Dracaena Corn Plant Bark is Soft on the Outside

SummersoffApril 26, 2012

Hi everyone

My corn plant is doing just fine, but the outside of the bark seems to be soft and coming away from the top of one of the canes, like there is a pocket of air between the bark and the stalk. Can you picture that?

And I thought it was root rot, but root rot usually starts from the bottom to the top, but this is the top portion of one of the side canes.

What should I do? The leaves above this soft bark don't look as good as the others and slightly pale and weak. And where the leaves come out of the stalk seem soft too.

I am contemplating on cutting the soft bark down to where it is firm and healthy feeling.

Should I wait it out, water less, and just see if it rebounds? Or should I go ahead and cut it off the soft bark/stalk? But as I said, the stalk itself is pretty hard, just the bark is soft. It could be the beginning of rot, I don't know. It won't affect the overall look of the plant that much if I lop it off, it's a rather large plant and composed of 5 canes.

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Hi Summer,

Actually, I can't picture that, lol.

Do you have a photo?

I'm assuming you mean, new side growth, on one cane, looks weak/ill?
What I don't understand is the bark being soft? Toni

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 1:39PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Soft bark sounds like it's indicative or rot, whether from the bottom up or the top down, not a good sign ever. Personally, I'd cut off any soft growth.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 6:01PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Is it one like this, with the yellow edges?

This plant was struggling when I bought it last spring. The leaves were rotting where they connect to the trunk, getting brown edges and falling off while still green. After being repotted and removing the PEAT it was in, trimming the roots a bit, it is recovering nicely I think. Yours sounds like it might have a different malady, but if it's in a really peaty soil, that may be the problem also.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 10:22AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Not always, but in most cases, the fungal disease that causes the symptoms you describe originates in the roots and moves systemically upward through the xylem until it breaks through into cambial tissues. Usually the plant is dead, but just doesn't know it yet. Some of the less affected roots are still able to move water into the xylem and upward to the foliage, but since the phloem tissues on the outside of the cambium are compromised, no photosynthate gets distributed to roots and other plant parts - the carbohydrates end up as a food source for the fungal infection instead of the plant.

Pictures would be helpful in determining if there is any chance of saving the plant, but what I'm envisioning from your description sounds more like you should be ready for a less than favorable outcome than for a turn-around.

In most cases, the cause of this problem can be laid at the feet of a combination of soil choice and watering habits. In many cases, your watering habits are dictated entirely by soil choice, and often even careful attention to watering isn't enough in the worst cases. That is an indicator of an inappropriate soil. A 'good' soil is one that you can water freely enough to remove accumulating salts from the soil w/o concern for what you're witnessing. If you work toward that goal, I promise you'll be making things much easier on both yourself and your plants. Let me know if you need more help, and I'll point you to some places that will go into more detail about the importance of what I just touched on.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 11:33AM
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Thanks everyone. For reference sake, I am talking about the stalk dead-center in the middle of the picture.
This photo really doesn't do much, but the leaves on the top left are the ones going a little pale and thin, probably malnourished. But the leaves on the bottom right of the picture are fine.
The soft stalk is from the top down to the 3rd line/ring on the bark--which is above the healthy leaves on the bottom left. So in order to save those healthy leaves I was thinking of cutting just the top with those infected leaves off. But again, the leaves look fine in the photo, but to the touch they feel very fragile and not very strong. Not to mention i already tore one whole leave off because it was dead and cut the brown tips off. And where you see the leaves coming out of the stalk on the top left, the brown part, it is extremely soft--not the like all of the other which are strong and firm. I can only assume it is from the soft stalk its growing out of.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 1:20PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Good pic. Have you inspected the roots?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 9:55AM
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I think better advice than I can give has already been dispensed, but I will say that I had similar things happen with dracaena. One cane broke off due to rotting, well above the soil line. It was almost certainly due to compacting soil, poor watering habits, and poor air circulation.

This was some time ago at my parents' place, where that plant has recovered and currently resides (although I think I need to take it from them and give it the tapla treatment soon to keep it going! ).

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 10:14PM
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