Please help with plant I.D.

JKalkowski(5)October 14, 2013

I received this plant about 2 years ago when my Mom passed away. The tag on the plant never identified what it was or how to take care of it. It has been doing really well until a few days ago. The bottom leaves keep dying, i pull the dead ones off but the next row of leaves dies as well. The tips of the green leaves are turning brown too. I moved it to a larger pot about 2 months ago. This plant is very weird when it comes to watering. When I water it, it gets mad (tips of leaves turn brown) so I leave it alone until it gets weepy but when I water it then it gets mad again. I don't want this plant to die but I am at a loss because I don't know what it is or how to properly care for it. Please help :)

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Dracaena fragrans. Tap water can turn leaf edges brown.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 1:12PM
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Thank You. Do you suggest purified or distilled water? Do I cut the dead tips off? What about the smaller plants on the bottom, any idea what those are?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 1:24PM
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Rain water, and yes cut the tips off.
The plants on the bottom are also Dracaena but a different one

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 1:52PM
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Just one more question, Do I leave the pieces of dead leaf on the stalk after I remove the dead leaves(the part that is coming out of the trunk) or do I leave them there to cover it/protect it?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 3:38PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Those leaf stumps (or entire brown leaves) will let go easily when ready. I would remove them as soon as they are ready to come off when you tug gently. Pulling slightly sideways instead of straight away from the trunk usually does it.

The growth at the bottom looks like new tips of the same plant, coming from the roots.

I can't see if there's a drain saucer at the bottom or not. If so, it's not good to let water sit in there, which can rot roots. If the plant is really heavy, a turkey baster can help remove excess water after watering.

Agreed, rain or distilled would be much better than tap water.

If you have any more questions, the house plant forum is a good place to ask.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 9:22AM
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It's not just the tap water. I've got Dracenas out the wazoo...of every type. And I water them with tap water. If I had to use distilled water on all my plants, I'd never be able to afford them!

This dracena needs some outdoor exposure. Let it go outside for a while, make sure it has fresh may even need a bigger pot. I guarantee that a few weeks outside (not in direct sun) will make it look a lot more healthy.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 10:09AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

In Z5 it is likely too late (cold) to put this plant outside except during the daytime. Agree, moving it a little closer to a window for now if possible is probably a good idea. I would be concerned about burning a plant (by putting it outside) that has been sitting that far away from a window for so long, if that is the case.

Being outside, SlenderHope, your plants are likely able to drain freely, so tap water chemicals do not build up to toxic levels, as well as occasional flushing from rain water if they are not under a cover. I use tap water for my plants while they are inside for winter too, for the same reason - I don't want to spend that much on distilled for a ton of plants for a few months. The rest of the year I use rain water. In moderation/with flushing, the toxicity doesn't accumulate. If I just had one Dracaena, I'd get some distilled water. The PH of the soil could have increased as well over time, if the water has lime in it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flouride toxicity and other tap water chemical maladies

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 11:01AM
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Thank you all for your help. It rained here yesterday so I put a bucket out to catch some rain & gave it some water. So far it's not getting mad. I hope I have this plant for many more years. Thank you again for all your help.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 2:02PM
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My plants aren't always outside. I do have houseplants and many of them are dracenas. When they start looking the worse for virtually any houseplant will do sooner or later...a few weeks outside perks them up. I'm not sure why they would drain more freely than the ones I have indoors if I catch the run-off in plate and empty the plate....

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 3:15PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Yes, ma'am! That would make a huge difference, vs. a pot with no drain hole. This pot pictured in this discussion looks extremely heavy. If it does have a hole, it probably has a drip saucer that is not emptied like you describe doing for your plants. Sounds like your plants are receiving excellent care, SlenderH!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 5:35PM
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The pot is made out of plastic (very light) and has 4 drain holes in the bottom. It does have a drip saucer to protect my floor and I do empty it any time there is water in it otherwise my dog drinks it. I think my tap water was the biggest issue, we have well water. I didn't even think that could be a problem as we have a "whole house" filtration system. I have removed all the dead tips and leaves and gave it a drink of rain water, so far it likes it. It was moved into the pot pictured about 2 months ago with fresh soil.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 5:50PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

That sounds very good, both the pot having holes, and your being able to empty it. Since you're able to pick it up, its' weight can help you decide if it's dry yet or not. Tilting it should tell you what you need to know without actually picking it up. The more moisture the soil retains, the more important it is to let it dry significantly (but not so much that the plant wilts) before adding more water. Keeping a very moisture-retentive (slow-to-dry) soil constantly soggy can rot roots.

It's not unusual for a recently repotted plant to lose some older leaves a little faster than usual, maybe in a group. When you repotted, did you trim the roots any? Remove the old soil? What kind of soil did you use?

I don't know anything about well water. Is your filtration system a softening system that uses salt?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 9:22AM
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I did not trim the roots, they didn't look excessive. I did remove the old soil and used Stay-Green potting mix. Well water can be very high in metals and we do have a water softener in addition to the filtration. Before I put the plant in the new pot, I moistened the soil a little bit. I think I'm going to stick with the rain water in the summer and melt snow in the winter. I researched the melting snow method and it said to pour the water into a screen before giving it to the plant and letting the water warm up as well. It has been 2 days since I gave it rain water and it has perked up quite a bit. You all have been very kind helping me with my plant dilemma and I thank you all.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 12:06PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Glad to try to help. Sounds like the repotting went well, and glad to hear you didn't find a 4-foot root coiled in a spiral at the bottom of the old pot. Guessing the instructions you read included screening snow melt in case there's gravel, leaves, or other debris in it. If you have debris-free snow, coming to room temp as mentioned should be fine, without screening.

There's a discussion about water softener water on house plants forum. It's suggested to obtain plant water before it gets to the softener system, but I don't know what effect the metals you mention might have on plants. Might be worth investigating if melting snow gets old, or there is none at times.

Forgot to say above, your pot is doing a good job of mimicking a heavy, glazed clay pot. Sending good vibes to your plant!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 3:14PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i will be the second or third person to tell you it NOT A WATER issue... but continue to ignore such if it makes you happy ... you arent doing harm with your idea.. but it isnt going to solve the problem ....

my bet is .... and i see you are rooting more plants in the same pot..

that you have significantly OLD MEDIA.. that is used up.. and not allowing proper MOVEMENT OF WATER THRU THE WHOLE ...

its still a water issue.. but not the one you are fixated on ...

get those babes their own pots.. and repot the big one ... and if it dies.. you still have it.. because those cutting are the same plant.. exactly ...

and move them closer to a window.. as there may not be sufficient light in what looks like the middle of the room ...

there is a houseplant forum if you wish to delve further into the proper culture of houseplants ...

all this is that your mom would have done if she was any kind of houseplant gardener ....

the best idea.. would be to pot up the little ones fist.. and in a month or so.. when they are all fat and happy.. and your have your failsafe.. you can give it a go on the big one ...

and what they said on the lowest leaves falling off... they do that annually.. no plant holds it oldest leaves forever ...

and just to be sure.. potting media is NOT dirt from the yard ...

good luck


    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 7:21PM
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Thank you Ken, I changed the pot and the potting soil 2 months ago. I don't think the soil has gone bad in 2 months? I assure you the dirt in the pot did NOT come from my yard :) Will the smaller plants go into shock if moved twice within 2 months? I will admit this is my first and only houseplant. I've only had perennials outside in the ground.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 12:20AM
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