Dracaena getting brown tips – House Plant Journal

Dracaena getting brown tips

Plant: Dracaena lemon-lime

How long have you had the plant? Less than 1 month.


I got plant 2 weeks ago, it is maybe 20 feet from a north facing window, and I live in CO which lacks humidity.

The plant is getting brown tips, I have not watered since bringing home and the soil is still pretty moist. Many leaves have small brown tips but the one in the picture is the worst. I think it had fewer brown tips in the store if any. The top two tufts have brown tips the lower third does not seem to have any.

How do you determine WHEN to water: I follow the schedule I was told/researched for this plant.

Describe HOW you water: I have not watered since bringing the plant home.

What fertilizer do you use? I have never used fertilizer.

Darryl’s Analysis

I’m not sure if you think this is “bright indirect light” or “low light” but let me clear up any confusion:
STEP 1: this plant needs to be RIGHT IN FRONT of your largest window.
STEP 2: observe how long the sun actually hits the plant. If direct sun touches the plant for longer than 2 or 3 hours, then block it with a white sheer curtain.

At this distance from any windows, your plant will starve to death.

Determining WHEN to water should be done by testing the soil dryness – for this plant, when its soil is roughly halfway dry, then it’s time to water. By directly observing the soil dryness to determine when to water, you won’t have to keep track of when you last watered – you simply check and decide whether it’s time.

In terms of HOW to water, slowly pour water so it thoroughly and completely saturates all parts of the soil – excess water will drain away if you drainage holes. If you don’t, then you’ll have to consider the volume of water poured in (should be roughly a quarter of the total soil volume).

If you want this plant to grow well in the long run, it needs adequate light (see Environment assessment) and you’ll need to use fertilizer.  My fertilizer recommendations HERE

A lot of new plant parents are under the false impression that brown tips can be prevented by some special techniques. While some techniques can SLOW the progression, leaf decay can never be completely avoided: leaves have a limited lifespan, which means long-term plant enjoyment comes from NEW leaves growing to replace older ones that die off. “Proper care” does not mean a plant will look perfect forever, it means the plant will grow new leaves as older ones die off.

That’s why I cannot overemphasize the importance of good light: if older leaves will inevitably die off, the only way to get new leaves to grow is with good light. And “good light” is not merely about sun vs no sun – there’s a lot more detail in how I approach light: “bright indirect light requirements by plant type”

I get that not everyone will want to use a light meter so take my word for it, as someone who has studied light in great detail: your plant will only grow well right in front of your largest window (and consider the tolerance for the duration of direct sun).

Reality of Leaf Turnover

Here’s a cordyline growing in a conservatory: already much better growing conditions than a typical indoor space…

…and most of its leaves have brown tips.  Also notice the trunk – it bears the evidence that many older leaves have fallen off

If you want to get out of this trap of believing “leaves tell you if something is wrong”, my book and online course teach a more enjoyable and smarter approach to houseplant care.

• ASK ME about one plant
• 30-Minute Consultation (for lots of plants)

Tired of your houseplants dying on you?

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