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House Plants/Dracaena Janet Craig


Drooping shriveled branch
Drooping shriveled bra  
Drooping shriveled branch
Drooping shriveled bra  
QUESTION: Medium size Dracaena Janet Craig, about 5 feet

I thought that I was overwatering my plants because the tips of the leaves kept turning brown (it was actually a very small problem) so I kept watering them less and less to alleviate this problem.  I guess that I ended up severely under-watering them and at the same time I started using my AC more and I think that this may have exacerbated the problem because within 2 weeks my plants were completely dehydrated and wilted, drooping over.  I took them back to the nursery where I bought them and the expert there said that they were just completely dehydrated.  We soaked them down and I have been watering much more in the past to days and trying to nurse them back to health.

My questions:
1) Some of the leaves drooped so much that they have small cracks that make it so that the leaves cant cant stand up - essentially they are broken.  I am wondering if there is anything I can do to heal the leaves and if not, should I just leave them alone or cut them off.

2) More importantly, one of the branches completely shriveled up and dropped over and now I cant get it to stand up and I don't think any of the water is getting to the leaves because it is so shriveled at the top of the stalk.  I don't think I can save this branch so I am wondering the best way to cut it so the it will regrow in the same place.  Is this possible?  If so, could you give me a detailed description of how this should be done.  

3) Also, should I put the top of the shriveled branch in water instead of throwing it away?  I hear that it may develop roots and I could plant another plant.  If so, how close to the leaves should I cut the branch before I put it in water - it is shriveled up right where the leaves grow out.

I am realizing that this plant care stuff does not come easily to me, but I do want to get better.  Thanks so much for your help!

ANSWER: Kelly,

First, basic watering rules. All house plants should be in pots with drain holes and drain trays under them. When you water you should always give the plant enough water so all the soil in the pot gets moist and a little water goes into the drain tray (then you can never under water), then 1/2 hour later you should empty the drain tray (then you can never over water), if you can't pick the plant up to empty it use a turkey baster to suction it dry. If a plant sits in a drain tray full of water the roots will rot and that causes the brown leaf tips you were experiencing. To go from one extreme to the other can cause problems like you have experienced.

1. Until the leaves turn brown there is a chance that proper watering as described above will heal the leaves.

2 & 3. I would cut that branch off right where it is bent over and put it in a glass of water. You have about a 20% chance of it growing new roots. But better yet you have a 50% chance that the base of that branch will sprout new shoots and regrow. Just use sharp scissors and cut it off right where it is bent. That leave plenty of joints below to sprout out new growth.

Keep the plant in a bright location where it will cast a shadow most of the day but not where it gets a lot of direct sun. It needs bright light but sun can sunburn it. Good luck!



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Darlene.  Just a few follow ups:

1) About how long does it usually take for the top of the plant to sprouts roots in water? Should I keep it in a bright location, but out of direct sun? Once it does sprout new roots how should I plant it?

2) About how long does it usually take for the branch to sprout new roots?

3) I have another branch that is a bit shriveled up right near the top where the leaves come out and that small area is also brown.  It is drooping over a little bit, but it is still able to stand up and the leaves look pretty healthy.  I wonder if it will get worse.  Just in case it gets worse what are the signs that it is time to give up and cut off the branch?  and with proper watering, will the shriveled part unshrivel and return to green?

ANSWER: Kelly,

1. The cutting will either turn black within a week or 2 or root within 3-4 weeks. If it is still green in 2 weeks it is a good sign.

2. I assume you mean how long does it usually take for the branch to sprout new shoots? Because the days are getting shorter it may take a bit longer, probably 2-3 months.

3. Clip it off if it turns a lot more brown or droops over totally like that lower branch. If it is not so bad that the veins in the plant have collapsed then yes it will recuperate with better watering. If the veins have already totally collapsed you cannot fix that. Only time will tell.

Good luck!!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Healthy Plant : )
Healthy Plant : )  

Not so healthy plant : (
Not so healthy plant :  
QUESTION: Hi Darlene,

Well it has been about 1 month and guess what!  My plant with the drooping limb that had to be cut off has sprouted four new shoots - two coming from near the dirt and two from a little further up the stem!  That plant is doing amazing!  It is the healthiest I have ever seen it - it is even healthier than it was when I bought it.  I am so excited!  Is there anything I can do to help these little sprouts grow faster?

Saddly, tho, my other plant is not doing as well.  I moved it near the window where my healthier plant had done so well (the healthier plant has always been healthier and I always suspected that it was because it was near the window).  However, it has been a few weeks and my sad plant still doesn't look too healthy.  Part of it is because many of the leaves have a break in them because of the drought.  But even the leaves that aren't broken are light green and feel sort of flimsy, instead of rich dark green, thick, full and stiff.

Any suggestions?  I do notice that a few roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot.  I am pretty sure I am watering enough now since my other plant is doing so well, but are there any other/general steps I can take to improve the health of this plant?


To encourage more and faster growth now that you see some growth you could give it a dose of 1/2 strength fertilizer. Get a water soluble fertilizer like miracle Grow that you mix in water and if it says 2 teaspoons per gallon of water once a month give it a1/2 teaspoon per gallon every 2 weeks. The roots are still healing and you don't want to burn them with too much fertilizer but a little will push more growth. Be careful not to keep it too wet but don't leave it go 2 weeks between watering either. You should be watering about once a week and emptying the drain tray after watering. If it dries out in 3 days give it just a little more and wait till it has been a week to give it a full watering. The fertilizer and a bit more time will give you that rich dark green look you want. Good luck!!


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Darlene K. Kittle


I have been an Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years and I raise around 300 houseplants and bonsai trees a year including tropicals, succulents, and cacti. I have also been a professional plant care person for businesses in the Fort Wayne, IN area and currently professionally care for bonsai trees for my customers.


I am also studying the Japanese art of bonsai with tropical plants and is President of the Fort Wayne, IN Bonsai Club.

Fort Wayne, iN Master Gardeners. President of the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club. Allen County Master Gardeners

I am not a hortculturist. I am a Purdue University Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years. I have studied plants on a personal level by growing hundreds of plants annually for the last 35 years. I have also studied under several nationally known American Bonsai experts.

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