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House Plants/8 foot ancient Dracaena Marginata! Please help!


Please help! My 8 foot tall Dracaena Marginata plant is dying!

The main branch is very wrinkled, has lost all its leaves, and does appear to have a dark spot with thin bark (though it is not hollowed at that point).

More often than not, this would be indicative of overwatering, but at the base of the main branch are two new offshoots that have sprouted and are growing very fast. Concordantly, the large pot is shared by two other canes of 4 and 5 feet in height, that are also doing quite well with no signs of over watering.

What the heck is going on!?

Hi Bryan,

Thanks for the good description - almost as good as a photo!

When a Marginata stem becomes wrinkled, you can be sure that stem has died from the bottom up. It is also quite common for the dying stem to push out new shoots at the base. In most cases, those new shoots are short-lived.

Cut off the wrinkled stem just above the point whee the new shoots have emerged.

The focus now has to be on saving the remaining healthy stems. The problem is that the roots of all of the stems are intertwined so that what affects one stem usually affects the others, as well. So, if you suspect the main stem has suffered from over watering and root rot, then there is a good chance that the same is happening to the others. Sometimes it just takes some roots and stems longer than others to react to the same conditions.

Let's be positive and hope that there are still enough healthy roots remaining to salvage the healthy stems. That means you have to be very careful with your watering. As Marginatas get older, they use significantly less water, but few people make the appropriate adjustment. That is why older Marginatas often succumb to root rot. Keep the soil drier than before and as dry as possible or just enough to keep the leaves from wilting.

Do NOT decide to repot or replace the soil. The roots are already compromised and will not tolerate your disturbing them. Fertilizer is not medicine and will not help. All you can do is adjust your watering and keep your fingers crossed that it is not too late.

I have written detailed articles on root rot and on Dracaena marginata care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.

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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