House Plants/Broken Dragon Tree
QUESTION: Help!! I recently moved and successfully got my over 8' dragon tree to my new home in one piece. I thought it might be a good time to re-pot him and freshen up his soil before situating him in his new, forever spot. As I was trying to transfer him to his new pot he snapped at the base, which is about 5" wide. It did not sever in half but broke maybe half way across. I was mortified and basically just stood there for over an hour with tears streaming down my face until my fiance came home. I had him hold my guy in place while I wrapped a towel around his base and taped it up, very much like a cast. Does anyone have any knowledge as to whether or not he may be able to repair himself given it was not a complete sever? I was planning on trying this route and keeping a close eye on him for stem rot or for his tops to start dying off. If this happens I will likely try to hack of his tops and root them in water. I really do not want to do this unless it is an absolute last resort. He is so beautiful and tall and I don't want to loose that. Also, he is a very mature tree and I wasnt sure how well he would root? Any thoughts or ideas would be very much appreciated. I call him the Lorax as he looks like a Dr. Suess tree. Ugh, I am so devastated!
ANSWER: Hi Cortney,
I'm sorry to learn about your broken Dragon Tree stem. I'm sure you are devastated, but as a friend of mine used to say, "nobody died."
"Dragon Tree" is a common name that is applied to both Dracaena Drago and Dracaena Marginata, so I am mot sure which you have. However, if the stem that snapped is 5 inches wide, then it is most likely a Dracaena Drago.
If the stem is broken halfway through, I have to say that the chances of recovery are not very good and you need to be prepared for that. However, you have nothing to lose by giving it a chance. You do want to support the broken stem and keep the crack closed up as tightly as possible. However, you don't want to wrap anything damp around it or that may cause rot to set in. The stem will need air to circulate around it. Perhaps, you could take a couple of thin strips of wood about a foot long to attach lengthwise along the stem as support. Hold the wood strips in place with tape or string, using just enough to hold it in place, but not completely covering the stem.
If a lot of oozing continues from the wound, that is not a good sign. However, if the oozing stops, the healing process may begin. At best, it will take several months to heal over. In the interim, watch for leaf loss. Expect a bit more than usual. But if the leaf loss is excessive, then recovery is unlikely.
Even after recovery, the wound will always be weaker than the rest of the stem and subject to breaking again with even the slightest trauma. Eventually, you can remove the wood splints, but you will have to very careful in protecting the plant.
If you do start to lose a lot of top leaves, then it may be best to cut off the top with a sharp knife. Leave about a foot of bare stem below the lowest leaves. I suggest rooting that top section in an 8-inch terra cotta pot filled with damp pitting mix that is mostly peat moss and perlite. Keep it in a warm, sunny location.
If you do decide to take the top cutting, then make another cut somewhere below the break. Make sure the cut is sharp and clean. There is a very good chance, new growth will emerge on the remaining stem a little below where you cut the stem.
Every situation like this is unique, so I cannot predict exactly what will happen. Consequently, I would love to hear back from you in a few months so I can learn from your experience.
I don't intend to add insult to injury, but for future reference, it was not a good idea to repot your mature plant. Contrary to conventional wisdom, older plants do not need to be repotted or have their soil freshened. Occasional fertilizing is all that is needed. Unnecessary repotting is the single most common cause of root rot and plant failure.
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 wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com. 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, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC
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QUESTION: Thank you so much for your speedy response. Also, it's very good to know I should not repot a mature tree. I am an avid plant owner, having over 60 varieties, but have never had one this large. I will head your advise and hope for the best. The break was actually right at the soil line and for fear of making it worse I wasn't able to inspect just how far into the healthy stem it cracked. I will post back when I know more!
Thank for the high ratings. Much appreciated!
The break at the soil line does not make matters easier because it will be that much more top heavy. Let's hope the break is not as far as you think and that the wound heals over soon.
Good luck and do keep me posted.