Dracaena Marginata Issues

hornetwife(Flour Bluff Tx Z9)November 6, 2007

Hi all,

My Dragon tree I have had for 7 months is all the sudden dropping leaves like mad. It is still in the same pot I bought it in...a large 14" pot. I water it very sparingly. Even so, when I check the soil with my finger, the soil is STILL moist even though I haven't watered it in quiet a while. I would say it is getting low light where it is now...BESIDE a SE window, not in front of. Any troubleshooting advice on this one? It has been fine up till now and the leaves just keep dropping.



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You need to repot using something other than potting soil from the store, which is normally 99% peat moss that holds water forever. You need to use grit as the majority of the mix (combo of aquarium gravel and perlite is good), a coarser, more porous soil (a garden centre can help here) and no shards on the bottom. Don't let the pot sit in drain water at all - if you have to, put stones in the tray and sit the pot on those - if it's wide enough, it'll be a great humidity tray. Also, it needs more light - if you think the light's low now, to a plant it's going to be next-to-dark. What looks dull outdoors to us is always going to be so much brighter to plants than what looks like bright inside to us! Once it's repotted (and if old woody roots need cutting back by 1/2, go ahead) then water WELL every week or 2 or 3 - you'll have to judge the need yourself depending on how fast water runs through the new mix - it should be pretty fast. It's always better to water less often, but do it properly than to just give a bit very often.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 12:01PM
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hornetwife(Flour Bluff Tx Z9)

Thanks for the info! I knew the soil might be a factor in this plant's demise. Is it okay to repot now? Doesn't seem like it will wait till spring.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 12:46PM
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sweetcicely(S7 USDA9 No.CA)


I know nothing about repotting your Dragon Tree, but did care for my daughter's Dragon for a year while she was in Texas. The details of this experience may help you think about your Dracaena's situation.

To set the stage: We live in a climate that is Very dry. Our normal daytime temps range from 85-105 in summer to 30-55 in winter. In most years we have no rain from the end of May to mid-September. Total precipitation for our "winter" is about 20", so the humidity is never very high (native Californians think 50% humidity is "muggy."!)

My daughter's Dracaena is about a foot-plus tall and is in a deep 12" diameter pot. It sits atop a 4 3/4 foot media cabinet, 12 feet from double windows that face SE. It is never in full sun. It is in plain old potting soil (looks like a peat mix) that drains well. During her absence, the house thermostat was set at about 80 degrees in summer and 66 degrees in winter.

My daughter's instructions were: "Once a month, stick your index finger into the dirt, all the way to the knuckle, and ONLY if it is dry, take it to the sink, slowly fill pot to the brim with water, and let it drain, slowly and completely. Do not allow it to sit in any water." Period.

Though these instructions sounded drastic to me, especially for our dry climate, I followed them religiously. Having no experience with Dracaenas, I didn't want to take any chances with this little tree.

In the year that I cared for my daughter's Dracaena it lost only one leaf and never drooped from lack of (or too much) water. It even put on some new growth. This plant was obviously happy that I could follow instructions (smile). When my daughter returned to California, I breathed a deep sigh of relief!

Hope this will help you make peace with your Dragon.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 3:53PM
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karen715(z5 IL)

Waiting until spring to repot is one of those rules that are made to be (judiciously) broken, not slavishly followed under pain of death (of the plant). If the plant is going to suffer in its current soil or pot, by all means repot it.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 4:02PM
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Waiting for spring might kill your Marginata..do it now..Use a well-draining soil. I use All Purpose, sand and Perlite..
Check its roots..Don't overpot..If your current pot fills roots, increase 1-2 sizes, but if there's excess space between pot and roots, your best best is to decrease pot size..
Remember in the future, proper watering is important. Give a good drink until entire root ball is wet..do not water again until soil is dry..You can check by sticking your finger in the soil..if it comes out wet, refrain from watering, if dry give another drink.
Lift pot..if it's light in weight, most likely the soil is dry..After watering, lift pot to check weight so you have an idea as to what weight it has when wet, then compare by lifting when you feel it 'might' need watering.
Marginata's are fussy when it comes to wet feet.
They also require a minimum of medium light..It'd do best sitting in front of the window, not off the side..
Daily misting or a weekly shower keeps leaves clean, and frees dust.
I wish you luck, Toni

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 7:30PM
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hornetwife(Flour Bluff Tx Z9)

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. I found it better light yesterday and I will be repotting. Like I said, I haven't watered it in a long time and it is STILL moist so that should be a red flag to me. Soil holding too much moisture. There are 5 stalks in this guy and it weighs 31 lbs (I weighed it). It was REAL fun moving it all around my house yesterday, up the stairs, down the stairs, trying to find it some more light. I really hate daylight SAVINGS time. :(
Thanks again,

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 9:51AM
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Hornetwife, your D. Marginata is very beautiful! I don't think you give yourself enough credit :) It seems you're doing right by it...

Follow the advice above; it's very good. Over-watering is a major problem with Dracaenas as they are quite susceptible to root rot. Also, because these plants are tolerant of lower light levels, they're usually placed in dim areas. And although they will survive very low levels of light (for awhile), they require better quality for optimum growth and appearance.

Enjoy your plant; it's lovely!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 11:23AM
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hornetwife(Flour Bluff Tx Z9)

Water roots, thanks :) If it keeps going the way it's going, though, I will soon have 5 sticks in a pot with nothing on them. Repotting to ensue shortly. Thanks again for your advice.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 11:46AM
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Lori, your marginata is gorgeous.
In your first post, detailing its description, I imagined a 2', half-bare, dreadful looking thing, but after opening your picture, I find a tall, very healthy-looking Dracaena..Toni

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 1:56AM
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hornetwife(Flour Bluff Tx Z9)

This pic was taken a while ago. It still looks OKAY but it IS dropping ALOT of leaves. At the rate it will be bare if it keeps going.
Thanks Toni.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 7:56AM
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Mine went through a phase last summer when it was dropping leaves like crazy. It lasted a few weeks, but it stopped on its own. Your plant looks great. Now I just want to know why I am the only person with a dracaena that has floppy leaves (like a spider plant or something).

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 10:17AM
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nanw_4wi(4/SW WI)

I agree, that's a nice plant!

You say that you've had it for 7 months. My opinion, from the appearance of the plant, is that it was grown in high light before you received it, and that it needs higher light than it's currently receiving to maintain it's lovely growth and to continue to grow.
I think it's dropping leaves now because it wants more light.

As water roots stated above, "although they will survive very low levels of light (for awhile), they require better quality for optimum growth and appearance."

I think it sounds like the 'while' for your plant was about 7 months!

Now that you've found it some higher light, I'd bet you'll see a gradual but definite improvement.
It'll take a while, though, so don't get discouraged!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 2:39PM
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Kristgray, you are definitely not the only one with drooping leaves - mine are so bad that I have almost given up on it - I don't mean to hijack this thread, but what causes the leaves to droop?

Hornetwife, did yours droop before dropping leaves? Just curious..hope yours recovers.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 5:52PM
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http://img411.imageshack.us/img411/6228/70260038il3.jpg this is what my "floppy" leaves looked like a few months ago. I don't mind the way it looks, it's just that the ones I normally see have erect leaves.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 7:05PM
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When the plants first come up from Florida or wherever the nursery they are grown happens to be, the leaves are large, thick, and stand up very straight. Once they are installed in their new homes up north, the new growth comes in much thinner and the leaves droop over. It's because of less light - I think the Florida nurseries also fertilize them a lot, basically because they can - they plants are growing like crazy and getting lots of sunlight and water. I don't think there's any way to keep the leaves from drooping if you live north of, say, Georgia. Just give the plant as much light as possible and that's the best you can do. Both of your plants look very healthy to me - Kristgray, your leaves may be drooping over, but the space between the leaves is still looking good. They tend to grow farther and farther apart as time goes on if they are in less-than-optimal light.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 9:24PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I wonder if some varieties of marginata have naturally stiffer or thicker leaves? We get them from Florida for work. Some of them, especially when placed in good light, keep the stiff leaves over the long haul (stiff enough to poke me in the eye occasionally - ow!). But all the ones in dim, dim light get floppy (and a surprising number of them die - I really don't think margs like low light as much as they are supposed to!).

Let that plant dry down. It may take three or four weeks. You could also watch for spider mites, mealybug or scale - I have found that any of these pests will result in the soil staying wet for up to 6 weeks running!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 7:11AM
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HI EVERYBODY. i recently purchased a dracaena marginata plant, about 12" tall (from a local store 4-5 weeks ago), all seemed o.k , but in the last 2-3 days leaves have begun to fall off, the plant itself seems to be fine, the leaves are upright (not drooping or anything like that). there is no evidence of mites or bugs on the plant. its not in direct sunlight, but not in total shade its next to an electric fire (the fire is never turned on). ive read some of the comments on this site and other sites various people have different views on what to do. i just need a little info on how to look after it. thank you for your help. FAN...

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 4:41PM
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did you ever figure out what happened? the same thing is happening to my new dracaena. I would love some advice. I know, you posted this 3 years ago....

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 1:14PM
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