Dracaena marginata yellow leaves

Dracaena Leaves Are Falling Off: What To Do About Dracaena Leaf Drop

Despite its tropical appearance, the dracaena is a wonderful first plant for an unsure plant owner. But take care how much water you offer or you may see dracaena leaf drop. Read on for more information on why a dracaena is losing leaves and what to do about it.

About Dracaena Leaf Drop

The leaves of the dracaena are magnificent, long, thin and green as palm foliage with some types like the striking Madagascar dragon tree (Dracaena marginata) edged in bright pink. These Common houseplants are also spiky and can scratch you if you aren’t careful.

If your dracaena plant starts dropping leaves, you may be alarmed. But some dracaena leaf drop is completely natural. Like other plants, the dracaena drops older leaves as it matures. So if your dracaena is losing leaves that have been around awhile, it’s probably just a healthy self-cleaning.

Leaves Falling Off Dracaena

If lots of dracaena leaves are falling off the plant, something is definitely wrong. But the cause of the dracaena leaf drop is very likely something you are doing yourself, so it’s easily corrected. When leaves are falling off dracaena, the primary suspect is not pests or diseases. Rather, it’s the curse of houseplants everywhere: overwatering. Plant owners see a plant’s leaves drooping a little and reach for the watering can. But too much water might have been what caused the droop in the first place.

Dracaena plants can’t stand sitting in wet soil and let you know of their discomfort by dropping leaves. Wet soil can lead to rot and/or fungal issues too, so it’s a great thing to avoid. How can you tell if dracaena leaves are falling because of too much water? Just take a look.

The tree should be planted in well-draining soil. If a dracaena is planted in a container, the pot must have lots of drainage holes and any saucer should beneath should be emptied regularly. To double check whether your plant is getting too much water, pop off the pot and look at the roots. If the roots seem to be rotting and the soil is soggy, you’ve found the reason for leaves falling off dracaena. Cut off damaged roots and repot in a better situation.

When a dracaena is losing leaves, overwatering is the first place to look. But the problem can also be caused by too little water. Touching the soil at the bottom of the pot will let you know if this may be the case.

Dracaena leaf drop might also be caused by a cool wind or too much heat. Check the location of the container and move it farther from a window or heater.

Why have the leaves of my Dracaena marginata completely fallen off?

If the temperature was lower than 16°C or if the plant was stressed because of irregular watering (underwatered, then overwatered when repotted), the chances to save it are small.

If I were you I’d take cuttings and put them in wet perlite or wet vermiculite. You can try putting them in water until they grow roots, but be careful to fill the jar less than half to avoid rotting and change the water every 5 days. You can also put the cuttings directly in damp soil, but this method is prone to disease. Don’t forget to maintain the polarity of the cutting, meaning that the top part must be kept up and the lower part must be put in perlite, water or soil.

I don’t know its exact light requirements, but if you find them out you can check the environment to see if it provides enough by measuring the light with some free phone app. Just search “light meter” on app store.

Please add an update when the situation changes one way or the other so that future users know what to expect. It seems to be a common problem with Dracaena.

EDIT: Watch this video that shows what to do. Even if your plant doesn’t have leaves anymore, you can try the cuttings and if it works you’ll see that new leaves will appear.

If you feel like it, after removing the top you can cut a part of the woody stem that had no leaves (a few inches portion is ok, the important thing is to have a few nodes). Then you can place this stick in water, soil, vermiculite, etc, as you just did with the top of the branch. The covered nodes will develop roots, while the nodes that are in contact with the air will develop leaves. Don’t forget which was the upper part and which was the lower part.

In case the woody stem is hollow or black on the inside it means that this part of the plant is dead and will not come back to life. If this happens, cut until you find firm normal woody stem. The plant is not bothered by the fact you cut it, in fact it will develop new buds to replace what is lost.

Tune: London Bridge

Autumn leaves are falling down
Falling down, falling down
Autumn leaves are falling down.
All around the town.
The wind will blow them round and round
Round and round, round and round.
The wind will blow them round and round
All around the town.
They’re drifting gently to the ground,
to the ground, to the ground.
They’re drifting gently to the ground.
All around the town.
Take a rake and rake them up,
Rake them up, rake them up.
Take a rake and rake them up
All around the town.

Another version sung to Mary Had a Little Lamb:
Autumn leaves are falling down
Falling down, fallilng down
Autumn leaves are falling down.
All around the town.
The wind will blow them round and round
Round and round, round and round.
The wind will blow them round and round
All around the town.
The’re drifting gently to the ground,
to the ground, to the ground.
The’re drifting gently to the ground.
All around the town.
Take a rake and rake them up,
Rake them up, rake them up.
Take a rake and rake them up
All around the town.
Now let’s jump into the pile, to the pile, to the pile
Now let’s jump into the pile, All around the town.
WHEEE!

Another version sung to London Bridge is Falling Down:
Autumn leaves are falling down, Falling down, falling down!
Autumn leaves are falling down, Happy Autumn!
Autumn leaves are whirling round, Whirling round, whirling round!
Autumn leaves are whirling round, Happy Autumn!

Written in the autumn of 2014
Not all the leaves are falling
Not all of the flowers are dead
And the late summer rose is still blooming
High on the hill.
Not all the songs have been sung yet
Not all of the sonnets been read
There’s a half written tale in motion
The sun hasn’t set.
There is still some truth worth perceiving
Whispers of stories to tell
And I guess that I’m still believing that all will be well.
Not all the wells have run dry
Not all of the springs have been spent
Not all the rivers have yet
Run their course to the sea.
Strange creatures dwell in the ocean
Mysteries hide in the deep
Breakers still crash on the shore of an isle never seen.
There’s starlight that hasn’t yet reached us
From thousands of light years away
Not all the frontiers have been travelled
There’s stakes still unclaimed.
There are friendships that haven’t yet flourished
Letters that haven’t been sent
There are words that are waiting for courage that need to be said.
There still is a love to find yet
There still is a battle to win
There is room in the inn for a woman
Who carries a dream.
There are trials that have to be gone through
Sorrows that haven’t been sensed
There’s a house on the hill still to build
With a white picket fence.
There are children that I haven’t met yet
Babies known only to God
There still is some life yet unwritten, a path to be trod.
There still is some life yet unwritten, a path to be trod.
Not all the leaves are falling
Not all of the flowers are dead
And the late summer rose is still blooming
High on the hill.
© Kathryn Overall 2014
This song is the title track from Kathryn Overall’s debut album, ‘Not All the Leaves are Falling’.

How to Care for a Dracaena Marginata Open Weave

LIGHT REQUIREMENTS

Your Dracaena Marginata prefers medium indirect sunlight, but can survive in low light situations. Brown spots on the leaves usually indicate the plant is getting too much light. Pale leaves, slow growth, and small new leaves indicate it is not getting enough light.

WATER REQUIREMENTS

Overwatering causes root rot and is the main reason a Dracaena Marginata plant dies. Water your Marginata well and allow the top 50% of the soil to dry before watering again. Brown tips on the leaves can indicate overwatering while numerous yellow leaves mean the plant needs more water.

HUMIDITY PREFERENCE

Your Dracaena Marginata will do well in average humidity environments, but will appreciate regular misting.

OPTIMUM TEMPERATURE

Marginatas like comfortable room temperatures between 65-80 degrees.

PLANT FOOD

Dracaena Marginata plants are slow-growing and do not need much fertilizer. Feed once a month in the spring and summer with a water-soluble, well-balanced plant food at half the recommended strength. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows.

ADDITIONAL CARE

Look out for a common problem called ‘tipping’ when the tips of the leaves dry out and turn brown. This can be caused by a variety of issues like overwatering, too much fertilizer, etc. The most common cause is tap water, which contains salts, chlorine, and fluoride. If you do not have a filtration system, leaving the tap water in an open container overnight before watering can help remove some of the chlorine and fluoride.

TOXICITY

Dracaena Marginata leaves are toxic to pets and humans. Typically, ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation with possible vomiting.

I’ve had a look at your pictures. It looks to me as if the plant has been left waterlogged at some point – is that possible? There appears to be rotting at the tips. The pot is also a good size already.
I think emergency resuscitation is required, so here’s what I’d do. Cut down the tops to about one inch from the main stem with a sharp, clean pair of secateurs, provided the short lengths left on top are not mushy as well. If they are mushy, you will have to cut them all off by removing the top half inch of the main stem. Repot in fresh compost – if the roots are coiled at the bottom, and the whole rootball is completely solid with roots, you will need a slightly larger pot. If, though, there are coiled roots at the bottom, but plenty of soil within the root ball, then just carefully remove any loose compost that you can (it should be very damp to do that), then put back in the same pot with new compost, ensuring you don’t break the roots, and also ensuring you don’t leave any air pockets, and the roots are fully surrounded with compost.
The tuft of green growth on the right hand side in the picture – if the growth itself is still healthy, remove the woody part at the base, but not so far that the leaves fall apart- stick it in a bottle of water on a windowsill, and wait. In about 6-8 weeks, it will have formed roots, and you can then pot it up.
Subsequent care – remove the pebbles from the tray beneath. Water well after you’ve finished repotting, leave any water which runs out in the tray for 30 minutes. Then empty the tray, and empty again 30 minutes later if there is any more water sitting there.
Future watering – only water when the surface of the compost is dry to the touch, probably about once a week. When you do water, water well, and empty the tray 30 minutes later. Never leave the plant standing in water.
After 6 weeks, feed during the growing season (March through to about August) once a week or fortnight with Baby Bio houseplant food. Keep away from heat sources like radiators, and direct sunlight.
This may seem rather drastic – but you need to take drastic action. Provided the rot is not in the mainstem or roots, the plant will recover well and grow on.

There’s no better beginner houseplant than the Madagascar Dragon Tree, also known by its latin name as dracaena marginata.

It’s super easy to care for, requiring little light or water, and is quite hardy in most temperatures.

In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about dracaena marginata care, propagation, and troubleshooting.

Let’s get started!

Dracaena Marginata Overview

Common Name Madagascar Dragon Tree
Type Broadleaf evergreen
Family Asparagaceae
Origin Madagascar, Mauritius
Zone(s) 10-12
Height 15-20′, 6-8′ indoors
Spread 3-10′
Bloom Time Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description White
Sun Part shade
Water Medium
Maintenance Low
Flower Showy, Fragrant
Leaf Colorful, Evergreen
Fruit Showy
Tolerant Of Drought

The Madagascar Dragon Tree looks quite like palm trees, which is why many gardeners falsely assume it’s a member of the palm family. This couldn’t be further from the truth! It’s actually closely related to lilies!

The name dracaena comes from a Greek word meaning female dragon. It gets this name due to the red sticky gum-like sap that comes out of the stems when cut. When it dries and thickens up, the gum looks a bit like dragon’s blood. But who really knows what dragon’s blood actually looks like, right?

In ancient Roman and Medieval times the gum was used in alchemy and magical arts. Today, it’s used in more practical pursuits like photo engraving and as a varnish.

source

The Madagascar Dragon Tree is characterized by long, narrow leaves that are extremely spiky. The foliage is generally dark green with edges that are adorned with a reddish purple and can grow up to 16 inches in length. As the tree grows, it will naturally lose it’s lowest leaves leaving tufts of leaves atop a bare woody cane.

Although species vary, this variety can grow as tall as 20 feet in height. But, when kept as a houseplant, it generally only reaches around 6 to 8 feet. The size can be controlled by cutting the tops off.

The cane can be cut at any height and within weeks you will begin to see a new tuft of leaves growing at the cut area. It’s better on the plants health to cut the cane during spring or early summer.

Varieties of Dracaena Marginata

Dracaena Marginata Tricolor vs. Colorama Varieties

Even within this sub-species of dracaena, there are a few different varieties that you may want to consider:

  • Dracaena marginata ‘tricolor’ — Tricolor is very similar to the standard dracaena marginata, however it has three colors in its leaves instead of two. There is a yellow band in between the red edges and green center.
  • Dracaena marginata ‘colorama’ — Colorama is the coolest looking variety, in my opinion. It grows slower than the other varieties, but has a much more vibrant red / pink coloration.
  • Dracaena marginata ‘tarzan’ — Tarzan is unique not because of its color (it’s the same as the original dracaena marginata), but because of the shape of the plant. It’s much spikier and spherical, and as it grows has a very unique and alien look to it.

Dracaena Marginata Care

Overall, Madagascar Dragon Tree is really easy to care for. However, that doesn’t mean you can just set it and forget it like succulents! There are a few considerations you should take into account with this plant that we’ll get into.

Re-potting

A Dracaena Marginata Kokedama. source

Strangely enough, madagascar dragon trees do well when they are root bound. Don’t rush to re-pot it when you purchase it from a nursery like you would with many other types of houseplants.

Light

Dragon trees do best in partial shade. This means that if you’re growing indoors, you should have it on a north-facing windowsill, near one facing east or west, and further away from one facing south.

You will know you’re giving the plant too much light if the leaves burn. On the flip side, you’ll know you aren’t giving it enough light when the accent colors on the leaves start to fade.

Water

Dragon trees prefer medium amounts of water. One good way to determine if your plant needs water is to wait until the soil is dry to about 1/3 of the depth of the pot. Then give it a healthy drink so the soil is moist all the way to the top.

The leaves will give you a good idea whether you are providing too little or too much water. If you have a lot of leaves that are turning yellow and falling off, you’re probably not giving the plant enough water. If the leaves are starting to turn yellow at the tips, it could be a sign of too much water.

To prevent root rot, make sure that you provide good drainage and be careful not to over water.

Temperature

Dracaena marginata can tolerate a variety of temperatures, but does best in between 65ºF and 80ºF. If it gets too cold, they will suffer greatly, so make sure you can keep your temperatures within that range for best results.

Humidity

While the Dragon Tree will tolerate most average home conditions, you can provide it with a little extra humidity through regular misting. Misting the tree regularly will also help prevent insect infestations.

Soil

Nothing special here. They just need well-draining potting soil. Use a pot with drainage holes and a saucer to prevent root rot, or add rocks to the bottom of your pot to make sure water doesn’t pool.

They don’t need much fertilizer, but if you do want to fertilize, do it once a month in the growth season (spring, summer) with a standard houseplant fertilizer at 50% strength.

Propagation

Propagation of dracaena marginata is so simple that retail nurseries often propagate it themselves rather than order more from wholesale nurseries. What does this mean for you? It means you can buy one plant and propagate from it to have an entire army of dragon trees!

To propagate:

  1. Cut off a stem of one of your mature plants
  2. Trim some of the lower leaves
  3. Allow cuttings to dry for about an hour
  4. Wet the soil you will plant them in
  5. Plant cuttings in the soil and they will start rooting after 1-2 weeks

Pruning

You don’t have to prune your dragon tree, but it’s definitely fun! You have a lot of control over how your dracaena marginata looks, which is why nurseries will often sell them in twisted shapes – they’re easy to train!

You can either just let it grow naturally, or you can twist several stalks together. They can even be trained to grow in spirals and can easily be bent to grow in various ways. It’s sort of the alternative to a small bonsai tree!

Problems

Dracaena marginata is pretty hardy, but the classic pests and diseases that affect most houseplants can also affect your dragon tree.

Pests

Spider mites, scales, and mealy bugs can attack your dragon tree if you’re not careful. To prevent them from ever getting near it, mist the leaves of your plant with water every so often. If you notice an infestation, add some liquid soap to the water and mist more aggressively. That should kill them all.

For serious infestations, either rid yourself of the plant or get an systemic insecticide.

Diseases

Aside from root rot and leaf spot, both of which are standard houseplant issues, dracaena marginata is quite sensitive to flouride. This means you should water it with distilled water if possible to avoid any flouride toxicity. You’ll know your plant is suffering from toxicity if the leaves start to die at the tips, the color starts to warp, or there are large brown areas in the middle of your leaves.

FAQs

Q. The leaves of my dracaena marginata are dropping off like crazy. The stalks feel a bit mushy, too. What is going on?

A. The most common problem here is over-watering or soggy soil. This is such a common problem that almost all houseplant owners suffer from. Make sure to get a well-draining soil, don’t water too much, and make sure your pot has drainage holes. Get one with a saucer underneath to capture extra water,l but also as a reminder not to over water. If you see too much water in the saucer…water less!

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Kevin Espiritu
Founder
Clarisa Teodoro
Researcher Did this article help you? × How can we improve it? × Thanks for your feedback!

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