What is this plant and why is it dying?

GigiMLJanuary 26, 2014

Hi, this is my first time posting here. I've had this plant for probably 8 years. I don't know what it's called so haven't been able to google any research to find out what's wrong with it. If you can tell me what the name of the plant is, that would be great. The plant has been in the same pot in the same place and receiving the same care for 5 years. Actually, it was repotted about 8 years ago when I got it. A few years ago it was getting so big and top heavy that I finally had to string it up with fishing wire to keep it from spilling out into the room. Recently (maybe the last 6 months?) the plant seems to be dying. It's lost A LOT of fronds (it used to be much fuller) and some of the stems are just shriveling and dying altogether. One of the stems where the fronds fell off is just dry and hollow now. You may be able to see in the picture that the uppermost sprout of fronds is yellowing and I fear that's the next to go. This plant has very special meaning to me and I'd be very sad if it dies. Does anyone have any idea what is wrong with it or what I might be able to do to save it? Thanks!

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Your plant is a dracaena marginata. You will need to repot it since it has been in that pot for 8 years. That's probably the primary reason for it's decline. You can also chop off the top of the plant and one or more new crowns will grow from each stem that you cut. I wouldn't recommend repotting and hard pruning at the same time though. I would recommend repotting it first before you prune it. Others will chime in as well. I hope this helps:)


    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 9:52PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi & welcome to GW. Agreed, Dracaena marginata. An awesome one! I think the info here would be especially helpful to you. It should be pretty straightforward to get this plant back to robustness.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 9:54AM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

To be honest with you, I never judge any plant on its health/vitality/robustness/ from November through February. During winter, many plants are dormant and some (tropicals and houseplants, for example) decline. In the winter, I cut back on watering and give my plant as much light and warmth as I can, which is often not all that much. Then, in March and April, they take off like gangbusters. Any plant that shows signs of struggling at that point gets lots of extra attention and TLC.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 5:58PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Gigi - I think the lesson to take from your ongoing experience with your dracaena is, some preventive maintenance will save you a considerable amount of heartache or frustration in the long run. If you adopt the outlook that repotting is an essential part of making sure your plants have the best opportunity to grow to their potential, you'll not only be doing your plants a favor, but you'll see a much greater reward for your nurturing efforts. Repotting is different than potting up. I'm not suggesting that you jump right on a repotting exercise right now, there are good times and not so good times to repot, but there are some things you can do to try to get your plants headed toward recovery instead of sliding further into decline.

I would think seriously about flushing the soil thoroughly the next time your plant actually needs water. If you think your soil will remain wet too long and put root health at risk, you need to consider a different soil that will allow you to water thoroughly at will w/o fear you'll jeopardize roots, but you can deal with a soggy soil for now, at least until you can repot. Cutting the plants back after you repot is also an option you might like to consider. There is no rule that says the plant has to have control over what it looks like. As growers, we should know or learn how to take advantage of a plant's interesting and eye appealing points and eliminate or disguise the flaws. First though, you should concentrate on trying to reduce the effects of those things that might be limiting your plant(s).


    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 9:32PM
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It is NOT DYING! :) This is a beautiful plant, and as some people said before it might just have hard time during winter months. Make sure it is away from heater and cold/hot air drafts. You might also wanna mist it sometimes if you don't have a humidifier. If it was my plant I would cut off that whole stalk with the top - that would allow more foliage to grow and make it shorter. But that's just an observation.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 5:21PM
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Thanks everyone for the input! As soon as I can get someone to give me a hand, I will repot the plant. I'm still unclear whether I just need to repot it with new soil in the same pot or whether it needs a new pot. It's a lot smaller now than it was in it's prime but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I would like to trim off some of the leggier stalks. How long after repotting should I wait? thanks! Gigi

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 6:27PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There are good times to do certain work on a plant, and not so good times. The middle of winter and early spring are the worst times you could pick to start lopping off big chunks of foliage or repot. Remember, the plants only source of food is its leaves. Removing leaves when a plant is at/near its lowest energy level of the growth cycle is taking an unnecessary risk, and heaping more stress on an already stressed plant. Learn to work WITH the plant instead of against it.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 7:01PM
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