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dying Dracaena marginata

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by helmut on November 18, 2005 04:36 AM
I have had a Dracaena marginata for many years, starting it in the Bay area.
We moved to Pollock Pines, upper foothills. The plant has similar light as before but a little less bright, no direct sunlight. The plant still grew plenty, stalks got so long they had to be tied up. Suddenly the moisture level in the pot did not go down, the leaves became limp. I left the earth to dry out for a couple of weeks. It still did not dry out. We repotted the plant into a larger pot. The problem continued to the point that some limbs died, leaves kept falling.
I decided to check out the roots. We took it out of the pot, and I found many roots being rotten and hollowed out. I replanted with new potting earth and some perculite and sand (for better drainage). We bought another new plant, and I re potted the sick one into a non-glazed clay pot with added fertilizer (probably a mistake).

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by Will Creed on November 18, 2005 05:03 AM
Hi Helmut,

You are killing your plant with kindness! Sometimes less is more.

In my experience, Marginatas grow fast and die early. Their water needs seem to decline as time passes. If you don't make that adjustment, the roots rot and the plant rather suddenly falls apart. Once that happens, it is usually too late.

When soil doesn't dry out within a week or two, that is a clear signal that the roots are not functioning properly and/or the pot is too big. A bigger pot was the opposite of what your plant needed. More soil means that it will take even longer for a plant to dry out and that will promote root rot. That is why I preach keeping pots quite rootbound.

Fertilizer should be restricted to healthy plants that are growing vigorously. It is not medicine.
by helmut on November 18, 2005 05:50 AM
hey, thanks so much for that quick response. I believe you are quite right on everything. As a second tier, I make some stem cuttings and try to grow root on them. Why, I always have a problem when a plant dies in my care. I want something of it to revive or re grow. I managed to do that once with a almost gone indoor ivy plant. It became a huge out of control creeper.
My real challenge will be planting next spring, after this years extensive landscaping in out hill backyard and among many pines and cedars.

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by Cricket on November 18, 2005 11:27 AM
In my experience, Marginatas grow fast and die early.
Will, are we talking 2, 5, 10 years? Is there an optimum size or age to propagate Marginatas?

by Will Creed on November 19, 2005 10:24 AM

There are too many variables (grower, pot size, soil quality, genetic stock) to be able to put a time limit on this. I just know from years of observation that Marginatas when used as indoor potted plants do not hold up as long as other indoor potted plants in similar circumstances. Of course there are exceptions that live for a very long time.
by emmarose on November 22, 2005 11:29 PM
Hi all [wavey]

Reading this with interest as I'm having the same problem. It was dying off for ages so I checked the roots and couldn't find anything, and went back a month later to check again and found a brat of a slug-thing having a right old feed. [Mad]

Repotted it into the same pot but by that stage I had lost a lot of leaves. I cut away all the dead roots but there were still new roots coming out so I didn't throw it out. It seemed to get better - lots of new leaves coming out but now its starting to droop again and the edges of the leaves are going brown and dry. I haven't watered it for a fortnight but the soil is still damp, although I mist it once a week.

There are still new leaves coming out so I don't think its on its way out. What conditions suit it best for growing? At the moment its in my bedroom which is warm (but not too warm) and it gets plenty of sunlight but is not in the direct path of the window. I'm watering it once a fortnight (but only if it needs it).

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

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"Alcohol, the cause and solution to all of life's problems" - Homer Simpson
by RugbyHukr on November 23, 2005 01:47 AM
i don't water until the leaves begin to droop. no problems. i have a larger, older one that i water every other month. it likes to be dry. also, i do not soak them through like some plants. water lightly.

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by Will Creed on November 23, 2005 06:16 AM

If it is taking a fortnight and longer for the soil to dry out properly then that means the pot is probably too large.

Contrary to popular belief, plants do best when their roots are quite crowded. So you may want to move your Marginata to a smaller pot.

In addition, I suggest that you provide some direct sunlight. The Irish sun is never to strong for your Marginata!
by emmarose on November 23, 2005 09:42 PM
Thanks Will,

Will fire it into a smaller pot at the weekend and see what happens, and will move it to the window. ( The Irish sun is never too strong for anything!! [Big Grin] )


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"Alcohol, the cause and solution to all of life's problems" - Homer Simpson
by emmarose on December 07, 2005 09:30 PM
Its losing a few leaves from the bottom but I've heard that this happens to a Dracaena as it matures. There's new leaves galore coming out at the top though. Its now in a smaller pot, and I added a bit of sand into the soil for some extra drainage - will this do it more harm than good?

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"Alcohol, the cause and solution to all of life's problems" - Homer Simpson
by Jiffymouse on December 12, 2005 12:19 AM
sounds like you are on a good plan with the plant. that is exactly what i have done, and i have had my marginata for about 6 years. some times it lives in spite of me, sometimes it likes me... [dunno]

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