Dracaena rotting – House Plant Journal

Dracaena rotting

Plant Parent

I’ve been following your instagram page for a while and love your tips.

So I’ve had these corn plants in my apartment in NYC for a few years and they needed to be repotted. We try to stay aware of the extra dryness in the winter and have humidifiers going a lot. They stopped growth and just seemed to be unhappy in the very hardened soil. After repotting into the next size up just about two months ago they slowly started dying. I think we messed up by not doing this in the spring. Some of the stalks will blacken and then leaves start dying. I’ve been waiting to water them til the soils dry two inches down. I’m afraid I’ve overwatered and that blackness is rot? I repotted three and the two smaller ones are having the worst problems. Some new sprouts are started coming out and I think more will come in the spring. Any tips or suggestions on what I did wrong? And if it’s salvageable.


Could you please show me where these plants live in relation to your overall space?  I’d like to help you assess your lighting situation.

Could you also tell me more about your thought process with watering?  And when you water, how exactly do you water?

Plant Parent

So I water usually once a week but sometimes wait for the soil to dry more- I’ll stick my finger in and if it’s dry a few inches down then I’ll water. We get a decent amount of natural light for NYC – especially with those big windows. The plants have been happy and thriving in these conditions for the last 2.5 years – up until the repotting. When I do water I will pour enough water in until it drains out of the bottom. Here is a pic of the apartment (it’s a dark rainy day) my bird of paradise is also suffering a bit since the repot.


Your windows are nice and large but the Dracaena that is so far from the window is hardly getting any view of the sky. As such, if you are watering once a week or even when you feel the top of the soil is dry, the roots aren’t really using up the water for much photosynthesis so your plant has been starving and combating root rot all this time.

There’s a few things you can do:

1) Put the plant where it will have the widest possible view of the sky and if it will also see the sun for longer than 3-4 hours, block it with a white sheer curtain
2) Change your watering strategy to water when the soil is at least halfway dry (as in, the majority of the soil mass is dry)
3) Occasionally aerate the soil by gently loosening it with a chopstick – do this prior to watering so the water can more evenly penetrate the soil.

The leaves that have already started to yellow will not turn green again so you can cut them off once they are fully yellow. Move the plant to the window and hopefully it can recover from light starvation and root rot! Good luck!

Tired of your houseplants dying on you?

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