I've recently taken a Cordyline plant from my parent's back yard into my apartment. After 2 weeks its leaves started to get brown tips and drop down. Some completely dried out and were removed. (It currently has less than half the leaves it used to have).

I put it indoors but it gets 2-3 hours of (currently) winter sun in the morning. Not very strong and through a glass window.

When this started I noticed that the plant was in a plastic container with relatively heavy soil (not a potting mix) and it wasn't dried out during the first 2 weeks (I haven't water it at all). Since I'm afraid of root rot, I've changed the soil to a regular potting mix. The dropping of the leaves stopped but the plant hasn't grown or straighten its leaves since (~3 weeks).

Yesterday I moved it into a terra-cota pot so I hope it will allow the soil to dry a bit faster. I've looked at the roots and they don't seem black or rotten, but not super white and I expected to find some more. Not sure if that's common with this plant.

I also see some weird yellow/orange spots on the leaves. Can anyone tell me what these are and how to take care?

I've attached a link to pictures of the leaves, the stem and the roots. Can anyone let me know if from your experience this looks healthy? Anything I can do to help the plant growing back?


I plan to cut the stem and have it shorter (plus 1-2 more smaller stems from its cuts). Is it better to do it now in the winter or wait to the spring?

Many thanks!

1 Answer 1


You've done a good job investigating the roots and trying to address the problem. Penn State Extension has a very clear table summary of common problems affecting your plant.

I think your attention to your roots is a good first step in addressing the problem. The Penn State Extension, below, points to the brown roots as evidence of root rot:

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I personally would not jump to applying fungicide. Obviously, you are interested in saving your plant rather than discarding it so don't do that either :)

This article (under Method 2 for indoor plants) details a few basic steps to take in addressing root rot. You've already done step 1 in looking at your roots! While your roots are not black and the worst they could be, it does look like almost all are mushy.

You have one root that looks much healthier comparative to the others. It is the whitest and appears the most spry/rigid root in the bottom center that has a few small branching roots. In order to reach your goal of having all your roots look like that one little root, I would cut off the most mushy and darkest brown parts of the roots.

Because you only have the one little white root, I would not cut off all the brown roots as you would be left with only one small root, but aim to thin especially the roots nearest that healthy root to hopefully prevent spread.

As the article details, I would then try to remove the leaves in equal proportion to the roots you removed. Unfortunately, as you said, your poor plant has already lost leaves in stress, so I would take care not to rid it too much of its leaves. The tension of course is that the root rot could spread. As almost all the roots are so mushy, it may be too late to address the problem. BUT! Try these steps as it doesn't take much effort and plants can be remarkably resilient.

I would make sure when you do eventually water it, to take care to water at the base rather than from the top over the leaves- that may already have been your plan.

Was this plant in a pot when it was outdoors? As the problem was most noticeable when it moved to your house, I would try to address the factors that were likely most affected. I expect a brighter location, but not in direct sun unless in the morning or late afternoon, would positively affect your plant. After awhile, if your roots look better, I would try a higher humidity location like the bathroom per the Spruce's guide on best conditions for Cordyline plants.

I would also be concerned with the white fuzzy material on your plants stem- I would start by trying to wipe it away with a damp cloth.

As to your other questions- I do not know about the spots on your leaves. I imagine they may be related to the light it is receiving or simply symptoms of the stress. I personally would address the roots, the white fuzzies and growing conditions and not worry at all about the little spots. It may be addressing the above factors will prevent the spots on future leaves. I also do not know about cutting the stem of these types of plants. Personally, I would wait to do that until after I had addressed the other problems as the plant has already dealt with a lot of stress and that would add significantly to its many "battle" fronts.

Best of luck, I hope this answer gives you some starting points.

  • 1
    Thanks! In the month since I originally posted it, I've definitely seen some improvements. First and probably the most important is that a new leaf tip is starting to grow from the top (already a few inches out). It's growing slowly (maybe expected in winter) but I guess that's a positive indicator. Second, I've noticed new roots (white and firm) are growing from the main stem just underneath the soil level. And last, after changing the pot to a terracotta pot, soil is being dried properly (I water it around once every 7-10 days when it gets dry while in the old pot it almost never dried).
    – Zach Moshe
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 10:08
  • Since I expect that with every time I take the plant out for "roots inspection" I'm hurting some of the roots, I'm not sure whether I should do it to (maybe) trim the mushy roots, or just leave it as it is and assume the plant has overcome the problem. Is there a chance that the plant can overcome it or the rotted roots will eventually spread and kill it? As for trimming it - this will definitely wait a few more months, which will also bring us to spring time.
    – Zach Moshe
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 10:11
  • That's great news about your plant, especially the new leaf tip! Winter typically is a slow growing time so it's impressive there's already a few inches growth. Plants can be remarkably resilient as you have already seen, so it may be that the plant can overcome the rotted roots. The amount of potential damage due to root inspection is very small in comparison to the risk of root rot overtaking the plant. I think the spreading root rot risk far outweighs a gentle removal of the plant to remove the rotted roots.
    – Kar
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 18:50
  • 1
    Makes sense. I'll try to do it as gentle as I can. Thanks again!
    – Zach Moshe
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 15:49

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