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I bought a dracaena reflexa a couple of weeks ago, in a rather good state. In less than a week it turned from seemingly perfectly healthy to practically dead and I would like some advice. Both in case this plant can be saved and because I plan on buying another since I really like this plant.

When I purchased the plant, I moved it to a new pot with new soil. I should note two things here, first of all the pot didn't have a draining hole. It does now but at that time I didn't have a drill. Secondly, the soil was the compact dried type that you add water to decompress. I initially used tap water but have switched to bottled water for watering.

Since I live in Scotland, the weather isn't ideal but the plant is inside, close to a window with some indirect sunlight at least.

The plant was perfectly fine for 2-3 weeks, and suddenly it started dropping good green leaves without warning. Then the leaves turned yellow at their starting point and started drooping.

The latest move I made was to remove the plant for the pot, discard all the soil, wash the roots and plant it again in the pot with fresh soil, using much less water to prevent the possible root rot.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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  • Did it had a period of frost? It looks like Dracaena plants you see in wintertime left outside in freezing temperatures. It can also be the water issue, no drainage hole for too long. – benn Jan 3 '18 at 20:48
  • No frost period. The temperature is around 12-20 degrees Celsius the last month or so. – Sib Jan 3 '18 at 21:29
  • When you say Scotland, do you mean Scotland in the UK? – Bamboo Jan 3 '18 at 22:24
  • Yep, Scotland UK. – Sib Jan 4 '18 at 0:04
  • I was confused by the temperature range you gave, seems way too warm for outdoors in Scotland, so I assume you mean you've always had this plant inside. Also confused by the potting soil you used - as far as I know, the only medium which comes dried and needs thoroughly wetting is some forms of peat, not potting compost, so I'm curious as to what precisely you did use. I agree this is likely D. marginata, but it does tolerate low light conditions pretty well, so its likely the soil and watering that's caused the issue, along with poor drainage, the enemy of any plant. Soil level's to high too – Bamboo Jan 4 '18 at 0:26
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This plant is Dracaena marginata. D. reflexa or pleomele reflexa has shorter thicker leaves. Root rot is extremely common with these plants as they are used to high light and a dry environment. To diagnose whether the plant is worth saving:

  • grasp the stems. If they are firm the plant will bud out of old growth if you place in a high light environment and wait six to eight weeks
  • if the stems feel hollow then the xylem/phloem is dead and the plant is beyond saving

I suspect this is root rot. If it was cold damage you would see wilting at the edges and tips of the leaves. Root rot happens from the bottom up for this plant and the dead material at the stem indicates this.

Removing the soil and washing the roots is quite traumatic for most plants so I would avoid that in the future.

  • Thanks for the reply. I guess the garden shop I bought it from had it mislabeled. I checked the stem and it seems firm. I'll do my best to have it in direct sunlight and update on its condition. Regarding the soil and washing, I read online on various forums that is the way you deal with roots rotting. – Sib Jan 4 '18 at 0:07

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