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I purchased a healthy-looking plant 12 days ago, took it home and repotted it the same day in a mix of roughly 75% cactus/succulent soil and 25% perlite. Within 4-5 days, it was starting to droop noticeably. After ten days it looked like a mess. Then yesterday one of the three stalks folded over on itself and appears to be dead/rotting (soft to the touch). I haven't watered it.

I had a another dracaena marginata in the same place with the same soil a few months back and it also started drooping within about a week. I did the exact wrong thing and watered it, which quickly killed it.

At first I thought this was just the plant undergoing the stress of repotting and acclimating to the new conditions. I figured the solution this time was to hold off on watering. But the new plant died anyway, and even quicker.

Is it possible that late afternoon direct sun is killing it? I'm in Phoenix and the plant is located in front of a large west-facing window. Outside the window is a covered porch, so there is only direct sun late in the afternoon for a couple hours, but it is intense. Across the room is a large east-facing window, so this location is fairly bright all day. The plant at the nursery was indoors with no direct sun and artificial light.

The pictures...

Day two, on June 3: newly repotted plant

Day seven, starting to droop: enter image description here

Day twelve, disaster: enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • Did you use the same pot for the last plant as well?Does it have drainage holes (it doesn't look as if it does) – Bamboo Jun 14 '18 at 19:30
  • I did use the same pot, but replaced the soil. The pot does have a drainage hole. But I never watered it. – mullacc Jun 14 '18 at 21:22
  • Can I ask where the water that drains out ends up? Its not clear with that particular pot. Am also trying to work out why your previous one might have died.... With this one, repotting into very dry free draining soil without giving it a good soaking afterwards easily explains why its looking like this. – Bamboo Jun 14 '18 at 21:32
  • The bottom of the pot is actually in the middle where the two cones meet. There's a 1/2" hole drilled into the bottom and water would drip from the middle to the floor. I put a plastic saucer underneath the bottom cone to catch the drips. – mullacc Jun 14 '18 at 21:36
  • Ah, I see, so it is able to drain freely and isn't left sitting in water at the base. In this particular case, its dying of drought,or possible rot damage from when you repotted - but most likely drought. When you repot a plant, its important to soak it thoroughly and allow the excess to drain away freely, Then water only when the surface of the soil feels just about dry to the touch, and water thoroughly again. – Bamboo Jun 14 '18 at 21:38
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You've said this plant is in a pot that does have a drainage hole, and that it receives sunlight in the afternoons - also that you repotted it without watering afterwards.

Whenever you repot a plant, you should soak it thoroughly afterwards, then let it drain down thoroughly - you've disturbed the roots and you need to wet the new soil you've used too. These plants don't really like direct sun either, they prefer bright light, but will also happily tolerate fairly low light conditions, though they may not be as bushy in such a situation. While its in this fragile state, it would be best if you could move it somewhere out of direct sun, but with reasonable daylight levels, until it recovers, then evening sun should be something it can learn to cope with once its healthy.

I suggest you soak it thoroughly, preferably standing it in a bucket or bowl, let it soak for half an hour to an hour, then lift it out of the water and let it drain down. Don't water again until the surface of the potting soil is dry to the touch, but not so dry the soil has shrunk from the sides of the pot, and water thoroughly again. This probably means you'll have to push all those pebbles out of the way all the time, I'm afraid.

Cut the wilted stem back past where its got thin and shrivelled - that should mean new growth breaks from there later on, if the plant recovers well.

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I've had stalks bend over like that and pulled them out. I took out surrounding soil and added new. No time to repot. One of them I managed to cut off the bad part and root it! I don't know what caused it.

I spritz mine with a fine mist when it seems too dry inside. They are all in South facing windows. I watch for tiny webs and wipe those out. I don't see bugs but figure small spiders might be the culprit for the minuscule webs. If lacewings get in the house, I welcome them! I take them to the plants if not already nearby. Google them.

I agree with using regular potting soil and good drainage. I go to my driveway to grab rocks to line the bottom of the pot when repotting mine. NOTE: I make sure the pot is cleaned with bleach water first and then well rinsed!

I always tease the roots out, especially if they are rootbound in a smaller pot. After adding the rocks for drainage, I have soil in the pot about 2/3 full and create a mound where each stalk is to be placed (in a larger pot together).

I then work on pouring the soil over and around the roots, then gently pack as I go - only enough to hold it upright but not smash and damage roots. I use large wide mouth coffee containers to pour the soil in as I work.

In the summer, I take the pots out to a dappled sun area and bring them in before nights get too cool.

Once I can recall how I got a bunch of new shoots along the stalk, hacked them off and rooted them, I will post again. I think I cut up an entire long, gangly stalk to get 4 new plants. I'm having Brain Fog! I had an abundance of new shoots one summer. I was in awe!

By the way, I am new here today. I had to quit working a year ago due to pain and multiple health issues. Now that I'm healed from the emotional impact of a 13 year toxic job, I hope to start enjoying my plants again and start an abundance of indoor plants to enjoy. I look forward to being involved in this website!

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It looks like overwatering, or no drainage (like @Bamboo already commented). Dracaena are very easy plants to maintain, one of the most common causes of death is overwatering (or no proper drainage which is basically the same problem).

Direct sunlight in the evening shouldn't be a problem (see comments in this post).

I have a Dracaena plant myself for years, also with afternoon/evening light (west window). It has a pot with proper drainage holes and I just used cheap potting soil (from supermarket). I give it water once a week, and sometimes some liquid fertilizer.

  • Since I blamed overwatering for the death of the previous plant, my plan was to be pretty stingy with the new one. I have not watered it at all. It's in well-draining soil and the pot has a drainage hole. The only way it could have been overwatered was if the nursery had done so before I bought it. But the soil was dry when I brought it home. All this is why I'm so confused. – mullacc Jun 14 '18 at 21:26
  • Oh really? Then no water might be the problem! Is it hot in the room where the plant is? – benn Jun 14 '18 at 21:28
  • No, it's in an air-conditioned room but the sun does shine directly through the window late in the afternoon. – mullacc Jun 14 '18 at 21:33
  • AC might dry the air a bit more, what makes the plant's thirst for water even bigger. Now, you got a great answer from Bamboo already. – benn Jun 14 '18 at 21:59

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