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House Plants/Dracaena Marginata Issues


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I have had my Dracaena Marginata for about two years and it has two "trunks"; I recently noticed that there are cracks or splitting in the trunks.  I cannot seem to find anything that indicates what is happening.  I did ask my FB houseplant group and I am getting mixed answers.
I have had it since it was less than a foot tall and it is beautiful now.  It is not in direct sunlight ever, it is in my office which does run a little dry but the temp is about 73 year round.  I did recently transplant, maybe 6 months ago and it seemed to really tolerate that well.   That I am aware of there are no pests, the leaves seem really healthy and there is no dropage.
I am hoping you can solve the mystery.

Hi Amy,

The cracks in the trunk are unusual but may be related to the over-sized pot that you have your Marginata planted in.

Unnecessary repotting and using pots that are too large are the most common causes of plant failure. Over-sized pots have excess soil that acts like a giant sponge in retaining water around the roots for a very long time. Out of sight, the roots slowly begin to rot. Often, especially with Marginatas, the roots die back and the plant shows no symptoms until the  roots are severely compromised and it is often too late to save the plant. The excess moisture around the roots may be causing the stems to crack to help release the excess water.

You have two options. One is  to remove all the soil you added to the top of the original rootball. When repotting, you should never put soil on top of the rootball. Removing that soil will allow more oxygen down into the root zone. Then, be sure to allow the top 1-2 inches of the rootball to dry out before adding any water. Then, add just enough water so that it reaches that same level of dryness again in about a week. If the root damage is not too severe, then this reduction in watering may help the roots recover as they receive oxygen regularly.

The other option is more extreme and I am hesitant to recommend it if you are inexperienced. That would be to carefully unpot the plant and remove all of the soil your added six months ago around the original rootball. Most of that soil will be loose and will fall away easily demonstrating that it was not serving any useful purpose. Then, move your plant back into the smallest pot that the original rootball will fit into. Removing the excess soil will allow the root zone to dry out more readily. If you do this, you must be careful not to damage the tiny roothairs because they do most of the work. That is why I am hesitant recommend  doing this.

I am sorry that I have exposed a serious but unanticipated problem in the process of answering what you thought was a simple mystery. However, maybe you have caught this problem early enough to keep the roots  from rotting complete and losing the plant.

What is a "FB houseplant group?"

I have written a detailed article on repotting 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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