How to Revive a Dying Dracaena Plant


How to revive a dying dracaena plant

The reason for a dying dracaena is usually because of overwatering and poor drainage. Dracaena prefers well draining soil and for the surface of the soil to dry slightly between bouts of watering. If the soil is consistently damp due to overwatering or poor drainage the leaves turn yellow with a drooping, dying appearance.

Dracaena houseplants prefer bright, indirect light and can scorch brown in direct sunlight.

Dracaena drops its leaves as the plant matures, however dracaena can drop its leaves due to fluctuation temperatures, dry soil, low humidity, low light or overwatering.

Drooping leaves are usually caused by dry soil, low humidity or high temperatures due to indoor heating.

To revive a dying dracaena it is important to recreate the conditions of its native environment by misting the leaves to increase humidity, locate the dracaena in bright, indirect light rather then full sun, water once a week with a good soak and maintain a temperature range of 60°F to 83°F (15°C and 28°C).

Keep reading for how to save your dying dracaena plant

Dracaena Leaves Turning Yellow

  • Symptoms. Leaf tips can turn yellow or the leaves can turn yellow with a drooping appearance and fall off. Dracaena leaves can also turn black.
  • Causes. Overwatering, slow draining and compacted soils, fluoride in tap water.

The reason for dracaena leaves turning yellow is usually because of overwatering or slow draining soils. Dracaena need the surface of the soil to dry between each bout of watering. If the dracaena’s soil stays damp due to overwatering or poor drainage, the leaves turn yellow, droop and eventually fall off.

Most dracaena species originate from tropical Africa in countries such as Ethiopia and Uganda where it is adapted to growing in well draining soils and erratic rainfall patterns.

Therefore dracaena plants do not tolerate the roots being in damp, boggy soil which restricts root respiration and promotes the conditions for root rot.

If the dracaena roots cannot function properly then they are unable to draw up moisture and nutrients to transport the leaves which results in yellowing dying leaves that fall off.

The reason for dracaena leaf tips turn yellow is because of fluoride in tap water or due to the fluoride present in perlite.

Dracaena is very sensitive to chemicals in tap water which can result in the leaf tips and margins of the leaves turning yellow or brown, depending on the concentration of fluoride in the tap water.

How to Revive a Dracaena with Yellow Leaves

To revive dying dracena with yellow leaves, recreate the conditions of the dracaena’s natural environment by watering when the surface of the soil is dry, using a well draining potting mix to improve drainage and reduce the risk of fungal disease and snip back any roots with root rot to save the plant.

  • Scale back the watering. Dracaena typically only require watering once a week in the Spring and Summer and reduce watering in Winter to once every 10- 14 days, to replicate the typical rainfall cycle and levels of soil moisture in its native environment. Let the surface of the soil dry before watering again.
  • Repot the dracaena with a well draining soil mix (if the soil is notably draining slowly). Dracaena plants require a potting soil mix that emulates the soil drainage conditions of its native environment. Repot the dracaena with a mix of 2/3’s potting soil with 1/3 horticultural grit or orchid potting mix to improve the soil structure which allows the roots to respire more efficiently and mitigates the risk of root rot.
  • Avoid firming the potting soil in too hard as this pushes the oxygen out of the soil and slows drainage. Dracaena prefers and aerated, porous soil that allows space for oxygen in the soil (which is important for root respiration) and good drainage.
  • Snip any diseased roots back with a sterile pair of pruners. Roots infected with root rot are brown, soft, mushy with a bad smell and rotten appearance whereas healthy roots feel firm, tend to be lighter in color and do not have a foul smell. Cut any diseased roots back to healthy growth with a sharp, sterile pair of pruners.
  • Wipe the blades of the pruners with a cloth soaked in disinfectant between each cut to prevent potentially spreading fungal pathogens to otherwise healthy dracaena roots. Wash the dracaena’s pot with hot, soapy water before repotting to mitigate the risk of fungal disease pathogens reinfecting the roots and turning the leaves yellow.
  • Always avoid watering dracaena with tap water and do not amend the potting mix with perlite. Fluoride and chlorine can be present in tap water at levels that the sensitive dracaena’s leaves find intolerable. Water dracaena with bottled water, rain water, distilled water or leaves a bowl of tap water out for 24 hours to allow fluoride and chlorine to evaporate before watering to prevent the leaf tips turning yellow or brown. Perlite contains fluoride so amend the dracaena’s potting soil with horticultural grit or orchid potting mix to prevent the leaves turning yellow.

If many of the dracaena’s leaves have fallen off and the remaining leaves are yellow, this indicates that there is extensive root rot, in which saving the plant can be particularly difficult.

However if the damage is limited and due to only occasional overwatering or soils that are somewhat slow draining or compacted, then scaling back the watering and replacing the soil can be an effective way of saving the dracaena.

Dracaena Dropping Leaves

  • Symptoms. Leaves can often turn yellow or brown before dropping or the lower leaves can drop. Leaves may also turn black.
  • Causes. Dracaena’s drop lower leaves as the plant matures and due to low light. Excessively dry soil, sudden changes in temperature, significant draughts from air conditioning, overwatering and poor drainage can all cause dracaena leaves to drop.

Usually the reason for dracaena leaves dropping is that dracaenas periodically drops it’s lower leaves as the plant matures. However dracaena leaves can also drop because of low light, underwatering or because of sudden temperature fluctuations. Dracaena leaves turn yellow and fall off due to overwatering.

Dracaena are known as a houseplant that grows well in low light, however if the dracaena is in particularly low light, then the plant does not have enough energy to support the leaves, which causes the lower leaves to fall off.

The dracaena also drops its leaves due to drought stress caused by not watering often enough or watering the soil too lightly.

Dracaena typically prefers to be watered once a week with a generous soak.

If it the plant is watered too lightly, only the top inch or so of the soil becomes moist and the water does not infiltrate the soil to reach the roots where it is actually required, causing the leaves to fall off.

The dracaena’s leaves are turning yellow and falling off, this indicates root rot due to overwatering or slow draining soils.

Dracaena needs the surface of the soil to dry between each bout of watering. If the soil is consistently damp or due to overwatering or poor drainage the leaves turn yellow and fall off with a dying appearance.

The preferred temperature range of dracaena is 60°F to 83°F (15°C and 28°C). Dracaena can tolerate temperatures outside of its preferred range if it is only temporary. However if the temperature suddenly fluctuates, this can cause the dracaena stress which results in the leaves falling off.

Unfavorable temperature fluctuations in the home are common in Winter when indoor heating can raise the temperature significantly in the evenings (particularly if the dracaenas is next to a radiator in the air current of forced air) and the house can cool at night or due to draughts which can result in the leaves dropping off.

How to Revive a Dracaena with Leaves Dropping Off

  • Dracaena leaves drop off regardless as the plant matures. As the plant grows, it directs more energy to growing new leaves at the top of the plant as these leaves are more likely to receive more light. This means there are less resources (nutrients, water, light) directed at the lower leaves which fall off. This is a completely normal process and does not mean your dracaena is dying.
  • Locate dracaena in bright, indirect light to prevent leaves falling off. If lots of leaves are dropping off at the bottom of the plant despite the plant not necessarily being a mature specimen of a dracaena then low light is often the culprit. Low light means less photosynthesis and less energy for the plant so it drops its lower leaves as it prioritizes leaves higher up the plant which are more likely to receive light. Move the dracaena to a brighter spot so that the plant has more energy to prevent it from dropping its leaves. Avoid direct sunlight which can scorch the leaves brown.
  • Water dracaena once a week with a generous soak. Water the dracena so that excess water trickles from the drainage holes in the base of the pot. This ensures that you have watered sufficiently so that water has infiltrated the soil and reached the roots where it is required. Water once a week in Spring and Summer whilst the plant is in active growth and water every 10-14 days in fall and Winter when the plant is dormant.
  • Mist the dracaena’s leaves every few days. Misting the leaves creates a humid micro climate that emulates the conditions of the dracaena’s native environment which reduces stress on the plant and can help prevent the leaves from falling off, particularly if the cause is drought stress. Mist the leaves more often if you live in a particularly arid environment or if there is an increase in temperature due to indoor heating or lower humidity due to air currents.
  • Keep dracaena plants in a location with a temperature range of 60°F to 83°F (15°C and 28°C). Fortunately this temperature range is typical of most houses. However it is important find a spot in the house away from any sources of heat, draughty areas (from open doors etc.) or on window sills which can be much cooler then the rest of the house in Winter.
  • Ensure the dracaena soil drains efficiently and that it is planted in a pot with drainage holes in the base. If water cannot escape from the bottom of the pot, the soil becomes saturated which promotes the conditions for root rot, resulting in leaves that turn yellow or brown, with a drooping appearance before dropping off. Empty saucers and trays of excess water after watering to ensure good drainage.
  • If the leaves of dracaena are turning yellow and dropping off then root rot may be the problem. In which case scale back the watering, replace the soil with a well draining soil mix and cut back any diseased roots (read the information under at the start of this article under the first 2 subheadings for more detail).

If the cause of the leaves dropping off are because of low light, dry soil or low humidity then if the conditions are adjust to be more favorable for the dracaena it should recover relatively easily in the following weeks.

If the leaves are turning yellow and falling off then root rot is the likely cause, in which case it can be difficult to save the dracaena, particularly if the root rot is substantial.

How to revive a dying dracaena plant
Dracaena Marginata with variegated leaves.

Dracaena Leaves Turning Brown

  • Symptoms. Leaves can turn brown at the tips or brown and yellow streaks with a drooping appearance. Leaves can also turn black due to overwatering.
  • Causes. Low humidity, cold temperatures, dry soil, overwatering and too much direct sunlight. Fluoride in tap water turns dracaena leaf tips brown.

Usually the reasons for dracaena leaves turning brown is because of too much direct sunlight, low humidity and dry soil. Dracaena are tropical plants that grow in humid climates with moist soil and are protected from direct sunlight. If the dracaena is in full sun or the soil dries out completely, the dracaena leaves turn brown and can fall off.

If specifically the dracaena leaf tips are turning brown, this indicates that there is too much fluoride in the tap water for the dracaena to tolerate or the humidity is too low.

Dracaena are tropical plants that do not tolerate draughts or air currents in the house which can turn the leaf tips and margins brown.

If the soil is too dry due to not watering often enough or watering too lightly, then the dracaena’s leaves turn brown and fall off.

The dracaenas preferred temperature range is 60°F to 83°F (15°C and 28°C).

If the temperature is excessively hot or cold, then this can also contribute to the leaves turning brown.

Excessive heat from indoor heating dries the potting soil out much quicker, contributing to the drought stress that is responsible for turning the leaves brown.

Too much moisture around the roots, due to overwatering and slow draining, compacted soils can also turn the dracaena’s leaves yellow and brown with a drooping, dying appearance.

How to Revive a Dying Dracaena with Brown Leaves

  • Always water dracaena with a generous soak so that the soil is evenly moist to prevent drought stress turning the leaves brown. This ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil to reach the roots where it is required.
  • Water dracaena once a week during Spring and Summer and every 10-14 days to avoid drought stress turning the leaves brown. This watering cycle replicates the typical cycle of rainfall and levels of soil moisture to which the dracaena is adapted to, in its native environment.
  • If the soil has baked hard due to drought then submerge the dracaena’s root ball for 10 minutes in a basin. Sometimes the potting soil can become hydrophobic (repels water) if it has dried out completely, so the only way to re-hydrate the soil and the dracaena effectively is by soaking the root ball which allows the water to absorb properly helps change the structure of the soil so that water should infiltrate more easily, the next time you water the in the following 7 days.
  • Mist the leaves as every day. If low humidity is the cause of the leaves turning brown it is important to mist the leaves as often as every day to counteract dry air. Misting the leaves creates a humid micro-climate which emulates the tropical climate of the dracaena’s native environment to prevent brown leaf tips and margins developing.
  • Keep the dracaena away from cold draughts and air currents from air conditioning or forced air. Air currents -whether they are hot or cold- tend to reduce humidity and dry the dracaena out. Dracaena can tolerate some air flow without the leaves turning brown (particularly if it is regularly misted) but keep them out of any direct air currents whist the plant revives.
  • Maintain a temperature range of 60°F to 83°F (15°C and 28°C) and avoid temperature fluctuations. To avoid temperature fluctuations (that can dry out the potting soil too quickly) avoid placing the dracaena directly next any source of indoor heat, preferably on the other side of the room and avoid cold draughty areas near to open doors or on cold window sills.
  • If your dracaena leaf tips are turning brown, water the plant with rainwater, bottled water or distilled water rather then tap water. Fluoride can be responsible for the leaf tips turning brown due to the dracaena’s sensitivity to chemicals so it is often necessary to avoid tap water. However if you leaves a bowl a tap water out to stand for 24 hours then the chemicals (fluoride and chlorine) evaporate and it should be safe to water your dracena.
  • To restore the dracaena’s appearance trim the brown leaf tips. Once the leaf tips have turned brown they do not turn green again. Trim the leaf tips back with a sharp pair of scissors to help revive the appearance of the plant. If the humidity is increased and the dracaena has enough water the plant should continue to grow and the leaf tips should stay green rather then turn brown.
  • Keep the dracena in an area of bright, indirect light (avoid full sun). Dracena typically grows under a canopy, out of direct sunlight and can burn due to too much sun. A bright room is best for growing dracena as it has enough light and therefore, energy to grow yet avoids the leaves burning and turning brown.
  • If you are watering the dracena once a week and the leaves are still turning brown, check the drainage of the pot or the soil. Watering the optimal amount should be in conjunction with good drainage conditions. The soil should retain moisture yet drain efficiently. If the soil is draining too slowly it may be too compacted. Replace the soil with a mix of 2/3’s normal potting soil and 1/3 horticultural grit or orchid potting mix to improve the soil’s structure.
  • Ensure the dracena is planted in a pot with drainage holes in the base and empty saucers or trays underneath the pot regularly to prevent excess water pooling at the base o the pot which keeps the soil saturated rather then well draining.

If the leaves are turning brown due to low humidity and dry soil, the dracaena should recover in the following weeks, when the conditions are adjusted to be more favorable.

Wait until you can see new growth on your dracaena and then trim back any green leaves to improve the appearance of the dracaena, as once the leaves turn brown, they generally do not turn green again.

Dracaena Leaves Drooping

  • Symptoms. Dracaena leaves drooping, possibly turning brown or yellow.
  • Causes. Not watering often enough, watering too lightly, low humidity are the most common causes of drooping leaves. Overwatering can also cause drooping leaves.

The most common reasons for dracaena leaves drooping is because of dry soil, low humidity and high temperatures. Dracaena are native to tropical climates and grow in high humidity, moderate rainfall and mild temperatures. If the leaves of dracaena are drooping, this indicates the humidity is too low and the roots do not have enough access to moisture.

Drooping leaves are the early warning sign that the conditions are not to the dracaenas preference.

If the conditions continue to be unfavorable then the dracaena leaves turn brown and fall off or perhaps turn yellow (yellowing and drooping leaves indicates overwatering).

Whilst dracaena requires moist soil, it also has to be well draining as the dracaena roots do not tolerate being in saturated soil.

If the soil is too damp or compacted, then this can exclude oxygen from the soil and prevent root respiration.

If the dracaena’s roots cannot respire then they cannot uptake moisture or nutrients from the soil which causes drooping leaves that eventually turn yellow or brown.

If the dracaena is in low light, then the leaves have less energy which can cause a drooping appearance.

How to Revive Dracaena with Drooping Leaves

To revive a dracaena with drooping leaves due to drought stress, give the soil a generous soak, mist the leaves to increase the humidity and locate the dracaena’s pot away from any source of indoor heat which can cause the soil to dry too quickly in a temperature range of 60°F to 83°F (15°C to 28°C).

  • Water dracaenas with drooping leaves with a generous soak every 7 days. Always water dracaenas thoroughly so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot. This ensures that the soil is evenly moist so that the dracaena’s roots can access the moisture it requires.
  • Mist the drooping leaves every day. Misting the leaves helps to create a humid micro-climate that emulates the humid conditions of the dracaena’s native environment. This helps to counteract dry air that saps moisture from the dracaenas leaves which causes them to droop.
  • Keep the dracaena in a temperature range if between 60°F to 83°F (15°C and 28°C) and avoid sudden fluctuations in temperature. Draughty areas of the house from open doors or windows or air currents from air conditioning, forced air and indoor heating can be responsible for the temperature changing suddenly and cause the leaves to droop.
  • Locate the dracaena in an an area of brighter light (but avoid direct sunlight which can scorch the leaves). Bright, indirect sunlight should give the dracaena the energy and resources to grow and revive the drooping the leaves.
  • Avoid overwatering dracaena and ensure the soil is well draining and the pot has drainage holes in the base. Typically watering once a week is optimal for a dracaena but this should be done in conjunction with the right drainage conditions.
  • Empty and saucers, trays and decorative outer pots of excess water after watering to ensure healthy roots. If the potting soil feels damp after a week, then I recommend replacing or amending the potting soil with 2/3’s potting soil and 1/3 horticultural grit or orchid potting mix to improve the soil structure and drainage conditions. If the soil is still boggy or saturated (rather then evenly moist) a week after watering then this promotes the conditions for root rot (which causes the leaves to droop, turn yellow and drop off).

Once the conditions are adjusted so that they are more favorable, a dracaena with drooping leaves usually recovers in the following days, particularly if the reason for the drooping leaves is due to dry soil and drought stress.

Key Takeaways:

  • Usually the reasons for a dying dracaena are overwatering and poor drainage. Dracaena plants need good drainage and do not tolerate, consistently damp soil, boggy soil. If the soil is too damp the dracaena leaves turn yellow with a drooping and dying appearance, due to root rot.
  • Dracaena leaves turn brown because of too much direct sunlight, dry soil and low humidity. Dracaena are tropical plants that prefer to grow in bright, indirect light with regular misting to increase humidity and watered every week. If the soil dries out completely the leaves droop and turn brown.
  • The reason dracaena leaf tips turn brown is because of low humidity due to air conditioning or indoor heating. Dracaena are tropical plants that prefer regular misting to maintain around 40% humidity. Dracaena is very sensitive to fluoride in tap water which also causes the leaf tips to turn brown.
  • The reason for dracaena leaves drooping is usually because of dry soil, low humidity and high temperatures. Dracaena should be watered once a week with a generous soak so that they soil is evenly moist. low humidity saps moisture from the leaves and if the temperature is too high this can dry out the soil too quickly which cause the leaves to droop.
  • To revive a dying dracaena, replicate the conditions of its native environment by increasing the humidity with regular misting, water once a week and locate the dracaena in an area of bright indirect light. Trim back any brown leaves to stimulate new growth. Ensure good drainage to avoid the leaves turning yellow an drooping off due to root rot.

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