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Pruning my Dracaena Marginata???

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by ferroworks on March 20, 2004 08:47 AM
The double-cane marginata that I have had for about four years is starting to look a little off balance. I repotted it in August into a plastic pot, about 2 sizes bigger, I think.

Can I cut off any or all of the stems at different levels now in order to reshape it, or do I need to do this much later? (each of the canes branch off into 4 or 3 seperate stems, healthy growth- akward directions)

I think I may have repotted it this time a little deep. What level should the soil be at, just above the slight root bulge, or should that be under soil?

Is this also true about the dracaena tri-color that is the same age? How long does it take untill it looks like a healthy plant again after 'butchering'? (I feel you Muskrat-on the Scheffelera) When is this thing ready to start branching?

these are two of my babies that guided me into the world of indoor plants, and I only want what's best for them.

'If the plantís stems become too long and bare, cut them off at the desired height and new leaves will soon appear.' Dracaena
by ferroworks on March 20, 2004 05:31 PM
is this really possible in that period of time?
planted in 1997, from a 5" pot......
by Jiffymouse on March 20, 2004 11:16 PM
[wayey] welcome to the garden helper ferroworks [wayey] interesting name [thumb]

to answer your questions, first, you can cut and root any and all sections of your draceanas. the new growth starts within days or weeks, depending on light, nutrition, etc. they root really easily, and are a pretty cool plant overall.

the second question you asked, about the heigth of a draceana after 5 years, yes, it can be done. again, depends on the light, nutrition, etc.

i have 3 that are potted together that i got at wally world about 2 years ago, they were about 2 feet high. now they are well over 4.

again, welcome to the garden helper, hope you enjoy your time here!
by Will Creed on March 22, 2004 01:21 AM
Hi Ferro,

Yes, the canes can be pruned back at any time, but I don't understand why you want to do it. Awkward angles can be remedied in other ways. The canes can be moved to a more upright position, if they are leaninig excessively. New growth can be re-directed by changing its orientation toward the light.

If you want to post or e-mail me a photo ( I might have some additional suggestions or better understand your desire to prune.

It is not usually a good idea to up-pot two sizes. You now have to be very careful not to overwater now that all that extra soil is there to keep the roots moist for a long time. Marginatas are very prone to root rot if their roots do not dry out regularly.

When you repot, you should not add any soil to the top of the existing rootball. Add as much soil as needed to the bottom of the pot to raise the top of the rootball to the desired height.

That photo of the Marginata was taken from an odd angle that makes it look like it is a 20 foot tree. But the caption said that it was only 8 feet. That is definitely doable in an environment where there is lots of light, especially if it is grown outdoors year round.
by ferroworks on March 24, 2004 03:19 AM
That is exactly how I would describe my problem. The canes are leaning excessively. I love the meandering of each of the individual stems (or whatever they are called) off from the cane, but the excessive leaning is tough to feel comfortable watching.

How do I "move them to a more upright position"? When I repotted 6 months ago, I tried to corrrect the angle of the cane, slightly, as I didn't want to damage any roots (there are two canes in the same pot...roots intertwined)
This is the not mine, but is definitly the same species I am talking about.

My second question is about the base of the cane, where you can start to see a widening towards the root system. Should that be below or above the soil level? Oh, and by the way, i repoted it in a plastic pot, which doesn't aerate the soil very well, and I am not too happy about. How soon can I repot again?

Thanks so much..... I really appreciate any advice.

(I look forward to hearing back from you all so much each day. Thanks! and thanks to!!!)

p.s. does anyone have any good links to image banks of different varieties, I cannot seem to identify what I thought was my Dracaena tri-color, it sure doesn't look like this one
Dracaena Marginata 'Tri-color'

it looks more like this one but the colors are much more pinkish
by Will Creed on March 24, 2004 03:46 AM

Pull the two canes together about a foot above the soil and hold them together with one hand while you tamp the soil down very firmly with the other. Don't worry you won't damage the roots. Use the soil to keep the canes in the upright position that you prefer.

The photo that you posted is not a 'Tricolor'. It is a standard Dracaena marginata. The Tricolor variety has a cream variegation, as well as the green and red found in the standard marginata. So yours is probably a Tricolor, but the photo is not.

Once the upper portion of roots have been exposed to the air for a while, they develop a protective, bark-like callus. Once that callus forms, it is susceptible to rot if it is covered over by moist soil. If you don't like the apppearance of the exposed roots, then cover them with Spanish moss, but not soil.

If you prefer to have your plant in terra cotta pot, then you can change the pot at any time; just use the same sized pot, not a larger one.
by ferroworks on March 24, 2004 03:58 AM
Thanks Will!
how do i know if my roots are rotting?
if they are, is there anything that can be done?
there is tons of healthy growth at the top of the plant, but the base of the cane is looking a little darker these days than I remember in the past.

I did have the bark-like callus under the soil for a few months once i errantly replanted untill recently when I discovered that I had indeed covered them.

thanks for the advice!
by Will Creed on March 25, 2004 12:31 AM
Rotted roots are dark, soft, and mushy.
by ferroworks on March 29, 2004 10:41 AM
Here are some images for you to look at regarding the Dracaena Marginata that I was asking all sorts of questions about. It's been a pretty healthy plant for about 3 years, surviving (and thriving despite) a solid feeding of flouride enhanced water all along. recently I changed to watering it with distilled water after I started reading about my plants, rather than just doing what I thought was best. (I killed a zebra plant once, and still haven't forgiven myself....hahahha)


There is some new growth at the top of one of the stems that is coming out flimsy and almost transparent, as of yesterday. I have never seen this with this plant, and am not sure what is causing it. I would like to nip this thing in the bud, if possible. I have been VERY careful not to overwater, and since it is in a big plastic pot, that means that I almost never water it. It seems to hold water for about 2 and a half weeks. When I repotted it last week to correct the orientation of the cane, I noticed a healthy root structure, and couldn't really see any signs of root rot. I took some nice close-up shots of the problem area, as well as some shots of the root callus (finally above the soil after a month or two underground) and maybe you can tell me what you think is best for it. I have also been misting (almost daily) with distilled water to keep the dust from building up on those beautiful leaves (more recently this month than ever, as it's been incredibly hot and dry up here in SF, Ca.).

thanks for any help that you can provide!!!

by regalzephyris on April 07, 2004 05:10 AM
Might I suggest misting less at a time, or every other day? When water accumulates at the center, it prevents the air from circulating at the base of the leaves and inhibits their growth.

The thin and almost transparent leaves sound like what happened when a friend watered my dracaena marginata for me - from the top. It ended up killing off all the leaves (though it IS a very small plant and the same result is not likely in a larger specimen) and I've had a very difficult time nursing it back to good health.

Best of luck - J
by ferroworks on April 08, 2004 12:05 PM
good advice... thanks!

i actually have stopped misting it except for once a week to get all the dust off, cause i do think that is exactly what happened, some water accumulated in the top and cut off the air supply. it's actually stunted all growth in that shoot from the cane, and I'm worried about the well being of the plant. so you said you had a hard time nursing it back to health? did you succeed?

as far as the fungus gnats are concerned, and the possible root rot..... I cleared off the top layer of soil above the root ball, as you suggested Will, replaced it with some fresh, hawaiin gold soil on top, and watered a bit, then have let it dry out completely. (emphasis on completely) the day after i watered it, a whole boat load of gnats are back. They are now finding their home in all my plastic container plants in my room, (with the exception of the arrowhead vine in plastic too).

i think it must have something to do with the moisture retention, but even if i let the plants dry out completely, when i do water them again, the gnats return. not sure what to do....

i want to share plants with housemate who hates the gnats in the living room.
by Jiffymouse on April 08, 2004 05:56 PM
about your gnats... get you a big bag of aquariam pebbles and layer them on the top you your plant soil. "mulch" the plants with them if you will. you will still be able to poke your finger in the plant to check for watering needs, but the gnats will have a hard time getting in the soil to lay eggs. and they will go away. also, letting the plants dry bettween waterings (as you have done) will help eventually eliminate them.
by Raenkatz on April 08, 2004 09:38 PM
[dunno] Can nematodes be used indoors on houseplants? Is it safe and/or recommended?
by ferroworks on April 09, 2004 10:55 PM
IPM of Alaska (Integrated Pest Management says....
Using Nematodes

Nematodes at Plant'

says they are effective on fungus gnats...... is there hope?
good suggestion! thanks

about the pebbles as mulch on top of the soil. If I am already having moisture retention issues with my plants potted in plastic containers, will the pebbles on top add to my woes? or will the moisture be able to evaporate freely through the semi-pourous pebbles? The Dracaena Marginata that is the worst host for fungus gnats, is also (i believe) in danger of possibly having root rot, and I don't want to encourage that.
by ferroworks on April 15, 2004 01:41 AM
ok, so i cut the top off of the chute that was decaying (?)
image of my dracaena
i had a friend come over and take a look, that was his advice. he said that would be the only way to get rid of the infected growth. If i would see dark material in at the spot where I cut, I should cut it lower. I barely cut it at all, and it was fresh, greenish white, what looked to be healthy growth. Is there anything else I should do now?

by Jiffymouse on April 15, 2004 05:36 AM
jamie, you have done everything i would have done. and you do have a beautiful plant!
by Will Creed on April 17, 2004 10:18 PM

Your Marginata woes can be traced back to the repotting - something I warn against constantly because it is such a common problem.

The pale weak grwoth on one of the stems is due to the soil staying moist for too long. The soil is staying moist for too long because there is too much of it in the pot. A properly potted plant will dry out in less than a week. If itvtakes longer, then the pot is too big. Marginatas are particularly vulnerabe to root rot.

The fungus gnats probably were introduced when you repotted and used contaminated soil, although I cannot be sure of just when they were introduced. The gnat larvae live in the upper portion of the soil and they feed on decaying organic matter, such as rotting roots. Allowing the soil to dry out helps, but it rarely eliminates the problem. A light layer of sand or diatomaceous earth on the surface will help carve up the larvae. Rounded pebbles will not help at all and will tend to keep the soil too moist.

You can move your plant into a smaller pot by removing the extra soil that you added around the rootball when you repotted, but I am hesitant to recommend that because your plant has gone through a lot of trauma lately. As an alternative, you can let the soil get much drier than you have been. That means the soil should feel dry as far down into the soil as you can push your finger. When you water, add just enough so that it gets dry again within 7 days. If it takes longer, then you know you added too much water the last time.
by ferroworks on April 18, 2004 10:13 AM
it's good to have you back Will, Jiffymouse has held the fort with might........

thanks for all the advice, I really do appreciate it, as these plants are my "loved ones".

Since I hacked off the infected chute, is there anything (besides less watering, and no daily spraying) that I should do to encourage this chute to re-leaf (???) ?

and, despite all previous posts, even though it seems like this plant has been through alot, the repotting was gentle. Most of the chutes are sporting some healthy, colorful, and lucious new growth, so I don't think it really has gone through too much trauma.....
no pressure, but unless you READVISE me not too, I am going to go ahead and repot it in a tera cotta, smaller pit, and put a layer of diatomocuous earth on top and hope for the best. (I think the key of your post was '7 days between rewatering', right?)

thanks again guys,

by Jiffymouse on April 19, 2004 04:47 PM
jamie, the real key is to water when they start to dry. you don't want to have to go more than 7 days between watering because that means that the soil isn't draining. if you have new growth that is healthy, you are on the right track.

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