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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

Dracaena at the Doctor

When some friends of mine asked me what was wrong with one of their houseplants, I said to bring it by and I’d take a look. I had no idea they’d be showing up in a truck. They unloaded a tree that’s taller than me. As you can see, it’s in a bad way.

the patient

Based on the look of the stems and an old photo, I think our patient is a Dracaena marginata, which Mr. Subjunctive wrote a thorough profile of a few years ago.

When I grabbed the plant to move it, the trunk was soft. Soft is bad. You can also see that some of the upper stems have just bent right over. The plant’s owners told me they’d moved it into a sunnier spot a while back. There may have been some overwatering, and then some underwatering. I tried to break the news gently.

My friends, this tree is dead. Dead as a doorknob. Dead as disco. Really, really dead.

But there’s hope! Because as my Dracaena fragrans proved, Dracaena can be rooted from cane cuttings. And some of this patient’s tips were still green inside.


In the bottom, left photo, you can see the obvious difference between a dead cane and a live one.

After a little exploratory surgery, I was able to take six mostly healthy-looking cuttings. My previous attempts to root Dracaena cuttings in water have been pretty successful, so I placed them all in water. I’ll be able to see if roots develop.

We may have lost the patient, but if the cuttings root, the plant will live on.

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5 Responses

They really like to be left alone, and watering them isn’t tough. Just stick your finger down into the dirt to the second knuckle or so, and water if the soil is quite dry. When I was a plant lady in college (the folks who take care of the plants in office buildings) – we were taught to never water a dracaena more than every two weeks.

Posted by Frannyo on 13 July 2011 @ 4am

Disco is dead? Have you listened to any Dance/Club music lately? I liked Disco better. (and I’m a Classicaly trained musician!)

Posted by Ed Kramer on 14 July 2011 @ 6am

If the base is not rotten, you can cut them down to the ground and new shoots will come up. I found this out by accident when I topped one with several trunks. Too much stress at once for the tops to put out new growth, but I got many new shoots at the bottom.

Posted by gem on 15 July 2011 @ 2pm

… and I should mention, as with all things dracaena, it takes a while.

Posted by gem on 15 July 2011 @ 2pm

Good luck! Are you growing the cutting yourself or did you give them back to your friends?

Posted by Bom on 28 July 2011 @ 4pm


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.