can I save this tree?

Asked March 6, 2015, 7:16 PM EST

I've had this tree for prob 4 years and it's branches have been slowly breaking and bending for the past year. Now all the branches are wilted down, but the leaves are still green. A few questions: Can you tell me what kind of tree it is? Can it be salvaged through some TLC? How? Thank you for your help!!

Washington County Oregon potted plants horticulture

1 Response

Thank you for your question.

First, your plant, Dracaena marginata needs to be in a fast draining, fertile soil. If you've had it in the same soil for 4 years, it's time to change it. This can be facilitated by using a cactus or succulent mix. If cactus mix is expensive or unavailable to you, use regular potting soil and add perlite (2 parts potting soil to 1 part perlite). Perlite can be found at any home goods or hardware store.

Also, is there a drainage hole in the pot? There should be one. If not, get a pot with a drainage hole. If the pot has a drainage hole, are the roots sticking out of it? Make sure the plant is not root bound. If the plant looks like it, you may decide to repot. When you repot, make sure you have about an inch between the root ball and the pot, to accommodate future root growth. Any more room may make this tall plant topple.

Dracaena needs much more humidity than our air has in Washington County. A pebble tray under the pot can do this and it should always have water in it. The tray should never be so full that it touches the bottom of the pot. You don't want the pot to be sitting in water, as that can induce root rot. Misting can facilitate humidity if you misted daily, 2-4 times per day. But with your heater on, as we have had the last few months, the water tends to dry off immediately.

I live in Washington County and keep my Dracaena out of any direct light. Yours looks like it needs more light to me. D. marginatas in brighter light have firm leaves that stick out straight. When they are in lower light they are stretched, floppy and droopy. They tolerate lower light but don't look as healthy.

So, to recap, Dracaena needs humidity, bright indirect light, quick drainage and just enough room in the pot to be happy and healthy. If you can facilitate this, you will have a happy and long lived houseplant.

Thank you very much for using Ask an Expert.