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House Plants/dracaena fragrans


I just re-potted a root-bound dracaena that hasn't been touched in over 20 years and has been in the same office with artificial light for at least 13. At over 5 feet tall and only one stalk, it began tipping over and needed a transplant.  It was moved into the hallway (so I could pot it) where there is a skylight but now however, 2 weeks later the leaves are yellowing from the bottom of the stalk up and my boss is furious and thinks I killed it.  Please advise. (p.s. roots were not rotted) Thanks!

Hi Tracy,

So many folks make the common assumption that all plants need to be repotted periodically and/or that leaning plant problems can be solved by using a larger pot. Repotting is like surgery and should be done only when there is no alternative. And, of course, repotting has to be done properly, which few people do. In addition, old plants that are healthy should never have their roots disturbed by repotting. Why fix something that is not broken?!

Leaning plants usually need to be pruned because they are too tall and top-heavy. Otherwise, they should be repositioned in their pots, but not repotted. Larger pots do not solve the problem, but they do create new ones.

What you should do now is prune off the top couple of feet of your Corn Plant so there is at least 2 feet of space between it and the tip of the ceiling. That should also correct most of the leaning due to top-heaviness. Then, undo the repotting that you did by removing all of the soil you added under, around and on top of the original rootball that you thought was potbound. Then, put it back into its original pot, positioning it so that it is completely straight.

The leaf yellowing is due to the roots being disturbed and because the new soil is retaining moisture longer and starting to rot the roots. If you can get things back to where they were before you repotted (minus the pruning), then your plant should gradually recover.

Look for signs of healthy new growth emerging on the stem just below the pruning cut.

I have written articles on repotting and on Corn Plant care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at

Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.

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Will Creed


I am the only expert in this category with professional hands-on experience and knowledge of all indoor plants. I can answer questions regarding light, water, fertilizer, repotting, pruning and humidity and temperature requirements. I can identify plant pests and provide information on safe, effective treatments. My answers are based on 35 years of professional experience and scientific research and are clear and easy to understand. I do NOT use search engines to find answers to your questions. If you read my previous posts here, you will get a good idea as to how thorough and professional my answers are.


I have over 35 years of professional indoor landscaping experience caring for plants in homes, offices, building lobbies, stores, restaurants, and other adverse environments. I have written extensively on the care of indoor plants, including a 260 page book. My specialties include Ficus trees, low light plants, repotting, pest control, and re-blooming holiday plants. Be sure to check my ratings and nominations to learn why I am the top-rated indoor plant expert. I am the only House Plant expert consistently ranked in the AllExperts Top 20.

BA, Amherst College

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