Dracena Marginata root rot and propagation

fowlermjMay 24, 2011

I've seen several posts and answers on how to deal with root rot and how to deal with propagation of D. Marginata on this forum. I�m dealing with a combination of the two.

I have several DM that have almost total root rot (overwatered by spouse...). Two are nearly 7ft tall and share a pot, the other three are about 4ft tall and share a pot. I've owned them all for about ten years without issue.

After finding out the extent of the root rot I researched online and removed the damaged roots and cut out rot this past Saturday, which left only hard, woody roots. I performed a root hormone warm water bath and repotted in dry potting soil. I�ll be adding a bag and sphagnum moss tonight to help retain moisture.

At this point I wonder if I should cut my losses and attempt to propagate before the stalks begin to rot. I�ve experienced that once before with another dracaena, and am worried that once I realize it�s happening it will be too late to propagate successfully.

I have not had experience propagating but have read many posts on this site and others about air layering and using cut stalks of dracaena. I actually had intended to do this at some point with all 6 of these plants � they�re quite leggy � but had not worked up the courage to hack at plants I�m sentimentally attached to. However, given the dire circumstances it doesn�t seem like such a bad option.


- Would cuttings (or attempts at air layering) from a dracaena suffering such extensive root rot (and now losing leaves from the bottom up at the rate of several per day) have enough energy to survive?

- Or does it make more sense to hold off for several days/a few weeks to see if the plant can re-root and recover in its current state?

I�d hate to wait too long hoping for a recovery only to find out I could have propagated if only I�d made the decision to cut/air layer sooner.

Thanks in advance!

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Fow...first you must tell your hubby not to water your plants...If he continues, you'll have plant problems as long as you have plants.

Whatever you decide to do with your margintas, 'air-layer, root,' tell your husband, HANDS OFF!

Can you post pictures? It's ashame..10-yrs-old trees.

Where is the rot? Is the main trunk soft? And how large are your trees?

If large, is it possible to remove a few stems, and root in water?
All you have to do is cut off a stem nearest the trunk, set in water, change daily or every second day and wait. Once stems are rooted, pot in well-draining soil.

Air-layering isn't difficult. Have you ever AL'd before?
It's not difficult..if you chose to AL, make sure you have everything needed before making the cut. Tooth-picsk, Sphagnum Moss, plastic, 'to wrap around moss' tis, and a spray bottle, 'to moisten moss.'

A photo would help, Toni

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 2:01PM
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Toni -

Thanks for the reply. Pictures are linked below.

I should clarify that it was, in fact, my wife who has overwatered. She's been suitably chastised and will not be watering any longer, trust me ;)

The rot has, to date, only been visible in the roots (though it was extensive). The trunks are not soft on any of these yet. The two in the first 5 pictures are approximately 6.5-7' tall. The other 3 pictures show the three that share a pot and are about 3.5' tall.

Unfortunately none of these dracaena have shoots/branches I could use to propagate - all are straight up, as you'll see. So I can't take any stems without either air layering or just chopping pieces of stalk off, which is what I'd been hesitant to do.

They've all lost more leaves than is evident here, probably in the range of a dozen or more on each of the large plants and closer to 8-10 on the smaller ones.

I suppose the question is, would cuttings like I'd have to do even be strong enough to root, given the weakened state of the plants. Hard to know for sure, of course.

I should also mention that I do know it's best to pot in a container inside a ceramic pot and not directly into the ceramic pot. As a matter of personal taste I'd always gone with direct potting into the pots like you see, including large gravel in the bottom and potting soil mixed with perlite. My experience had always been good up until now (isn't that always the way this stuff happens?). Of course, had I potted within the pot this post wouldn't even exist, likely. But for now I need to do what I can to save them.

Also, as I mentioned in the previous post I had been meaning to repot these, especially the smaller plants (isn't that ALSO always the way?) which were quite intertwined below the surface. If they survive separation is in order, as well as a good chop to reduce gangly-ness (true for the big ones as well).

Thanks in advance!


Here is a link that might be useful: Dracaena with root rot

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 12:05PM
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M...I'm sure you 'took care' of your wife with the utmost severity..lol...j/k..Really kidding!

I see what you mean..there's no side shoots to root.
M, for one thing, your Dracaena isn't getting enough light. The trunk looks thin compared to its height. They require very bright sun.

What size is its pot? It's possible your plant is/was root-bound, halting growth.. Although I'm against over-potting. IMO, plants should be repotted in a container 1-2 sizes larger than the previous pot. Besides, D. marginata does better when a little pot bound.

Yep, if one is going to use a pot w/o drainage, instead of direct planting, it's best to pot in a plastic growing pot, setting a piece of sheet styrofoam inside the outer pot, 'without drainage holes,' then placing the growing pot atop the styrofoam.
Marginata, 'like a few other Dracaenas, Drako for one,' prefers soil to dry out between waterings. I treat mine like a succulent, (to a degree) although marginata requires humidity, therefore, leaves are misted daily, and every so often, given a shower.

What type of root hormone did you use? Are you talking about Superthrive or a rooting hormone?
SuperThrive is a fantastic hormone, helps stressed plants, seedlings, and cuttings.

If it was my plant, I'd cut three or four pieces of trunk, root, then pot in fresh, well-draining soil. Rooting the trunk is simple. Afterwards, each piece can then go in one pot, or if you prefer a solo look, pot in separate containers. Placing all in one pot will look more compact. It's a matter of opinion, when you think about it.

As long as the stems aren't soft, I believe they'll root. If a section is rotted, simply cut into firmer tissue.

M, which other plants were you meaning to repot? Toni

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 1:49PM
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