Dracaena Plant Problems: What To Do When Dracaena Has Black Stem

By: Jackie Carroll

Dracaena are lovely tropical houseplants that can help set a calm and peaceful mood in your home. These plants are usually carefree, but a number of dracaena plant problems can weaken them so that they can’t carry out their normal life functions. This article explains what to do when you see black stems on a dracaena plant.

Why is Stem Turning Black on Corn Plant?

When a dracaena has black stems, it probably means that the plant has begun to rot. This happens because something has weakened the plant enough to allow harmful microorganisms to take over. Here are a few things that can weaken a dracaena:

Most people forget to water their plants from time to time, but repeated improper watering over a long period of time can devastate a plant. You should let the soil become dry to touch and then water it enough that water drain out of the holes in the bottom of the pot. Drain completely and then empty the saucer under the pot.

Poor or old potting soil doesn’t manage water properly. Change out the potting soil annually and every time you repot the plant. While you’re at it, make sure the drainage holes in the pot aren’t blocked. Inefficient potting soil can become a soggy mess that rots the plant.

Watch for insects and mites that weaken plants and allow diseases to infect them. Mites are particularly troublesome for dracaena.

Dracaenas are sensitive to fluoride, so it’s best to use filtered water. The first symptoms of fluoride toxicity are dark streaks and brown tips on leaves.

What to Do About Stem Rot of Dracaena

As soon as you notice the stem turning black on corn plants or other dracaenas, plan to take cuttings. The parent plant will probably die, but your plant can live on through its offspring. You’ll need a glass of water and a sharp knife or pruning shears.

Cut one or more six-inch piece of stem that has no black, smelly rot. Stand the stem in a glass of water with the lower two inches under water. Top off the water daily and change the water if it becomes cloudy. White nodules will form on the part of the stem that is below water, and roots will grow from these nodules. Buds will emerge from under the bark on the upper part of the stem.

Another way to solve your dracaena plant problem is to root side shoots. This method is a lifesaver if you can’t find enough healthy stem. Check the shoots carefully to make sure there are no signs of rot. Place them in a pot of moist rooting medium and cover the pot with a plastic bag to increase the humidity. Remove the bag after the shoots take root and begin to grow.

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Saving an overwatered dracaena

I have a plant, purchased a few weeks ago. I'm a complete beginner and have already screwed up pretty badly.

I'm fairly certain that the plant is a Dracaena Marginata (the big box store only labeled it as "tropical foliage". It has no color on any leaves.

edit: I believe I misidentified the plant. A Dracaena Marginata seemed like a close (but not perfect) match but the leaves seemed slightly different (and always remained just green). I think this may be a Dracaena Anita. Hard to find much info on the Anita but it seems like a closer match and it is grown by a vendor that supplies the big box store.

I have it planted in a clay pot (glazed on outside, unglazed on inside). I don't recall the exact size but the container it was purchased in fit snugly inside of it and the roots were not bound in the original container. It gets filtered sunlight from a south facing window several feet away (lack of light could be an issue but it seems appropriate for the care of this plant from my research).

The tips of the leaves were turning brown and over the last few days the issue is growing worse. I believe it can take a few weeks to for this plant to show signs/symptoms of poor conditions. I'm quite sure I've overwatered this plant. There are rock pebbles at the top (for stability, decor and to keep the soil in place during watering). I have no problem removing them. I began watering without a meter and the pebbles made it hard to determine how moist the soil was. I am now using a water meter. It is generally reading between a 7.4 and a 8.5 (water meter is on a scale from 0 to 10) in most areas, which I believe is too much moisture for this plant. The pot has a drainage hole in the bottom center but it seems to retain a lot of moisture still. I have no been fertilizing (yet) as this was planted within the last few weeks using MiracleGro potting mix (the mix, not the soil, which I believe is mostly peat moss and some perlite).

The potting mix is still very wet (the 7-8 readings are very recent and I have not watered it recently, so it was likely even worse several days ago). My question is, how bad do you think this plant is and what is the best course of action?

I'm concerned about shock if I repot but I'm more concerned the plant will die before the potting mix dries. Should I repot it now or wait this out? If I repot, I would like to add a much greater mix of perlite or switch potting mixtures as I'm disappointed with the drainage from this mix in this pot. The leaves have gone from brown tips to browning on the majority of some leaves and it seems to be worsening by the day. Is there much risk to unpotting it to try and determine the health of the roots?

Any advice on saving this plant would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

edit: When I water (which I've done twice and now realize that was too frequent) I used rain water once and tap water once. The tap water was filtered through a Brita water filter and sat for 24-48 hours before used for the plant. I'm not sure if the Brita filter removes (enough) fluoride from the tap water but I think this is a symptom from overwatering and not just fluoride in the water.

This message was edited Jul 8, 2016 2:28 PM

This message was edited Aug 1, 2016 2:42 PM

Stop your Corn Plant from Turning Brown on the Tips December 14, 2015

The tips of the leaves on my corn plant are turning brown. Why is this happening and how can I prevent it?

Corn plant or dracaena is an excellent houseplant because it requires relatively little care and can take the low light conditions typical of our homes and offices.

I like the tropical look of the plant with its woody trunk topped with a bundle of strap-like leaves.

Corn plants prefer daytime temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees F and 65 to 70 degrees F during the night. The soil should be kept consistently moist, but not soggy and they only need fertilizer every 6 months. Although dracaena can take low light conditions, they do best when placed in bright but indirect light. Try to avoid placing them in full sun as it will burn the leaves.

The problem you are experiencing is probably due to inconsistent watering. If the soil dries out too much the tips of the leaves will turn brown. Of course, you don’t want to over water either, especially in winter when growth has slowed, because this can lead to root rot. A good system for determining when to water is to scratch into the soil about 1 inch down, if it is dry then it is time to water. Check your plants about every 7 to 10 days and remember that our homes are often hot and dry in the winter so plants may need to be watered more often.

When you water, make sure the water temperature is not too hot or too cold, just pleasant to the touch. Your plants will appreciate you for this and they’ll drink more of it. Also, it’s important to realize that too much chlorine can harm your plants. You can easily de-chlorinate your water by simply filling the watering can the day before and the chlorine will evaporate overnight.

It’s just natural for a plant to produce a few yellow leaves, its nothing to get alarmed about. This is particularly true if the plant has been moved to a new location. However if it produces a lot of yellow leaves all at once, say five or six, you may be over-watering or the plant may be suffering from a lack of light.

One of the fun things about corn plants is that they are easy to propagate. To create a new plant from an existing one simply lop off the green top, plant it in a new container filled with clean potting soil and water it in. This should be done in the spring or summer when the parent plant is in an active growth stage. Now, I know this sounds drastic, but the old plant will put out new growth where you made the cut.

Caring for the Cutting

Remove any excess leaves from the cutting so that it has four or so leaves remaining. The leaves are essential for producing the fuel the plant needs to produce new roots. If you made an exceptionally long cutting, reduce the overall length so that about 4 inches of cane extends below the leaves. Make an angled cut at the rooting end of the cane. Dip the cut end in rooting power ($6, Etsy), then stick the cutting into a pot of pumice, perlite, or coarse sand. Potting soil isn’t a good choice for rooting corn plant because it will stay too damp and rot the stem before it can root.

Keep the rooted cutting in a bright location, but out of direct sunlight until new roots form. Check the potting medium for moisture every other day or so. Water when it feels slightly dry to the touch. Corn plant cuttings take about eight weeks to form roots. After that time has passed, gently try to lift the stem. If you feel strong resistance, the cutting has rooted and can be replanted in a houseplant potting mix. If the stem is wobbly when you lift it, it needs a little more time to root.

Q. Dracaena Stem Turning Black.

This is how my Dracaena has become. I have owned this plant for about 8 weeks and recently I have changed the pot to a bigger one. The stem has become black right after the re potting. So what did I do wrong and can I save this plant or there's no going back now? Thank You for your help.

This may be overwatering and your plant suffering from root rot.

It's difficult to judge the size of the pot and the plant size from the angle, but suspect it is too large for the root system.

Make sure you are checking the soil before watering, and that the excess water is able to drain.
In this case I would suggest you carefully remove the plant and discard the blackened stem from the plant. Inspect the rest of the roots and trim any dead or black roots with a clean garden snips.
Repot into an appropriate pot size. The roots should be snug with a little extra room.

To sum it up

When a plant is dying it is not one factor that is cause it but a combination of factors unless of course, the plant has contracted a disease. Generally repotting the plant helps, this will allow you to inspect the plant carefully to look for damage on the roots. The other thing while repotting is that some of the growth needs to be cut off, so cut off all the leaves that are yellow or brown.

It is necessary to cut off structures of the plant that are practically useless as this will help the plant recover faster. At the same time, it will not have to spend time caring for part s of it that have already withered away. So, to answer the question of how to save a dying Dracaena? The solution is simple, be vigilant, and if there is nothing you can do to make things better repot the plant.

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