Older Leaves Turn Yellow Naturally
As plants grow, they prioritize new growth.
The exotic-looking Dracaena plants are no exception. Dracaena marginatas experience growth spurts during the spring and summer months.
This means that older leaves may lose their color - resulting in yellow leaves - and fall off as the plant redirects its nutrients and energy to newer leaves.
This is perfectly normal!
Dracaena plants may shed older leaves (i.e. brown leaves/yellow leaves) to conserve water and nutrients when conditions are less favorable or during times of seasonal change.
While yellowing and drooping leaves show signs of the natural aging process, keep an eye on your Dracaena plant to ensure that newer leaves are not turning yellow.
Side note: Dracaenas go by several names, such as Dragon Trees, Madagascar Dragon Tree, and its botanical name Dracaena marginata.
Solution: Trim the Old Leaves
Trimming or pruning the older, yellow leaves is a straightforward solution that has many benefits, such as:
Aesthetic appeal: Yellow or brown leaves can be rather awful to look at. Removing the yellowing leaves will dramatically enhance your Dracaena plant's appearance, resulting in a healthier-looking plant.
Resource allocation: By removing older leaves that serve no purpose to the Dracaena plant (i.e. photosynthesis), you allow the plant to focus its energy on new growth by redirecting essential nutrients.
Disease prevention: Yellow leaves, if left attached to the dracaena plant for too long, can become a breeding ground for nasty bacteria and fungal infections. Removing these yellow leaves helps to prevent the spread of disease in your Dracaena plant.
Air circulation: Removing yellow leaves on these plants, especially those close to the soil, can improve air circulation around the plant, reducing the likelihood of fungal infection.
Top tip: Use clean, sharp scissors/pruning shears to cut off dying yellow leaves. Cut the leaves off as close to the main stem/leaf base as possible. It's best to trim off yellow leaves as soon as you see them.
Are your Dracaena leaves turning yellow? Well, the area where it's placed may be the culprit!
If the area/air is too dry, you could land up with yellow leaves on your Dracaena. Dry air can cause increased transpiration (water loss from leaves), causing dehydration and stress in your poor Dragon Tree.
Since Dragon Trees prefer moderate to high humidity levels, a drier environment may cause the tips of the leaves to turn brown or yellow.
But don't fret, here are a few solutions to fix yellow leaves.
Pebble Tray with Water
How it works: A tray filled with pebbles and water is placed under the pot plant. As the water evaporates, it increases the humidity around your Dracaena plant.
Setup: Fill a shadow tray with pebbles and add water until it just covers the pebbles. Place the Dracaena plant on top of the pebbles. Be careful to not submerge the pot in the water!
Maintenance: Keep the pebble tray filled with water - filtered or distilled water is best to use.
Benefits: This is a low-maintenance way to increase the humidity around your Dracaena plant. It can be particularly helpful during the winter months when inside conditions are drier due to heating systems.
Mist the Plant
How it works: Misting the leaves with water can temporarily raise the humidity around your Dracaena plant.
Technique: Use a spray bottle (filled with filtered or distilled water) and lightly mist (spray) the leaves. Make sure to spray both the top and bottom sides of each leaf.
Frequency: Depending on how dry the air is, Dracaena plants can be misted once a day or every few days.
Benefits: Misting is a quick and easy way to provide immediate relief to your plant, especially when you notice the leaves are turning yellow/brown.
Cautions: Be careful of over-misting as it can lead to fungal diseases.
Fun fact: Research shows that Dragon Tree plants help to remove pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air.
Temperature Changes and Humidity
Temperature changes and humidity fluctuations can stress out Dragon Trees, causing the leaves to turn yellow. This is specifically evident if the Dracaena plant is exposed to cold drafts or intense heating sources (i.e. radiators).
Sudden temperature changes affect the Dragon Tree's metabolic process (i.e. photosynthesis), leading to nutrient imbalances and the leaves turning yellow.
Humidity fluctuations can also cause these plants to lose moisture more quickly, resulting in dehydration (and yellow leaves).
Temperature: Keep your Dragon Tree in a consistent temperature environment in the range of 65–75°F (18–24°C). This range will maintain its optimal health. Avoid direct sunlight and do not place Dracaena plants close to radiators and/or air-conditioning units.
Humidity: As previously mentioned, using a pebble tray/misting your Dragon Tree can be helpful to use in drier conditions. Grouping potted plants together can also create a more thriving and humid environment!
Acclimatize: If you have recently moved your Dragon Tree or have bought one from the store, give it time to acclimatize (adjust) to its new surroundings. Yellow leaves on Dracaena plants, in this instance, may just mean that it's adjusting to temperature/humidity changes.
Soil moisture plays a critical role in the overall health of plants in general, including Dragon Trees. Inconsistent watering can cause yellowing leaves for a variety of reasons.
Check the soil moisture: Stick your finger into the soil (up to an inch deep) to check the soil moisture before watering. If the soil is dry, it's time to water. If the soil is wet, wait a few more days. If your Dragon Tree is kept in optimal conditions, you'll only need to water it once a week.
Underwatering: To add to the above point, underwatering can turn Dracaena leaves yellow or cause them to fall off. Soil that is too dry (hydrophobic) cannot absorb water properly. A poor watering schedule can stress the plant, causing leaves to turn yellow. It's best to monitor your plant regularly and adjust its watering schedules accordingly.
Good-drainage holes: Use a well-draining potting mix that allows excess water to escape. This reduces the risk of overwatering (and yellowing leaves).
Repotting: If drainage holes are an issue, consider repotting your Dracaena plant.
Poor water quality: Dragon trees are sensitive to fluoride found in tap water. Consider using filtered/rainwater instead.
Monitor: Regularly check on your Dragon Tree. Improvements may take some time while the plant is recovering.
Overwatering is the most common cause for Dracaena leaves to turn yellow.
Dragon trees hate soggy feet! And the dreaded root rot is caused by too much water. This anaerobic environment (lack of oxygen) is where harmful bacteria love to grow!
Have your Dracaena marginata's lower leaves turned yellow or fallen off?
Well, if you've recently repotted Dragon Tree cuttings and have noticed that the lower leaves are sagging or have discolored, this is usually a sign of root rot. Consistent wet soil can stress Dragon Trees out, making them more susceptible to diseases.
Check the soil: Do check the soil before watering. If the soil is dry, it's time to water. If the soil is wet, wait a little longer.
Check for root rot: Rotting roots will be brown/black, mushy, and smelly. If there are signs of rotting roots, it's best to trim away the affected areas and repot the plant with fresh potting mix.
Watering technique: When watering, ensure excess water is able to drain out the bottom of the pot.
Water quality: Avoid using tap water, which contains fluoride. As mentioned, filtered, distilled or rainwater is best to use for these plants.
Dragon plants are generally pest-resistant. They can, however, attract bugs and pests such as red spider mites, mealybugs, scale, and/or aphids which can cause yellow leaves on Dracaena plants.
Check your Dragon plant every few weeks for any signs of bugs or infection. If you do notice signs of pests, it's easily managed with the use of insecticides.
Isolate: Once you have identified the pest problem, isolate your Dragon Tree to prevent the pests from spreading to other houseplants.
Manual removal: For larger pests, like scale, you can manually remove them using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Insecticidal soap: A mild solution of insecticidal soap can be effective against many soft-bodied pests like aphids and spider mites. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application.
Neem oil solution: Neem oil is another effective, natural insecticide for treating a variety of pests. However, it can be harmful to some plants, so do a patch test first.
Chemical pesticides: For severe infestations, you may need to resort to chemical pesticides. Make sure to choose one that is safe for indoor use and follow all the safety guidelines.
Does various lighting cause Dragon Tree leaves to turn yellow?
Yes. While Dragon Trees can tolerate low light conditions, not enough light can cause the leaves to turn yellow and/or brown. Dragon Trees thrive in bright, indirect sunlight (i.e. out of direct sunlight). Rooms with stable temperatures (65-75°F or 18-24°C) and moderate humidity are the best to go for; preferably near a north- or east-facing window.
Can imbalances in fertilizer cause yellow leaves on Dracaena?
Yes, fertilizers play an important role in plant health. Too much fertilizer can lead to salt buildup in the soil, which can cause leaves to turn yellow (or 'burn' the tips). If you suspect over-fertilization, flush the soil with distilled water to remove excess salts.
Only fertilize your plant once a month, during growth seasons (spring/summer). Using a well-balanced liquid fertilizer is the best way to go. Do not fertilize Dragon Trees during winter!
On the other hand, yellow leaves on Dracaena plants can be caused by under-fertilizing (resulting in slow or stunted growth). Insufficient nutrients can cause pale/yellow leaves, weak stems, reduced flowering, and an increased risk of pest infestation.
Check your Dracaena plant regularly and consider doing a soil test (ideal pH levels should be 6.0 - 6.5). A well-balanced liquid fertilizer can be used to combat this problem.
Read More: How to Popagate a Dragon Tree
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