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Dracaena plants are popular houseplants, but they’re not immune to problems. One of the most common things that can happen with a dracaena plant is losing its leaves.
When a Dracaena marginata is losing its leaves, it may be because of improper watering practices, pest infestations, low temperatures, and root rot. You can take better care of your plant through natural methods such as removing dead leaves and treating any infected leaves.
This article will discuss the common causes of your dracaena losing its leaves, including how to fix and care for your plant. If you’re not sure why your plant is losing its leaves, it’s worth looking into the following causes.
Dracaena plants require consistent watering, but you have to be careful not to overwater or let the soil go dry. If you’re growing your plant in a pot, water it once every five days.
When the soil is dry, water the plant thoroughly. Plants will often drop leaves when they’re overwatered. A lot of water may lead to root rot, while underwatering will cause dry, brown leaves.
Your plant’s soil should be a balance between wetness and dryness. You can find this balance with the following tips:
- To prevent water from getting on the plant’s crown, place a saucer below the pot to catch any drips. You can also place a clear plastic bag around the pot and twist it at the top to create a seal—this will allow you to monitor how much water is in the pot without disturbing it too often.
- If you are growing your dracaena in a hanging basket, make sure you keep it well-watered. Give it plenty of water throughout the day.
- If you’re unsure whether or not your plant needs watering, put your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil is damp, do not water it. Wait another few days and try again.
- When watering your plant, make sure to use enough water to moisten the soil but not so much as to saturate it. This may lead to root rot.
The most popular solution to dracaena plants losing leaves is to water them more frequently. But if the plant continues to lose leaves after that, it could be a sign of a root rot infection.
Leaves on the underside of the plant may turn brown, yellowish-brown, or gray in coloration due to an underlying fungal infection. Brown spots may also appear on the leaf surface.
If most of the roots are infected, you may not be able to save your plant. If only a few roots have caught the fungus, you can delay its spread or even stop it completely.
However, the best measure you can take against fungal infection is preventing it. Here are some of the things you can do:
- Add mulch around the base of the plant and water less often during drier months.
- To prevent fungus from destroying your plant, limit sunlight exposure and make sure that the soil doesn’t get too damp or dries out completely.
- If the fungus is already spreading through your plant, you may want to treat it with an antifungal medication like neem oil. Be careful when handling— neem oil can cause chemical burns.
Have a look at this Youtube video on how to adequately deal with root rot:
Dracaena marginata plants do best in indirect light and thrive near a window that receives bright, indirect sunlight for most of the day.
Dracaenas don’t tolerate cold temperatures too well. Exposure to cold drafts or temperatures below 50 °F (10 °C) can cause leaf drop. The ideal average indoor temperature for Dracaenas is 70 °F (21.11 °C), and the average indoor humidity level is 30%.
- If you live in an area with low humidity, you may need to mist the plant daily or more frequently.
- You can also use a humidifier or place your Dracaena Marginata on a tray filled with pebbles and water.
Another possible cause of dracaena marginata losing leaves is pest infestation. Dracaena is often bothered by webbing spiders and scale insects.
Mealybugs feed on the stems, leaves, and roots of many houseplants. Dracaena marginata is susceptible to attack by mealybugs, and their feeding can cause plant wilting.
You can identify mealybugs by their powdery, white coating and slow-moving nature. They feed on plant sap in clusters on the leaves’ undersides, leaf joints, and long stems.
Heavily infested dracaenas may have yellowing or wilting foliage that drops from the plant, leaving only bare stems behind.
Aphids are tiny insects that suck sap from the leaves of dracaenas and similar plants. Like other sucking insects, they excrete sweet honeydew that attracts ants and promotes sooty mold growth on leaves. Severely infected plants may show stunted growth, chlorotic foliage, and leaf drop.
If your plant is infested with scale insects, mealybugs, or spider mites, those little buggers will feed on the sap of the leaves, causing the leaves to dry up and fall off. You might also see some fine webbing in the shape of a cobweb on the leaves.
- If you suspect that your dracaena has been infested with pests, gently wash them off with warm water and a mild detergent.
- You can also take a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol and dab each insect on its underside until they disappear.
- Remove any diseased plant parts to prevent the disease from spreading to healthy leaves of the plant.
- If you aren’t sure what kind of pest is plaguing your houseplant, try this trick. Use a yellow sticky trap to catch the bugs. Place the trap near the plant and check back after a few days. You can identify the insect by its color and size.
- Use Insecticidal soap. This can help control infestations. Insects get killed in contact with the fatty acids present in these solutions.
Here’s a video from Youtube to help you stay on top of any pest infestation problems you might encounter:
Fertilizing provides plants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth. If you don’t fertilize your plants, you risk reduced and irregular growth.
But if you over-fertilize your plant, your plant will experience a high concentration of salts that can cause root damage. Over-fertilizing burns the roots of the plant and causes injury.
- Fertilize once a month during the growing season (late February through October).
- If you choose to use liquid fertilizer, dilute it and use it at half strength. Water-soluble fertilizers are best since the roots can readily absorb them.
Why Are the Leaves on My Dracaena Marginata Turning Brown?
Your Dracaena marginata may be turning brown because of overwatering, underwatering, high fluoride content in the water, whitefly or spider mite infestations, or temperatures below 50 °F (10 °C).
Overwatering is fatal for the Dracaena marginata. It will cause the leaves to turn yellow and then brown. Underwatering causes the leaves to turn brown and crisp, so it can be hard to tell which is happening.
Fluoride in tap water causes brown tips in plants. If you don’t have fluoride-free water, let tap water sit out for 24 hours before using it on your plants.
Whitefly and spider mite are common pests of Dracaenas, and their feeding can lead to brown tips on the older leaves. Other signs of whiteflies are sticky honeydew on the plant, black sooty mold growing on that honeydew, and the infestation spreading to other plants nearby.
Dracaenas will tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but they do best in temps between 65-75 °F (18.3-23.8 °C) during the day, with a 10-degree drop at night.
They can tolerate temperatures as low as 55 °F (12.7 °C), but if exposed to temperatures below 50 °F (10 °C) for long periods, their leaf tips will turn brown and become weaker, making them more susceptible to pests.
First, if any leaves are still green and firmly attached to the stem, cut them off as close to the stem as possible. If they are soft or mushy, pull them off and throw them in the compost pile. They will likely spread rot through the rest of the plant if you leave them on.
Second, cut off any portions of the stems that look brown or mushy. Use sharp garden scissors or pruners, so you make a clean cut without crushing or mashing the stem.
Third, find a new pot for your dracaena marginata that is large enough for it to fit into an inch or more between the sides of the stem and the sides of the new container.
Cut off any brown or mushy roots and anything that looks dead and blackened from rot. Your goal is to have a healthy root system with white roots.
An underwatered dracaena marginata usually has dry, crispy leaf edges and wilting leaves.
If your plant has gotten to the point of being severely underwatered, give it a nice bath in a sink with lukewarm water until the pot starts to float. Leave it there for an hour or so. Then tip out the excess water and return the plant to its spot.
Get a humidity tray. These are available at any box store with a garden section – they’re just saucers filled with gravel or pebbles and water.
They work by allowing water evaporation into the air around the plant, which is especially useful for dry-air environments like houses in winter. Just make sure to keep the tray full of water, so your plant doesn’t get too dry again.
Dracaena marginata can drop leaves because of overwatering, underwatering, mite infestations, and insufficient light.
Although those are the most common, there’s a variety of other reasons that can cause your plant to drop leaves.
If you have recently repotted your dracaena, the plant may still be adjusting to its new home.
If you have been watering the plant more frequently than usual, this could be the cause of leaf drop as well. If you notice that the leaves are yellow or brown before they drop, it may be because of overwatering or underwatering.
One way you can tell is by checking the soil. If it feels dry, then your plant needs water. If it feels wet and squishy, then you’ve been overwatering the plant.
If you suspect that your dracaena has lost its leaves due to overwatering or underwatering, give it some time to recover and make sure to water it properly from now on.
A slow-releasing fertilizer is the best for dracaena marginata. They are specifically formulated to match the needs of these plants.
The first number on the bag is nitrogen, which helps with leaf growth. The second is phosphorus, which helps with root growth. The third number is potassium, which helps flower growth in flowering plants.
You want to have an equal mix of all three numbers to support each part of the life cycle of your plants. Make sure that you fertilize the plant when the soil is damp— this will allow for more efficient absorption.
Though Dracaena marginata losing leaves is not the end of the plant, it can take some effort to cure it.
As long as your plant is cared for properly, you shouldn’t have to worry about dracaena marginata losing leaves again. As with many exotic houseplants, this plant’s biggest struggle is adjusting to its indoor environment.
With too much direct light and dry air, these plants can lose their leaves and struggle to survive an entire year. Keep the plant in a semi-shaded area out of direct sunlight and water it regularly.