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

Dracaena Reborn

Back in July, some friends of mine asked me if I could save their Dracaena marginata. I investigated and found the main trunk of the plant to be dead, but took cuttings from a few of the branches where there seemed to be some life left.

I attempted to root six cuttings in water. Five rotted. One didn’t. I moved that one to soil a month ago, and now here he is.


I love a fighter.

I learned a few things from this experience.

Still, I’m glad I did it. I’ll be able to give my friends a little plant back. And even though she will look like a daughter, she is, in fact, the exact same plant. Still alive. Still fighting.

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7 Responses

Rotting Dracaena smells like ass.

It really, really does.

The above would have been the entire comment, but WordPress told me that it was too short and wouldn’t publish it. This may be the first time I was ever too terse for the online world.

Posted by mr_subjunctive on 14 September 2011 @ 7am

A plant lesson: life is precious and fragile
and sometimes it continues against all odds

Posted by morris powazek on 14 September 2011 @ 10am

Mr. S: Yes, it does. And, yeah, I’ve set up WordPress to require a certain amount of words in order to post. The idea is to encourage substantive conversation, but sometimes it’s a bit onerous. Thanks for posting anyway. So you’ve rooted Dracaena in water? Any tips?

Posted by Derek on 14 September 2011 @ 11am

I haven’t rooted D. marginata in water, or anything else — I don’t think I’ve tried in water, and they always rotted in soil or vermiculite. My conclusion was that D. marginata was a stupid plant and I didn’t want more of them anyway.

I had better luck with D. fragrans in water, but those were relatively thin, green side shoots, not woody mature stems, which might make a difference.

My growers’ guide says that the industry mainly uses tip cuttings, direct-stuck in the final container (which suggests that a tropical, warm, humid, bright environment may be necessary for success), with air-layering as a second choice. Indolebutyric acid might help, too, though “it is generally not considered essential, as cuttings typically root in about three weeks anyway.”

The book also says that “large cuttings may benefit from dips or sprays in antitranspirants prior to planting,” which suggests to me that maybe rooting in a sterile medium (like perlite or vermiculite?) and covering the plant to increase humidity might be the best way to go. Of course, covering the plant to increase humidity will also increase the chances of losing the plant to fungus, and the subsequent horrible smells and disappointment, so I’m not sure that’s a suitable solution for everybody.

Posted by mr_subjunctive on 14 September 2011 @ 12pm

Rotting dracaenas do smell like ass, but nothing is worse than a bromeliad with vase rot. Just my humble opinion, you see. I actually took cuttings of my ti plants last winter before the first frost, rooted them in water and had new plants to put in the ground for spring! :)

Posted by Steve Asbell on 15 September 2011 @ 10am

I wonder if putting them in soil directly is any better? A few weeks ago I did some research on yucca cuttings and came up with a bunch of links (in French). These two seem interesting and are illustrated enough that they can serve as inspiration even if you don’t know any French.

I haven’t yet chopped up my unhappy yucca (which seems to have slowed down on unhappiness since we stopped watering it), mainly because I can’t decide how to deal with the cuttings.

Posted by Stephanie Booth on 16 September 2011 @ 1am

Many Dracaenas, including marginatas, don’t need to root in water – you can stick the cutting directly into the soil and it’ll grow. Marginatas are one of the easiest houseplants to propagate. If you have marg that gets tall and gangly, you can cut the stalk down low (wherever you cut you’ll get sprouts), cut the stalk into smaller pieces and put each of them, including the one with the leaves, into the soil. I love how simple it is.

Posted by Liza (Good To Grow) on 26 September 2011 @ 5pm


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