Skip to Content

Dracaena Root Rot: Why it Happens & How to Fix it

The Dracaena plant can be a nice tropical touch to your home or landscaping. However, many aspects can impact their health. If your Dracaena is not thriving, root rot could be the issue resulting in improper growth, or yellow, dying leaves.

Root rot in your Dracaena plant is typically caused by overwatering, over-fertilizing, or drainage problems. This can lead to the soil becoming the perfect place for fungi to spread. Taking immediate action by removing your plant and attending to the rotting is necessary to keep your plant alive.

Fixing root rot can be quite simple if you have a proper place to plant it, clean gardening shears, and fresh soil. If you suspect your plant to have root rot, you should immediately follow the steps below to identify why the root rot has happened, how you can fix it, and how to prevent it in the future.

Start by Finding the Cause of the Root Rot

It is in your plant’s best interest to identify why the root rot has happened so you can prevent it. 

The following are potential causes for your Dracaenas root rot: 

  • A fungus that has entered through the roots and stunted or slowed the plant’s growth 
  • Overwatering or improper water drainage that has caused a fungus to multiply and spread throughout its roots
  • Lack of oxygen that has impacted the roots ability to grow, possibly due to overwatering
  • Over-fertilizing that can decrease the available nutrients in the soil and impacted the plant’s ability to grow

If you suspect the culprit to be a type of fungus, you can contact a local agriculture extension agent to help identify which kind. This can also help you later to eliminate the fungus more effectively. 

While it could be a type of fungus causing the root rot, fungi are activated through its living situation. Fungi will thrive in wet soil, and when it starts to multiply, it will start to spread, causing the roots to become fragile and prevent the plant from growing properly. 

If you have been over-watering your plant or have improper water drainage either in your garden or in a pot, this needs to be assessed before replanting, and a new pot should be purchased if needed. You can easily tell if your plant is overwatered by seeing if your soil is still wet long after you last watered it.

To water your plants properly, you should wait until the top level of the soil is dry. If you are known for over-watering, using a clay pot can be a good alternative as the clay will dry out the soil faster. However, this is not a replacement for poor watering. 

In addition to a pot with a proper drainage hole at the bottom, you can add Clay Pebbles throughout the soil or as a bottom layer to improve the drainage naturally. Since too much water can also impact the oxygen that gets to the roots, this factor is essential to your plant’s health. 

To improve drainage in a garden, you can use a raised bed to give the water enough room to drain out the bottom. These changes to the plant’s living situation, including buying a better pot, should always be done before you remove the plant from the soil. 

Note: Dracaenas will do better when watered with rainwater as it is sensitive to fluorides that can be commonly found in tap water. 

Remove the Plant from the Soil

After assessing why your Dracaena may have root rot, gently remove the plant from the soil with all of its roots. Rotted roots will appear black, fragile, and mushy.  

Once removed, rinse the roots completely in room-temperature water. Most rotted roots will fall off easily. However, you may need to follow up with the next step if some do not. Healthy roots can be recognized as black or white but are notably different due to their firm feel. 

Using Clean Shears, Cut off Rotted Roots

It is important to use clean shears or scissors when you go to cut off the roots. This will ensure that you do not spread the root rot to other plants or bring any other possible diseases to the Dracaena. 

Since fungi can cause root rot, it is important to clean your gardening scissors thoroughly. An easy way to sterilize your tools is through a bleach solution, and a simple how-to guide can be found in this video below: 

If a lot of roots have rotted, you may have to prune off a large number of roots. If you do this, it is best to also cut back some of the Dracaenas leaves. This will give the plant a better chance at thriving since the roots have a fewer amount of leaves to take care of. You should cut off approximately one-third to one-half of the leaves based on how many roots you cut off.

Empty and Clean the Pot

If your Dracaena is in a pot, you should empty and discard all the soil that was in it. Using the same cleaning solution you used to clean your shears, you can then clean your pot with and rinse it out thoroughly. 

If your Dracaena is in a garden, remove the surrounding soil. It is also important to check the roots of any surrounding Dracaena plants, as root rot can be spread to any that are in close contact. 

If Possible, Use a Fungicide Solution

Fungicide solutions are very harsh chemicals used to eliminate the fungus that could greatly be affecting your plants. If you were able to identify that it is a fungus causing the Dracaenas root rot, you should look for a solution specifically made for the type of fungus identified. You can then dip the healthy roots into this solution to get rid of the fungus altogether. 

Note: Fungicide is a toxic chemical. Keep it in a closed container and away from the reach of children. Use gloves when handling. 

Replant in Fresh Soil

Once you have completed the above steps, you should put your plant back into fresh, clean soil as soon as possible where there is plenty of room for the roots to grow. If you are potting it, placing it in a tall planter that is self-watering or has overflow protection, in a clay pot, or using a layer of Clay Pebbles can be best to help manage the drainage. 

You should also avoid using fertilizer right away to allow time for the roots to grow properly. If you use fertilizer moving forward, it is best to test the soil to see what nutrients it lacks in and go from there. Improper fertilizing can stress the plant out, stunt its growth, and make it more sensitive to diseases. 

Final Thoughts

By ensuring the plant has proper water drainage, you are not over-watering it, and proper fertilization is taking place, you will have set your Dracaena up to thrive. 

Even if you have a green thumb and have taken all the precautions to prevent root rot in your Dracaena, it can still happen. By watching for any above-ground symptoms of a problem such as stunted growth, yellow, wilted, or dead leaves, you will be more likely to catch the root rot before it has impacted all of the roots.