is, is that normal for a dracaena? It didn't seem to
hurt anything. I never trimmed the small bits of brown off the leaves
since virtually all of them had it (only the tips were brown, not the
sides or heart of the leaves)
Second, in order to not overwater, I would water it once every week to
week and a half. I would pretty much fill it up with water, then let
it almost dry out before watering again (this was suggested by a local
Finally, when I watered it I'd use tap water (LA tapwater - yipes!)
Should I be doing this or using the filter on my sink?
Finally, feeding. I can't recall the brand, but it's the little
pellets. I was spreading the food out over the top and then I worked
it into the soil, probably an inch down. I followed that up with a
Any advice on what I might change going forward to improve my care
would be appreciated.
LA tap water is pretty good quality, but there might be a build up of
salts anyway. You could take the plant outdoors, flood it two or
three times to wash out whatever might have accumulated.
I'd also try cutting back on the fertilizer.
What kind of a pot is it in? Does it have good drainage? If you
let the soil dry out, does the soil get a whitish or brownish crust
around the edge?
My wild guess is your plant needs repotting in good soil, with
a pot with a good drain hole. And since you say it's "taken a
turn for the worse", I'd be inclined to wash most of the soil
off the roots and repot it in a pot where the roots fill about
75% of the space. After it settles in, water by soaking the
rootball thoroughly and then let the pot drain. Feed sparingly.
When the lower leaves drop off, consider air layering if you
don't like the bare-legged look.
Sounds like you're drowning the poor plant and then starving it of
water. It's best to just keep it moderately moist all the time.
Most municipal water supplies fresh from the tap are pretty heavy on
chlorine... you may want to consider filling a large container and
letting it sit a few days for the chlorine to evaporate, then use that
water for your plants.
Can't comment if you don't know the brand you're using... how can you
not know the brand??? In any event I don't think pellet fertilizer is
good for house plants, probably too strong.
Perhaps your plant should be repotted in fresh sterilized potting mix
and a new pot.
so even though the tree is totally dried out - not necessarily brown,
but just very dried out - can the tree really come back to life by
It's just so weird that this happened as suddenly as it did... I've
been watering it the same way for so long with absolutely no problem.
and what about the brown tips? Is that normal for a dracaena?
There appears to be some differences in care between the varieties. Maybe
if you could identify it specifically, further advice could be offered.
"Dry tips and edges are usually caused by too little humidity.
Dracaena is very sensitive to fluoride. Symptoms include yellowing of the
tips or margins of the leaf or dead, scorched areas. Avoid potting soils
that have a high percentage of perlite and keep the soil pH between 6.0 and
6.5 to prevent fluoride from causing injury. Do not use fertilizer which
contains superphosphate since it often has high levels of fluorine.
Allow dracaenas to dry slightly between waterings. Wait until the soil
surface is dry to the touch, then water them thoroughly. Avoid watering with
If the humidity in the house is below 30 to 40 percent (it probably is
during winter), plants will benefit from an occasional misting of their
A standard commercial houseplant potting mix may be used. Feed dracaenas
with liquid foliage plant fertilizer once a month during the spring and
summer months. Time release fertilizer pellets may be used also."
i am in so cal coastal. we are in the 2nd year of the worst drought
normally, in the "rainy" season, the sky water flushes out the
chemicals from faucet water.
not this year!
so i am grateful for the heads-up
have filled a water pitcher for people drink, and several buckets on
the patio for plant drink, to allow chlorine to dissipate.. at least
i can be nice to the house plants and patio plants.
That would be moi. I don't keep house plants anymore because now I
have cats but I used to have a houseful of potted plants. I learned
this trick of aging water from my days of raising tropical fish, in
fact I was the one who brought the very first batch of fancy veil tail
guppies into the US from Germany (1953).
You haven't met my cats. LOL
Actually I do still have one house plant, an asparagus fern that
spends summers outdoors hanging from a tree and spends winters hanging
from a beam by a cellar window. But I don't really need indoor plants
these days, for the last few years I own 106 acres of outdoor plants.
Dracaena will rot if the soil remains wet. You need a potting mix that
drains well and stays moist without being wet. See my
<http://www.rossde.com/garden/garden_potting_mix.html for ado-it-yourself recipe. Then water only when the soil surface is dry to
the touch. Also, be sure the pot has a drain hole and is not sitting in
a container that holds water.
Brown leaf tips can indicate salts in the water. If you are in the San
Fernando Valley, you are getting Owens Valley water, which is low in
salts. If you are downtown, you might be getting water from the aquifer
under the Los Angeles River, which would be high in salts. Also, water
from the Colorado River is somewhat salty; but water from the California
Aquiduct is low in salts. In Los Angeles, there are also areas that
receive a blend of waters from multiple sources. Check with the LADWP
to find out what is the source of water for your particular neighborhood.
Brown leaf tips can also result from too much fertilizer. In the end,
over-feeding will tend to cause a build-up of salts. Thus, it might not
be the water.
An almost dead dracaena can be revived. See my
<http://www.rossde.com/garden/indoors.html , and scroll down to "LivingRoom". My son thought the plant was truly dead, but (about a year
later) it's doing quite well.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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