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Dracaena Marginata Root Rot – Cause & How To Fix It

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If you have noticed that the root of your Dracaena marginata plant is not looking so healthy, you may be asking why this is happening. Or, even more importantly, how you can fix it. There are two main reasons why root rot can occur in Dracaena marginata.

When Repot Dracaena Marginata

The main reason for Dracaena marginata root rot is excessive moisture in the soil. Too much moisture creates an environment for different bacteria and fungi to thrive and attack the plant. Excessive feeding with fertilizer can also allow bacteria and fungi to decay the root.

Dracaena marginata, or the Dragon Tree, are plants that survive in various conditions and environments.

However, this does not make them immune to disease and problems causing the root to rot. The sooner you notice and check for the signs of root rot; the easier and better the chances are of saving your Dracaena.

Causes Of Root Rot In Dracaena Marginata

There are various reasons for root rot in Dracaena marginata. The most common reason is the soil being too moist.

The moisture is what causes infection of different types of bacterium and fungi, ultimately causing the root to rot.

Too much moisture in the soil can be due to overwatering and poor drainage in the ground. A possible consequence of overwatering can be a lack of oxygen to the plant. Reduced oxygen affects the ability of the roots to grow and the plant to flourish.

Another prevalent way for bacteria and fungi to spread is overfeeding the plant. Essentially, too much feed causes the nitrogen level in the soil to increase. In turn, this causes the immune system of the Dracaena to reduce its responsiveness and therefore combat any incoming disease. 

Bacterium Can Cause The Root To Rot

The root of a Dracaena marginata plant can rot if it gets attacked by a specific bacterium called Erwinia carotovora ssp. Carotovora. It essentially invades the plant through a wound, a place on the plant where there was an injury or cut.

The pathogens multiply and distribute in water, an,d therefor,e will spread even quicker when the soil is too we and drainage is poor. Also, the bacterium likes to live in higher temperatures.

You will be able to notice if the rot is rooting due to this bacterium when the root becomes brown. You can identify this at the base of the plant and the lower part of the stem, and other connecting roots.

There may be too much water lying at the bottom of the Dracaena marginata base, which also causes the dark brownish color of the root and stem.

The easiest way to notice the brown decaying roots is when the plant is taken out of the pot. Also, the leaves near the plant base can start to fall off.

Because of the rotting process, the root becomes softer and takes on a mushy consistency. Like decay in other plant life, there is also a foul smell accompanying the root rotting process.

Fertilizer Dracaena Marginata 1

Fungus Can Cause Root To Rot

Two different types of fungi can develop a rotting root in Dracaena Marginata. The first is rot from the Pythium fungus. This type of fungus is well-known in many soils and plants.

Sometimes Pythium fungus can be harmless, but some strains can cause damage, especially if the Dracaena is already unhealthy. If the plant has some injury, disease, or weakness, then this particular strain of Pythium can cause the root to rot.

Symptoms are similar to the signs of the bacterium – brown, soft, and decaying root, stem, and lower leaves. Growth is also stunted due to the roots not being able to function correctly.

If the Dracaena plant root is rotting from the Pythium fungus, then older leaves can also fall off, wilt, and become yellow in color. New leaves are restricted until the problem has been solved.

The second type of fungus that causes Dracaena marginata root rot is Armillaria. Armillaria is otherwise known as oak root fungus. Again, this fungus breeds and thrives in very moist conditions.

Armillaria fungus attacks the Dracaena marginata by releasing an enzyme that enters and breaks down the plant’s root tips. As the fungus spreads from the root tip to the trunk base, the plant becomes stunted and starts to decay.

The Armillaria fungus can be so aggressive that mushrooms can come up at the base of the Dracaena when the infection is severe. The plant usually dies between one and a few years after the start of the fungal infection.

What Does Root Rot In Dracaena Marginata Look Like

Firstly identify what root rot looks like on your Dracaena marginata. Typically, the root and bottom part of the stem will go brown and soft. This discoloration begins at the base of the stem, but it moves up the stem as the rot spreads.

Normal roots are firm and hold their own structure very well. Sometimes the roots are also black in color and are very fragile to the touch. They are so weak that they tend just to fall off when exposed and removed from the soil.

Another common thing that happens during root rot is that the leaves at the bottom of the plant start to drop off. They begin to wilt and also change to a yellowish color.

If the decay is severe, then this brown-black color can spread all the way to the crown of the Dracaena.

You may smell an unpleasant odor from the Dracaena marginata as the root is rotting. These are all common signs of overwatering in other plants too, which ultimately leads to root rot and stem rotting.

To lookout for these symptoms, there are specific methods you can use to check if your Dracaena is deteriorating.

How To Check If Dracaena Marginata Has Root Rot

If you suspect that your Dracaena has root rot, you can check this by inspecting the plant to be sure. To physically inspect all the roots, you should remove the plant from its container.

Because Dracaena marginata are tough plants, it is relatively easy to remove them from the soil and replant them.

Place the container with the plant on its side and gently tap and wiggle so that the Dracaena comes loose from the sides. If it is being a bit stubborn, try using a blunt knife to release the sides of the container and the soil.

Now you can gently pull the plant from its base out of the container, but be careful not to damage the plant. You could cause injury by being too harsh during the process, especially if there are already signs of some disease (for example, yellowing leaves).

Once the Dracaena is out of the pot, loosen some of the very compact soil so that you can inspect the roots. To be able to see the ball of the root clearly and the more minor root connections, make sure to remove enough dirt and soil.

When the roots of a Dracaena marginata are healthy, they are yellow or orange in color. Compare this to the soft brown-black color of roots that are rotting, and you’ll easily be able to confirm (hopefully not) your suspicions. To make this step easier, pour some water over the root ball for better visibility.

When you are checking the roots closely, you might also smell the displeasing odor that is released when roots rot. This nasty, rotting smell is another confirmatory symptom that your Dracaena needs help.

How To Fix Root Rot In Dracaena Marginata

If your Dracaena marginata has root rot, there are a few suggestions to save your plant. These methods mostly try to fix the two leading causes: overwatering and overfeeding. By managing the drainage and nutrition in the soil, it is possible to correct the problem.

Watering Methods To Fix Root Rot

If the root of your Dracaena marginata has softened and turned brown, there are a few ways in which you can try to fix this problem. The soil has to be very well-drained as excessive moisture helps the root rot. The root starts to rot because the water is where the bacteria thrive.

If the Dracaena root is rotting from the Pythium fungus, manage the infection by only doing weekly soakings. Correct water management means only watering the plant properly every fourth day, even less in cold weather. This frequency prevents overwatering and might fix the root rotting problem.

Another tip to prevent overwatering is to check the top level of the soil. If the top level is dry, then you can water the Dracaena. Some people tend to overwater anyway, so using a clay pot is a good idea. The clay will draw the water out of the soil quicker than other types of pots.

A soil mixture that is well-drained is very important for your Dracaena. These plants like loose soil that actually copies their native environment, which has a pH from 6 to 7.

Having well-draining soil is essential as Dracaena marginata are prone to tolerate dry weather. One way to improve the drainage in the soil is to add sand and pine bark fines. You can add small stones or pebbles at the bottom of the container too.

Ask for well-draining soil options. There are many pre-mixed soils that you can quickly get at the nursery. Once your Dracaena is planted, you can repot every few years unless you notice signs of root rot.

Repotting and using new and better soil can help to get rid of the root rot problem. You will notice that the water isn’t draining through, and then repot the Dracaena using different soil and add some pumice or perlite to the mixture.

How To Get Rid Of Mealybugs On Dracaena Marginata

Feeding And Caring Methods For Treating Root Rot

Excessive feeding using fertilizer creates conditions for fungus to live abundantly. Try to eliminate the fungal spread by only feeding the Dracaena every two weeks or even monthly in spring and summer. The fertilizer should be water-soluble.

Perhaps an obvious tip, but handle the plant very carefully. Recovery will depend on how bad the rot is and how far along the process is. Further injury will only prolong recovery or even make it impossible.

You can try to fix the root rot problem by removing the affected areas of the plant. Gently remove the leaves, roots, or stem parts that are rotting and destroy them. This method can work for a mild infection and often restores the plant or at least prevents further spread of the bacteria.

In the case of an Armillaria fungal infection, the only way to fix the problem is to remove all the infected parts of the plant. If the rot is too severe, then, unfortunately, the Dracaena has to be removed and destroyed entirely.

The decaying root has no way of carrying the necessary nutrients and water to the rest of the plant to survive.

No chemicals on the market will be able to save a Dracaena that has severe and irreversible root rot. You can, however, try disinfecting solutions and tools to prevent further spread of the decay – in more moderate cases.

One DIY solution is to mix 1-part ordinary bleach with nine parts of water. After removing the infected roots, stems, and leaves, apply this solution to the exposed areas.

How To Save A Dracaena Marginata From Root Rot

Usually, your Dracaena marginata can recover from root rot if managed thoroughly and adequately. Although unlikely, it can also be deadly. It is very important to follow the way to save the plant step by step.

Firstly, you want to be able to see the whole root system. The only way of doing this is to take the plant out of its container. Once this is done, rinse all the roots properly so its clear where the rotted parts are.

Cleaning thoroughly is the most critical step because if some roots are missed, then the rot will set back in after you have repotted again. Once you see the rotted roots clearly, remove them using garden shears or sharp scissors.

Be as sterile as possible, use clean tools, and wash your hands often during this entire process. You can use the DIY solution (1:9 bleach and water) again here on the scissors/shears, as well as the parts you have cut off. These measures help prevent any further infection to healthy parts of the plant.

After you have removed all the decaying brown roots, there may be some rotting stems or leaves that also need to be removed and pruned back. Your Dracaena might look very bare by now, but it’s an important step to try and prevent the bacteria or fungi from returning.

Repot the Dracaena into fresh, well-draining soil. Soak the container in the bleach solution. You can still use the previous container or pot, but make sure it is completely sterilized. Use the correct watering and feeding methods to ensure that root rot does not return.

How To Prevent Root Rot In Dracaena Marginata

Preventative measures are always key to prolonging the life of your favorite Dracaena marginata. You can care adequately for your Dracaena by placing it somewhere with partial sun and shade. This balance of sun and shade is essential for optimal development.

The Dracaena marginata is known for being a hardy plant being able to survive in many different environments. However, if you want to make sure your plant is healthy and also prevent root rot, you should have moist soil but well-drained so that it does not become too wet for the root.

Soil content is also to be considered, as Dracaena enjoy a high organic soil makeup. Another important consideration to potentially fix the problem is to prevent it from spreading to your other Dracaena plants.

If one plant has a bacterium that is causing the root to rot, it can spread to other plants that are nearby.

Check regularly for any root rot symptoms to quickly identify and isolate any affected plants. One way of doing this is to separate the plant that has the current problem from any other plants you have. You could also move all the healthy plants to one side of the garden or house.

Another preventative measure for root rot in Dracaena marginata is to check the plant for any disease or injuries before you buy it. Most plant owners will not require overhead irrigation, but many nurseries make use of these.

Avoid using this watering method or buying a Dracaena from a nursery that does. These systems cause water pooling on the soil, which attracts bacteria and other types of fungi.


The two most common causes of Dracaena marginata root rot are overwatering and overfeeding. These result in an environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive, which attack the plant.

These conditions ultimately result in root and stem decay and, in very severe cases, cause the Dracaena to die. It is possible to fix the root rot problem by carefully removing the affected areas. You can use different preventative measures too.