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Problem with your Dragon tree? Solve it here!

dracaena marginata problems

Dragon plants are among the rare plants that are perfectly happy indoors. However, they do get their fair share of problems.

From leaves changing colors to stems bending over, find what ails your dracaena marginata and fix the issue!

Make note of the symptoms on your dracaena marginata, and read on.

Falling / withering leaves on a dragon plant

Dracaena leaves dry out and fall in case of long droughtThis is either due to lack of light or excess water.

Note: In case you’ve forgotten to water your plant for more than 2 weeks, the dragon plant’s first reaction is to shed its lowest leaves.

Also, having lower leaves wither and die is normal for this plant, as long as leaves higher up are healthy. As a side note, some varieties are better than others at keeping their lower leaves.

However, they all benefit from having more moisture in the air around them.

Dracaena marginata loses its leaves

This is what happens when the dracaena is too cold.

  • Find a more appropriate location for it: minimum temperatures of 65-66°F (18-19°C) and ideally 70 to 72°F (20 to 22°C).

Dracaena marginata leaves turn yellow

Problem with dracaena marginata leaves turning yellowIf new leaves still appear at the top, losing a few bottom leaves is part of your dracaena’s natural cycle. Most plants drop older inefficient leaves. Before the leaf detaches and falls, it turns yellow: nutrients are being recycled back into the plant for new growth.

  • However, if no new shoots appear and your dracaena looks droopy, it might suffer from red spider mite. This is frequent in dry air. Treat with an insecticide, but the article linked describes organic solutions to deal with this mite.

If many or all leaves turn yellow and droop over, again, check whether you’re overwatering or not. In extreme cases, the stem softens and bends over.

Cottony white spots appear

White spots on dracaena dragon plant leavesThis is symptomatic of an onslaught of scale insects.

  • Eliminate scale with a rag dipped in methylated spirits, carefully rinsing the leaves with water afterwards.
  • Other strong spirits or alcohols also work: vodka, gin, rhum…
  • If only a few bugs, use a cotton bud to pinpoint each one without dousing the whole plant.
  • Tips against mealybugs

You’ll reduce probability of this happening if you clean the plant’s leaves often (monthly).

Dracaena marginata leaves turn pale but no pests

Leaves are pale but still feel firm. Lack of light usually is the cause of this.

  • Transfer your Dracaena marginata to a window facing full sun, or at least a well-lit room.

Dracaena leaves get brown spots and tips

Brown leaf tips on dracaena marginata plantToo much sun or dry air can lead to leaves showing signs of water stress.

  • Check if the plant has been watered recently
  • Follow watering recommendations listed above

If necessary, place the pot of the dracaena on a tray filled with clay pebbles or gravel. Douse the gravel or clay with water. Evaporation creates extra moisture around the plant. Ensure the pot itself doesn’t sit in water, but rests above it. Tips on using clay balls as air humidifiers.

Brown tips on dragon plant leaves

If you water your dragon plant with tap water, too much fluoride may disturb the plant’s normal functions.

  • Fluoride causes necrosis and discoloration and inhibits leaf growth
  • Use rainwater to water your plant

Dragon tree stem flops over and bends

Dracaena stem flopping overIf it’s a sharp bend, it’s most certainly because of overwatering:

  • overwatering together with lack of drainage. Root rot has settled in and roots can’t send water up to the plant any more. Black spots appear, leaves turn yellow and the stem collapses within a couple weeks. If this is the case, see our page on overwatering dracaena.

Dracaena stem falling overIf it’s a long bend, it means the dragon tree is falling over under its own weight.

  • Indoors, the dragon plant doesn’t get much “shaking and swaying” since there’s no wind. It’s aiming for light and doesn’t grow thick or strong. At some point, the head gets heavy and it starts sagging.
  • If outdoors, this happens when a long period of fast growth (sun+rain) is followed by a time of drought. The plant grew too fast, and sags under its own weight.

For these “long bend” cases, stake the plant to solve the problem. Some say to give the plant a “shake” every now and then, which surely helps, but only if it’s done for at least 15 minutes a day in total.

Drops at the tips of my dragon plant’s leaves

This is perfectly normal, and the sign of a healthy plant. What’s happening here is guttation. It’s a way for the plant to eliminate excess water.

→ Read also: care for dracaena marginata the right way

Images: CC BY 2.0: Conall, Kim & Forest Starr; dreamstime: Chawakal Neeracharanusorn; Nature & Garden contributor: sysyku; Public Domain: Scot Nelson
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  • Andrea wrote on 4 February 2023 at 1 h 09 min

    What is happening when a dracaena marginata’s new leaves stick together and don’t separate, eventually forming a hard spike? Please help!

    • Gaspard wrote on 4 February 2023 at 2 h 17 min

      Hello Andrea, that really sounds like a very rare event, it’s the first time I’ve heard of it. Things I can imagine might explain:
      – a colony of insects (like thrips or scale) or mites has infected the stem and is keeping the leaves together to form a protective shell. It this is the case, you should be able to peel a leaf back to see if webbing or tiny insects appear.
      – for some reason growth is interrupted in that stem and development is “paused” before leaves unfurl. This might be caused by watering issues or something like a temperature shock if the plant was moved recently. Are all stems affected?
      – a random mutation in the gene sequence of leaf bud stems “broke” the natural unfurling process and it’s now growing only with whatever energy it gets from the outer leaves of the spike.
      It would be interesting to see a few pictures, if possible.