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Bought my Dracaena marginata less then a month ago. It was doing great with the occasional loss of a leaf or two. I went out of town for the holidays (5 days) and came back to my plant in complete crisis mode. What is my best chance of saving this baby?

SOS Dracaena marginata

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  • Did you leave the plant sitting in water? My take is the plant likes it dry, and a month of no water in the Winter would be nothing to the plant. Jan 21 at 15:31

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If you noticed no particular problems before you went away, this might just be drought. The soil in the pot looks very dry, did anyone water it while you were away? How much and how often were you watering prior to going away? I note also that the soil level in the pot is very high, which would encourage water to simply run off the top without much of it penetrating the soil, and there are obvious roots visible in the holes at the bottom of the pot. It needed repotting into a larger pot with drainage holes, with a half inch gap between the rim of the pot and the top of the soil.

That said, as all the leaves will now inevitably fall, if the soil is really dry and the pot feels light when you pick it up, immerse it in a bucket of water, weighting the top down with something so the water covers the soil at the top. Leave it for an hour or two, then lift it out and let it drain down freely. Cut back a bit the tops of the stems (I think I see a hint of blackening on some of them, so cut down to healthy wood if there is) using clean, sharp secateurs to see if they are moist inside or whether they are dead and brown; if they look dead, cut down lower in hopes you'll find live wood. If it's just drought and you were only away five days, hopefully the stems are not dead and you won't need to cut much off, but regardless, you could, in theory, cut them down really low and they would still grow if alive.

Assuming the stems are alive, pot on into something bigger, using fresh potting soil, water to moisten the new soil, then stand it somewhere out of sunlight but with daylight, and away from heat sources. Do not water again until the soil at the top of the pot feels pretty dry while it's got no leaves, then water well and allow to drain. If and when it starts producing foliage again, you may need to water more often, but always wait till the soil at the top feels dry to the touch, then always water thoroughly when you do water, always allowing the excess to drain away freely - empty any outer pot or tray after 30 minutes or so to make sure the pot is not left standing in water.

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