I have a plant that is about 13 1/2 years old. It is very special to me, as...

Asked January 22, 2015, 7:20 PM EST

I have a plant that is about 13 1/2 years old. It is very special to me, as it was given to me at my father's funeral. I really want to save this plant. He has come back from the brink (due to shock) a couple of other times. The plant was driven practically uncovered down an expressway for 45 minutes, in the back of an open trailer (men! UGH). And then spent three days in a professional moving van. The drivers were very kind and set open the back doors, to give it sunlight every day. But, now we are in Tennessee, and he has not come back to life. The leaves are now all brown and hanging (what leaves are left). But, some of the branches still have green inside, when the bark is scratched away. And I can also see new branch buds trying to grow near the base of the plant/tree (never really knew which it was - it started off as a small plant in a planter with two other different plants... the other two died). It is also trying to grow new buds on a couple of the other stronger branches that are not entirely withered. The withered branches look like your finger tips when they are water-logged. They are literally withering up. Soooo sad. Anyways, I am wondering. Can this guy be saved?? Should I and how do I cut back the dead branches allowing more focal strength for the plant? And will this do the trick?

Rutherford County Tennessee houseplants dracaena

3 Responses

It's good to begin with identifying the species of plant so that you know its care requirements. Though we can't be certain, It appears to be a Dracaena. Dracaena marginata is a species that can grow to 10 feet and is very tolerant of a range of conditions, so it is widely sold and may well be your plant. Look at images in a search engine to verify this.

Assuming it is a dracaena marginata, cut off all the totally withered and dead leaves at the trunk and branches back to healthy buds. Place the plant in bright, but not direct, sunlight. Water enough to keep the potting soil thoroughly moist, but allow the top inch of soil to dry in between waterings. Don't let it stand in water. Fertilize during the 'active growing period', which generally means spring thru fall.

There is much information on dracaena on the internet. This is a plant that tolerates pruning well, so that works in your favor. After it recovers from the shock of its move (which dehydrated the leaves) and has had good growth for a substantial period of time, you can prune it periodically to maintain height and shape.


YES!! That is my plant!!! THANK YOU! I've never known what it was. Attached is a pic from the internet. My how much prettier it looks.

I will definitely prune him back and see how he does. My husband just wants to pitch it. But, I've become quite attached to it over the years. Silly, I know. We'll see how he does after the pruning. (The plant, not my husband. LOL) Thank you so very much for the advice!

One other thing... I noticed in the internet pic that the pot this plant is in is pretty small in comparison to the plant itself. My pot is a bit larger, and I've always felt perhaps I should get an even larger one (it's a 22" pot). But, it seems that the plant in the pic is doing very well with a small pot. Is this the case with these plants? When re-potting mine, the root system was so substantial and wrapped very tightly around itself. Is this okay?

Glad we got it right!
This plant does quite well in a pot relatively small compared to the volume of topgrowth. If the roots have filled up the pot, you can repot it into a pot one size larger in spring until you reach a pot size that's as big as you want to go.
But really, 22" is plenty big for this guy (meaning the pot, but maybe your husband, too, if he's the one who has to move it around.)