Help save my Dracaena Corn plant!

jessecakeFebruary 14, 2011

I am hoping someone will have the time to help me with my Dracaena plant. This is my favorite plant I've ever had!

I got it just under five ago, it was knee high. Now it stands over 6 feet tall.

I live in Colorado, I have the plant placed on the side of a south-facing bay window. My pot doesn't have water drainage in the bottom, so I placed about four inches of rocks at the bottom of the container. I used to water it once a month and it did well for years. Just over six months ago I left the state for a family emergency and my husband didn't take care of the plant and I came home to a mostly brown dying plant. I had to remove so many leaves and was very disappointed. But thankfully it turned around and was looking nice again for a few months.

About a month ago I noticed the leaves turning yellow in spots, then turning brown and dying in those spots. I realized that I had probably been watering it a couple times a month which is more than normal for me. When I dig my hand into the soil it still feels damp about four inches down. So I haven't watered it in weeks but the plant is still looking worse and worse every day.

I also must mention that last week my plant has grown a blossom! It has never done this before.

So far what was suggested to me:

I was told it has possible sun burn but the side of the plant NOT near the window has leave damage, while you'll notice in the images that the plant with the blossom doesn't have any damage - and is the closest plant stalk to the window.

I was told that I have been watering it too much for winter and that is why I haven't watered it in over two weeks now, but it is still turning yellow and leaves are dying.

I was told that I should only use spring water to water it. I can try this but I don't understand why now it is an issue after five years of using tap water (though I should add that my house has a water Refinement kit, which I think I add potassium tabs to - not salt tabs). This kit is not new.

Which brings me onto another topic. When I make eggs at home I put the shells (only) into a container with water and that is what I use most of the time to water the plant. But again, I have been using this egg-shell water for about five years. Sometimes I use plain water with no egg shells.

I have tried to dig my hand as far down into the pot as possible to see if the roots feel rotten, but when I do this the roots are in the way and I have torn a couple so I do not want to harm the plant more.

This is my favorite plant I have ever had. I don't want to lose it and it really upsets me the condition I have let it get to. Please help me if you have time.

If you need more images or have any further questions please ask!

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birdsnblooms

Jess. your poor Dracaena! It's been through a lot.

Tap water is fine. You don't need Spring or any other bottled water. Also, it's not sunburn.
One thing you should have been doing the last 5-years is rotating your Dracaena 1/4 turn once a week.

I think your Corn Plant has/d a 'Dehydration' problem.
How long did it go without being watered? You didn't mention time spent away from home.

You also stated the pot doesn't have drainage. Do you know the container size? Was it watered before you left?

Let's say soil dried completely and was w/o water for a good amount of time.
Then you returned and gave it heavy drink..Possibly too much??
Even though there are rocks on the bottom of pot, if you added too much water, the roots could have been sitting in water all this time.

Do you check soil between waterings? Not only the top, but halfway or further down?
Your container looks large, 'by the picture.' If the top soil dries, it doesnt' mean the bottom soil is dry too.
It needs to be checked..A thin stake is sufficient. Insert the stake as deep as possible. If the stake comes out wet, the bottom soil is still wet. And visa versa.

Lifting a pot is another way to check. Lift after watering. Wait a week, two, etc, and relift. If the pot is light, most likely the soil is either drying out or dry. Only you can determine its weight and use judgement whether or not it needs a drink.

Why did you start watering twice a month instead of once?
It's possible its roots aren't absorbing water, 'if it's beens sitting in muddy soil.'
Short periods of drought won't cause much harm, but heavy periods can cause permanent damage, preventing the plant from breathing.

This happens frequently. Soil dries too much, then the plant ends up over-watered. Especially if the pot is w/o drainage.

If your plant was in a pot with drainage, the first thing that should have been done is, soaking in a bucket of water, until top of soil is moist. Soaking can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Possibly more depending on pot size and amount of soil.

What type of soil was used when you last repotted? Have you repotted in the last 5-years? Do you fertilize?

It's going to require some work, but you love your plant so it's well worth it.

Unpot the plant. Toss out old soil. Add fresh, semi-well-draining soil.
Although your pot is very pretty, instead of potting directly in the container, pot in a plastic pot w/drainage.
Pot size should be determined by the root-ball. 1-3 sizes larger is fine. After your plant is potted, it can be placed in your pretty blue pot. BUT, it's important you place something inside the pot so when you water, roots don't sit in water.
I use styrofoam sheets. Break a piece or two to fit inside ccontainer, 'depending on thickness,' in the blue pot, then set the plastic pot on top of the styrofoam.

Water well...enough all parts of the rootball are moistened.
Remove dead leaves, or trim brown edges of leaves.

Is the air in your house dry? If so, start misting. Or, if your plant isn't too heavy, give it a shower. Rain water is the best medicine, but if it's cold or not raining, that's out. lol. Instead, spray each leaf.
After your Dracanea settles in, renews growth, give it a half-dossage of an All Purpose Fertilizer.

In the future, rotate, once a week, so the entire plant gets balanced light.

an unobstructed, south window is usually harsh for Dracaneas, in summer, when sun is blazing, but since your Corn Plant has been in that window the last 5 yrs, it probably adapted. Sunburn would be obvious.

I wish you luck..It's going to take some work, but you love your plant, so get to it.
BTW, check its roots. Corn Plants are pretty forgiving. Toni

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 1:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Jesse - Your primary issues can easily be distilled. Your plant is almost certainly suffering two problems that won't reverse themselves w/o you taking action. One is over-watering, the other is a high concentration of salts in the soil - both primarily attributable to the fact that the pot doesn't have a drain hole. To correct these issues, you need to have the plant in a pot that does have a drain hole, or make a drain hole in the one you have.

If you would like me to, I'd be happy to walk you through how you can best deal with your issue temporarily. Ultimately, for best health/growth over the long term, I would suggest you do a full repot this summer into a soil that is durable and drains freely. I can guide you through that, too - and explain the benefits of fully repotting your plant(s) instead of just potting up if you'd like.

Al

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 4:59PM
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