I have a dracaena and zz plant, zamioculcas zamiifolia, in my apartment.

Two weeks ago, the dracaena leaves tips started to get yellow and brown, and the zz leaves turned yellow. I cut the affected tips and removed the yellow leaves but the problem is still there.

I water them once weekly when they dry and just as little as a quarter cup of water (I test the soil with a kebab bamboo stick).

I started to water them with bottled water instead of tap water last week.

There is no sun light at all, only 2 ceiling fluorescent lamps. Before they had this problem I sprayed all of my plants with alcohol-soap because I suspected one of them has a pest.

They seem to be dying quickly and every day there are new yellowing leaves. I don't know what's going on or what I should do.

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  • Can you please clarify whether your plants get any daylight at all, or are just exposed to fluorescent lighting only? How long have you had the plants?
    – Bamboo
    Oct 16, 2016 at 22:19
  • one plant per question please, can you edit this into two questions? Over watering and insufficient light are the most common issues
    – kevinskio
    Oct 16, 2016 at 22:20
  • @Bamboo I have my plants for 3 months, and unfortunately I don't get enough daylight here so they get exposed to fluorescent lighting only. Thank you.
    – Afaf
    Oct 17, 2016 at 10:32
  • @kevinsky I thought my plants have the same cause of their problems, and I pretty much have the same question for both of them. and I don't think it's overwatering because I test the soil before watering to make sure it's dry. Thank you
    – Afaf
    Oct 17, 2016 at 10:35
  • Different plants respond differently
    – kevinskio
    Oct 17, 2016 at 17:57

2 Answers 2


Your Corn plant, Dracena, needs up-potting...I'd use a pot 2" larger than this pot. Is this a 6" pot? Go to a bit deeper and 2" wider diameter pot. Shake out the roots a bit and transplant using only potting soil. Get some Osmocote fertilizer (14-14-14) extended release. This is usually used 2 X per year for indoor plants. This guy needs fertilizer and a bit larger pot. In 3 months, you'll need a larger pot, 10" in diameter. To big a pot too soon will make most plants unhappy. No rocks, gravel at the bottom of a pot that HAS to have a drainage hole.

Use distilled water, once every 3 months put all your indoor plants into the shower, turn on the cold water and let them have a good 10-15 minute shower. Turn it off and allow these plant to drain, drip, dry off a bit...a couple of hours. No saucers allowed in their shower.

This ZZ plant is interesting. Looks quite healthy except this one branch. Cut that entire branch off at the beginning of that branch. Clean the scissors or pruners with alcohol. When this plant gets dry put in the shower for a good wash. If anymore leaves start doing this we will need to revisit!

Quit using tap water. Too many salts that will cause the tips of indoor plants and their margins to yellow and brown. The shower thing won't be a problem as it will add too little of the salts used once every 3 months. But get distilled water to water your plants with as by definition is JUST water. Only water the plants when the soil is dry, the corn plant will need more watering than the ZZ. Do you see any breakage at the bottom of that yellow branch? Any other leaves beginning to show any yellowing? Make sure you clean any pruner, scissors, fingers after touching this plant. Just being careful.

  • Thank you for your quick reply. Yes the pot is 6". I will try to repot my dracaena to a bigger pot as you suggested and will see how it goes. The ZZ had other yellow leaves that I removed just last week. The smallest branch seems to be in the same way, both of the branches has no breakage, only dark spots.
    – Afaf
    Oct 17, 2016 at 10:51

I'm also not sure the Dracaena is in the right size pot, its hard to tell from the picture, it may need something bigger. That said, the biggest issue is light - you can grow some houseplants (peace lily for instance) without any natural light at all by using fluorescent lights, but it sounds like you've just got a fluoresecent light up on the ceiling, and this is not doing the job. With no daylight at all, you will need to adjust or fix appropriate lighting to grow these plants successfully - a full spectrum bulb is best, but see link below for more information


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