please help! newbie here

zobie02February 26, 2014

My plant is dying and I don't know what to do! I have this Massangeana plant (I think) and it started dying all of a sudden. I know this may sound stupid but I am pretty attached to this plant, it's the first plant that I have owned, and I got it when I first got my own place, and at the same time I also got my first puppy and started grad school, so I group all of those together and I really want to save this plant. It used to very healthy, I kept it in the garage for the winter it was doing just fine and I noticed one day that it started to look like it was wilting, so I put some water in it and thought that it will be OK, but it started to get worse in the next few days. So I thought that I might be too cold and I brought it inside and put it in a place with not much sunlight. The next day it looked way worse, I thought maybe it was adjusting and it will get better, and the next day (today) it looked like it has died. I just don't understand how it looked from looking kind sad to dead in three days. It's not overwatered. I moved it into a pot twice as big about 8 months ago, the pot has drainage holes that I drilled. I don't know what to do, I just gave it a bath thinking that it might help but I really have no experience and would love some advice. I am not sure if it can be saved but I would like to try. Thank you to much!

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How cold was it in your garage? It looks like it froze. What is all those white spots all over the plant by the way? It looks like it used to be some sort of Dracaena. I'll let someone else chime in, but I think it may be a goner.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 4:46PM
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The white spots are water bubbles because I just gave it a bath. The garage is usually 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. There are other plants there and they are fine.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 5:02PM
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*phew* I saw white spots and thought mealy bug. I think most tropical houseplants don't want to drop below 60 F. That depends on the plant, give or take a few degrees. Some are more sensitive to cold than others. But honestly, it looks like it froze.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 5:08PM
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Oh if there were bugs on the plant then the plant was not going to be entering the house! So if it did freeze, does that mean it's over for the plant? And, if the issue is being frozen, why did it go from being pretty OK to dead after I moved it inside? If the temperature was the issue, if I brought it inside where it's 70 degrees, wouldn't have gotten better instead a deteriorating at an accelerated rate?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 5:19PM
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I don't know much about Dracaenas, sorry (not a plant I grow). I want to say it's a goner, but someone with more experience with these plants may say there is still hope. I hope someone else will chime in and tell you one way or another. Is/are the stems still hard or are they mushy?

You ask good and valid questions. I don't have an answer to them though. I also don't have experience with an incident like you've experienced. How long ago did you bring it in and how long before it declined? I know you mentioned it declined rather fast. I wish I could help more.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 6:51PM
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Thanks for your responses regardless I really appreciate them! So about a week ago I noticed that the leaves were just a little yellow. I put water in the plant and it didn't really improve or get worse. Two ago it seemed like it had gotten maybe just a little bit worse, so I moved it inside. And it went from just a little yellow to what the picture shows above. I woke up the morning after I moved it inside and was shocked.

OK I just went and felt the stems. They are not mushy they are hard.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 7:17PM
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You're welcome, I'm glad you are finding me of some help at least. :) Not mushy should be a good sign I think (again, I wish I knew more about Dracaenas right now lol). When you watered, did you give it a "shower" in your bathroom and wet the foliage at all or did you just water the soil? Also, was it dried out or was it still moist?

I'm not sure watering it has anything to do with it's foliage dying like that though unless the foliage was wet. If anything, if it was too cold in your garage, wet roots + cold can sometimes = roots rotting (cold and wet isn't usually a good combination). If the foliage didn't get wet at all while out in the garage, I'm stumped as to what caused it to die back like that.

Did you guys have an abnormally low temperature night one day at all? I know our weather goes from 80 during the day to 30s at night (weird weather I tell ya).

I'm just trying to think of some reasons as to what could have happened.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 8:15PM
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I showered it today in the bathroom so the plant looked like the picture already but I showered the whole plant. The soil was a little bit moist, the top few inches was dry, but I did water it when initially noticed it started to look not so happy. However the foliage was never wet while it was in the garage. We did have some nights where the temperature was in the 20's but our garage is fully insulated and the plant is kept closest to the house where the temperature is warmer.

I really wish some other people would chime in with possible ways to save the plant. Anyone?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 8:31PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I'm sorry, but I think your plant is already gone & beyond saving.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 10:42PM
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oh noes


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 11:55PM
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If I where you, I would just cut off to under the leaves and see if it grows more, as long as, the main stem is fine, it should grow more leaves..but I could be wrong, but at least you tried if it doesn't make it.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 1:58AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Perhaps the combination of watering it after it got chilled was just too much. Often the combination of cold & then wet are deadly.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 7:07AM
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It truly looks like a Dracena, and Dracenas do NOT tolerate the fluoride in tap water very well, and fluoride does not evaporate out of water as chlorine does. I'd suggest cutting off the dead parts, watering it with fluoride free water, and giving it a chance. It's amazing what some plants will spring back from. Research your plant and see what you can find. If you aren't certain of the name of the plant, Google "dracena" and click on images and you will likely find it and can research from there.

I'm a strong advocate of not giving up on plants, and this plant has a special history, so give it a go!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 10:03AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

That's what I was thinking, PG, too much moisture while cold. Cold + wet = rot.

"it was wilting, so I put some water in it and thought that it will be OK, but it started to get worse in the next few days."
Since it was probably pretty dark and cold in the garage, the plant would use very little moisture. Was the soil really dry when you watered this time? When a plant wilts but the soil is still moist, that's a sign the roots are rotting.

Also, the floor of the garage is probably very cold, even if the air in there is well above freezing. Is there any light in the garage? This is what the one outside in my Mom's yard looks like at this point. The tops definitely froze.

Zobie, sorry this happened! Not all plants are as sensitive to lower temps as others. If a plant must be exposed to borderline temps, making sure the soil is dry in advance/preparation can be the 'trick' to success. To prepare potted plants I leave in an unheated shed, I stop watering them when cold temps are predicted. When it gets really cold outside, it gets colder in our house too, so even inside plants are not watered in preparation for these days.

I agree with cutting off the top parts, anything mushy, down to a point where the trunks are still hard. You don't want rotting parts attached to healthy parts. We can't know if the roots are still alive or not, only time will tell. I would not water it again until the soil is completely dried out, repot when it's warmer out (do it in the shade,) if it does start to grow new leaves.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 10:21AM
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Thank you so much for everyones responses! So the garage is actually very bright, it has 5 large windows. The plant didn't get direct sunlight, but there is a lot of light in there. I'm pretty sure the plant is a Dracaena Massangeana.

Can you please explain this "cutting off the top parts, anything mushy, down to a point where the trunks are still hard"? What do you mean by down to the point where the trunk are still hard? Do you mean to cut the stem off down to the trunk? The stem is not mushy though. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 11:31AM
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OK this is where I am right now. Does more need to be cut?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 1:50PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Those remaining canes look dead to me, unless for some reason they have always been blackish.

When I saw the first image, I heard the sound of "Taps" being played. It looks deader than a doornail to just takes longer for some cells to lose their chlorophyll than others.

I believe that the best hope for this plant comes from the roots or from the very lowest part of those older canes. I hope that you are using potting medium that drains well and that you have a good handle on the watering. Do you keep a thermometer in your garage, and have you checked it in the wee morning hours when it would be at its coldest?

By the way, cutting plants back to the ground is a highly successful and much practiced method of rejuvenating many kinds of plants, both houseplants and outdoor plants.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 3:03PM
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There is a thermometer by the door to the house. I have not seen it drop below 45 but I don't think I have ever looked at it between the hours of 2am and 8am. Regardless, the plant (if it survives) is not going back in the garage, ever!

So I need some anatomy lessons here. Is the cane the part that comes out of the part that come out of the soil? Because I was calling that the stem (because the leaves were coming out of it). Or is the part in the soil the cane? Should I just cut what I call the stem, completely off?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 3:36PM
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So the picture below shows that under the dark stuff it's green. Is this good, bad, or meaningless?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 5:06PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Zobie, the term 'cane ' refers to the stems of certain plants. Stem is perfectly correct, also. The part rooted in the soil AND the parts that have grown from that are stems/canes.

Time will tell if those canes are dead or alive....I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 5:39PM
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45-55 is WAY TOO COLD for dracaena, I keep mine well over 60. If the plant froze to death it would have not helped to take it inside after that. Imagine an animal frozen to death - it won't resurrect from being taken into a warm room and getting a shower. :) The stems look still promising to me though, so there might be some hope. But don't put it back to garage if it can get below 60 there. Most house plants are tropicals and shouldn't be kept under 60 F or sometimes even 65.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 1:47AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

It does look better under the removed dead stuff than it looked like it would be from the other pics.

Is it possible to get it closer to the window, maybe kind of behind the chair?

Crossing fingers here too, good vibes to your plant!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 9:24AM
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grrr4200(z3 MI)

id cut a few inches below all darkness on the upper portions of the canes. It could still come back, stop watering completely until you see new growth. Bright sunny window!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 1:48PM
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i also think you need to cut more, below any dark areas on the cane: like about half way down to the fork. it needs to be kept warm - so 70s (not below 70F) to regrow.
most tropicals need roots (soil) at above 65F to absorb water and more (soil at 75F) to grow well.
you should not let it go bone dry completely, even if there is not growth. but for now it probably has enough water for a couple of weeks.
do not put it in the sun, but next to the warm southern window in may be dappled sun or behind sheer curtain will be good. not on the floor (cold) - on the stand of some kind (1'-2' off the floor).
if might be a sev months, though, before you see the growth.
i once cut of the cane down to 3" on dracaena marginata to let it dry up and die (there were other plants in the pot) - but it resprouted 2 stalks within 2 months (was summertime).

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 2:59PM
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Thank you all once again for your responses! OK, so the house stays at around 70 degrees, but the upper floor is warmer. I can move it there. I can also move it into the sunroom where it can get lots and lots of light and elevate it to keep it a little warmer.

And I need to cut a few more inches off the canes, not water for a couple weeks until it is quite dry, but not completely dry. And not use tap water. And wait and see what happens.

Sounds about right?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 3:07PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Pls stop moving the plant around.

I've already suggested it's dead, but folks here are insisting on letting you get one last gasp of attempt.

What the plant needs if it has ANY chance to be pls. be left alone. Don't water it, move it sun it, just pls,. leave it alone. Imagine being in hospital's ICU but folks won't leave you alone long enough to get some rest or sleep.

It's not possible to fuss this plant back into health, so pls. in order maximize ANY chance it has to survive, by just leaving it alone.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 3:23PM
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OK I can stop moving it around and messing with it and hope that it has some life left, but I'd like to put it in optimal conditions and at least set it up for success. If more light and higher temperatures could promote a greater chance for survival then why not. I have accepted that it will most likely not survive, but it won't kill me to just hold on to it and see what happens.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 3:39PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

No, they can't. Sorry to be blunt, but it's just your wishful thinking that they can.

It's not going to help & you are just perpetuating & continuing problems w/ the plant & reinforcing bad habits which are likely to cause you problems w/ future plants.

The time to learn about a plant's optimum conditions is BEFORE you buy it, or when you've just brought it home, not while it's swirling around death's door. Too little too late.

Setting it up for success, well I don't wish to sound unkind, but that ship sailed along time ago.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 3:51PM
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Hey what's wrong with wishful thinking! I already said I have mostly accepted it's death, but you never know, I haven't investigated the roots microscopically and examined their viability. Further it was my first plant and I have learned a lesson and I did read and research the plant when I got it two years ago and it was going fine. I also read that these plants are quite hardy and the bottom canes leaves died shortly after I purchased it and after a year of it not having leaves, new leaves came out of it, I never thought that would have happened.

I am a virologist and immunologist, and I know at times cells and viruses have been left for a few days at room temperature (they are supposed to be at -80 degrees Celsius) and they have no chance of surviving, but very often some will survive, and we can propagate and multiply those and be good to go. I know comparing plants and human cells is a long shot, but you get my idea; that you never know. I'm sure you have tons of experience and you are most likely correct that the plant is a goner, but I see no reason to not try. I am new to all this, and I am coming to you all here for advice, and it was recommended to me by the other folks here, that also are more experienced than me, to move it to a brighter area, elevate it, and give it warmer temperatures, and I am following advice that I am getting. I am not sure how that 'reinforces bad habits'.

Yes I made a mistake, I shouldn't have left it in that temperature, but it was fine for over 5 months in that temperature. I am trying to just make it survive (which clearly may not happen), hounding me about the mistakes that I made that have already happened and can not be changed, doesn't really help.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 4:52PM
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i totally disagree with pirategirl. moving the canes into warmer and brighter temps will not harm it. it'll provide better conditions for recovery, if it is at all possible.
over-fussing CAn harm the plant, but abandoning is not called for either.
canes def can regrow.
also, before you start cutting anymore, this is what i would do as an experiment, because..why not?
cut off about 1/3 from the top - where you can see darker spots still. then cut another 3rd of the white-green cane. this part of cane can be planted, though the woody cane is what they use to propagate them with. the green(white in your case) is more chancy. but why not experiment?
i see if i can find a good link for that.
meanwhile here's a nice article (includes some notes on propagation).
yours is dracaena fragrance , i think. corn plant is a common name.

Here is a link that might be useful: dracaenas

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 7:47PM
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this cane propagation write-up is pretty detailed.
you put the cane vertically.
for vertical it is very important to know which end is up! otherwise it will not root. may be cut the top end at an angle or mark it with marker?
it is also possible to put the cane horizontally on the surface, not burried in the mix. i'll try to find it too.
gotta run for the moment.

Here is a link that might be useful: cane propagation

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 8:05PM
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the closer the cane section is to the bottom, the better the chances of rooting - but in your case, since you have to cut anyway, it's worth trying to root even a green cane.
it's probably 50% chance of success.
some more links: - half way down. vertical/horizontal just a few notes.
some misc descriptions of the process:
. The cane remaining at the base of the plant after the older leaves drop off is cut into sections. Between the circular rings or leaf scars are dormant buds. The cane is cut with at least two leaf scars on each section. The piece is laid horizontally under the soil surface with the dormant eye facing upward. This eye eventually will sprout and form a new plant.
Cane Cuttings
Cut cane-like stems into sections containing one or two eyes, or nodes. Dust ends with fungicide or activated charcoal. Allow to dry several hours. Lay horizontally with about half of the cutting below the media surface, eye facing upward. Cane cuttings are usually potted when roots and new shoots appear.
oh and by the way - you have to understand that the main trunks can take 2 or more months to sprout... while you need very-very carefully water it just barely, or else it will rot. it's a certain kind of a commitment so to speak ;)

Here is a link that might be useful: cane propagation - detail

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 9:15PM
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i agree with moving it, it can only help at this point, and i would try rooting it, worth a shot atleast.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 10:12PM
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Wow thanks for all the links and information! Can I find the rooting hormone at lowes or home depot?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 10:26PM
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most likely yes..
garden center would be a sure bet. may be even florist?
rooting powder contains fungicide too to prevent rotting.
and it really helps to root quicker.
you can use ground cinnamon to dust the cut ends: it is a pretty good fungicide.
however..if you use cinnamon, make sure it's only on ends: somehow it inhibits root growth. so don't sprinkle it all over the soil when you plant the cane.
of course, HD will have fungicide too most likely, but that's like...then you need a starting mix... and then you need a fertilizer....mister too? pots?
by the way if you use a little flat plastic container with a lid from grocery - it's really good for rooting. the lid will keep the mix moist. it is also shallow and transparent: you'll see when the roots will reach the bottom/sides. just make sure to make a few small holes in the bottom for drainage. reg nipple water bottles are great for light watering of the mix too .
best to premoisten the mix before you plant the cane instead of watering overhead - less chance of rot.
once you close the lid - it'll stay moist for a long time without much work.
see, it's like you'll have a whole new project to muck about with ;).
and may be a couple of baby plants too, not the easiest thing to keep going either.. but that's stage 2.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 11:25PM
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Could I just use cinnamon and not use the rooting powder?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 12:34AM
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anyway, it's just more chancy, but yes you can go without rooting powder in a pinch. may be you'll find it later, in a few weeks - you can apply it then. or not.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 1:35PM
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