Why Are My Dracaena Stem and Leaves Turning Black/Brown/Yellow?

The Dracaena houseplant, also known as the corn plant or the dragon tree, is quite common in many homes. This plant from the succulent family is relatively easy to take care of, but some issues can appear, similar to other vegetation. Stem and leaves turning color can indicate an underlying problem.

If your dracaena stem and leaves are turning black, brown, or yellow, it could be due to several contributing factors. Watering issues, temperature, disease, and even lack of fertilizer for these dracaena plants could be the cause of many discoloration problems.

Even when you have black, brown, or yellow stems and leaves on a dracaena plant, it is possible to turn it around and have it growing successfully again. In this article, there are several solutions to nurse your plant back to a healthy state again. It is recommended that you  implement one, or more, of the solutions below, earlier rather than later.

How Serious Can Discolorations Be for Dracaena Plants?

While black, brown, or yellow discoloration on your plant may seem severe and threatening, but that may not always be the case. Eventually, though, without any intervention, the reasons for discolorations could wreak havoc on your dracaena plant, causing it to die.

Symptoms of yellow or brown leaves on your plant can be taken care of to ensure a healthy future for your dracaena. More often than not, if you find that your dracaena plant has a black stem, the plant will most likely have root rot, where decay and fungus that attack the roots. This issue can be an eventual death sentence for your dracaena, but there are some measures you can take to try and regrow the plant anew.

Thankfully, if you spot any of these disparaging symptoms in your dracaena plant, early interventions can limit the unfavorable effects. It is relatively easy to bring your plant back to a thriving state. 

Discolorations on leaves and stems are your plant’s way of telling you it has an issue. It is essential that you listen when it shows you something is wrong.

Reasons for Stem and Leaves Turning Black/Brown/Yellow

Overwatering, Inconsistent Watering, Water Content

Dracaena plants are quite sensitive to water and humidity, much like other succulents. These plants need water at regular intervals, but they do not need to be consistently moist. The soil should have time to dry out completely before the next watering, and adequate drainage is necessary.

Overwatering your dracaena can show multiple symptoms, including yellow and brown leaves or a black stem. The yellow or brown discoloration will appear in the center and tips of the leaves, indicating an overwatering problem. 

Overwatering can also cause your dracaena leaves to droop and fall off. While some houseplants will be droopy when they need water, the dracaena is the complete opposite and is telling you to back off on the water.

An inconsistent watering schedule can also reveal negative symptoms in your dracaena plant, including brown spots on the leaves and tips that are turning brown. Lack of adequate water will dry out your plant and cause the green leaves to lose their color and change to brown and crisp or even black.

The humidity in your home could be affecting the health of your dracaena plant. If your home has a relatively dry environment, the plant could have brown leaf tips. These succulents thrive well in humid climates and will often need added humidity to flourish in many homes around the world.

In some locations, the content of the water can be the cause of yellow or brown color on your dracaena plant. Depending on where you reside, fluoride or chlorine added to the water source could be the reason your dracaena is suffering. These succulents are quite sensitive to the water source, so any additives like chlorine or fluoride would be damaging.

Solutions

Ensure that your dracaena plant is not overwatered. Let the soil dry out completely in the first one to two inches before the next watering. The soil in the pot should have adequate drainage to prevent water sitting at the bottom of the planter pot for any length of time. 

Try to keep a regular watering schedule and prevent over-extended periods between watering. You do not want your plant to go for too long between each watering, or the leaves will begin to dry out, turn brown, curl, or fall off.

If your home is dry, you could mist your dracaena often with a water bottle or place the pot on top of a dish with rocks and a small amount of water. You want to be careful that the bottom of the planter pot is not touching the water, but rather just above the water that is with the rocks. Some plant owners will use a humidifier in a room with a dracaena plant to add moisture to the air.

You can resolve the symptoms in your dracaena if you fear that your quality of water is the culprit. Letting your tap water stand in a dish for 24 hours or longer will help eliminate any chlorine or fluoride before you water your plant. You can also use collected rainwater or distilled water on your dracaena instead. This method will keep the fluoride and chlorine away from your dracaena and prevent further issues.

Temperature

Dracaenas, like some other succulent species, thrive in a tropical environment. They prefer warm, humid climates with bright but indirect sunlight. Temperatures of 60° to 80°F (15° to 26°C) are the optimal range of atmosphere for dracaenas.

Rooms that contain air conditioners can produce yellowing or browning results in dracaena plant leaves due to drastic cold drafts. While you can control the temperature inside, you cannot always help outdoor weather that affects your plant. Often dracaenas that are outdoors where the temperature drops below 55°F (12°C) in the evenings could have adverse effects like browning leaves.

Conversely, dracaena plants, if placed in direct sunlight or are in an environment that is too hot, will also suffer. You may see leaves that are drying out, curling in towards itself, or even tilting away from the sunlight into an area with more shade. The plant is trying to protect itself from direct sunlight and heat.

Solutions

It helps to have a thermometer close by your dracaena plant if you cannot tell what the current temperature is. Do not keep your plant in a room near an air conditioner or open windows in the evening, or it may be receiving blasts of colder air.

Outdoor dracaena plants can be moved indoors on cold evenings if they are in moveable planters. For those plants that you cannot move inside, try lightly covering the plant in the evening to help shelter the plant from a drastic temperature drop.

If your plant is showing signs of being too hot, you could try switching rooms or locations so it will not receive direct sunlight or become too hot. Another simple solution is to install sheer curtains or blinds on your windows to help filter out the sun’s direct rays. Sun scorched dracaenas are not as vibrant and beautiful as a healthy one.

Diseases

There are a host of diseases that can affect a succulent species, like dracaenas. Some of these diseases can be caused by overwatering, while others are consequences of a bug infestation. How you deal with the disease will determine what has afflicted your dracaena plant.

Some sure-fire ways to tell that your plant is battling a disease is what symptoms it is showing you. From a black, soft stem, to yellowing or browning leaves, your dracaena is silently telling you what is wrong. Fungus issues are a notorious enemy of succulent plants, so keeping on top of your plant health is essential. Some common problems of stem and leaves turning black, brown, and yellow, are root rot, leaf spot disease, and flecking. 

  • Root Rot: This is apparent by yellow or brown leaves or a soft, black stem, and often both symptoms at the same time. It can be caused by overwatering or a fungus in the soil. Both will be damaging to the roots, and they will deteriorate. Without healthy roots, your dracaena plant cannot thrive.
  • Leaf Spot: This disease is apparent as brown or black spots with yellow halos on the dracaena leaves. It can also cause the tips of leaves to turn black and curl. If not treated, this fungus will take over your plant and infect all of the leaves and stem quickly.
  • Flecking: Your dracaena plant may be showing yellow and white spots near the tips of the leaves. While not caused by any insects, it can still be solved. Typically, flecking happens when there is some kind of deficiency.

You should not overlook diseases in houseplants. If left without intervention, they can cause catastrophic damage to your dracaena, and it will eventually die. Relatively easy to take care of, some simple methods can keep your plant disease-free.

Solutions

Diseases, when not treated quickly or effectively, can not only hinder the health of your plant but condemn it. If your dracaena is showing any signs of disease, you must take swift action to stop further damage to your plant.

If you are unsure if your plant has root rot, you can examine the roots by removing the plant from its soil. If the plant roots feel mushy and will fall off the plant easily, root rot is the cause. Healthy roots will be black or pale but be sturdy. If root rot is plaguing your dracaena, the parent plant will most likely die. Taking good cuttings is the only solution to regrow a new healthy plant.

If you choose a cutting that has any root rot fungus still on it, you will have another infected plant growing. Ensure you clean your gardening tools each time you use them with an alcohol-based solution to remove any fungus that could be there.

Leaf spot is easily treatable if done correctly. If you have any other plants in your home, your dracaena should be moved into a different room while you are treating it and getting it healthy once again. Use sanitized gardening tools to remove any leaves that have spots present to keep it from spreading. A homemade solution of baking soda and mineral oil sprayed on the affected dracaena can also help rid your plant of this bacteria.

Flecking requires more specialized care for your plant. Ensure you are diligent with the watering, humidity, temperature, and fertilizing to provide everything your dracaena needs for good plant health. If your plant is lacking something, it will tell you its way.

Fertilizer

One indication of missing nutrients for your dracaena is when the leaf tips and the edges begin to turn yellow and brown. While this can also happen when it is missing the proper humidity, missing essential nutrients, or getting the wrong ones, from fertilizer can also be the culprit.

Dracaena plants are highly sensitive to fluoride. If you have already determined that there is no fluoride in the water you use, it could be coming from the soil and additives in fertilizer. One additive called perlite can be damaging to your dracaena plant. These small, white soil additives can be the cause of your leaves turning yellow or brown.

Indoor dracaena plants will not require as much fertilizer as an outdoor one could. Take into consideration where your plant resides and the growing season when fertilizing. Some fertilizers could be damaging to your dracaena. If you notice any yellow or brown leaves shortly after you feed your plant, examine the ingredients of your fertilizer and switch brands if necessary.

Solutions

If you notice that your potting soil has perlite in it, transplant your dracaena into specialized succulent soil that does not include it. The potting soil should be changed out every two years or so to ensure optimal mineral health for your plant. If you notice the health of your dracaena declining and you have had it for a while, it could be time to change out the soil.

Recommendations are to use a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer every two to four weeks during the optimal growth period of dracaenas. Fertilizer that has a nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium ratio of 3-1-2 is ideal for dracaena plants. For the inactive growth period of fall and winter, there is no need to fertilize your plant.

You may need to adjust the fertilizing schedule depending on how quickly the leaves grow. If you notice rapid growth, you can ease up on fertilizing and spread it out to every four weeks. If your dracaena is slow to grow new leaves, try increasing the fertilizing schedule more often to promote good health.

You should not fertilize your dracaena for the first month that you bring it home to allow it to adjust to the new environment. After repotting, you should also wait two to four weeks to begin fertilizing again so it can recover from any root damage that may have occurred by transplanting it.

Dracaena Leaves are Turning Brown and Dropping Off

If you have checked all contributing factors that could be possibly affecting your dracaena and the issue remains, it may not be harmful.

As dracaena plants grow, they will have leaves that turn yellow or brown and fall off. This pattern is the regular growing process and is not harmful to the plant. Typically, the lower leaves are the ones that will begin dropping off first as the plant ages beyond a year old.

Do All Dracaena Plant Species Require the Same Care?

According to the Plants of the World Online website guide, there are hundreds of variations of the dracaena plant around the world. Even so, these hardy plants are relatively easy to take care of, and many species require virtually similar growing conditions.  

How you take care of your dracaena plant will determine its healthy state. Planterina is a fantastic free, online resource to help you care for your many houseplants and keep them healthy for years to come. 

Typically, the houseplant variation of dracaenas requires indirect lighting conditions and limited watering. Their low maintenance nature makes them perfect plants in the home for even beginners who are not knowledgeable with plants.

The growth type of dracaenas will also determine the style of care they need. Broken up into two main categories, these plants are either:

  • Treelike with single stems that host a cluster growth of leaves from each stem
  • Rhizomatous with stems growing underground and leaves on the surface

If you are new to owning succulents, like the dracaena plant, research on plant care is needed. Although they can be relatively easy to take care of, there can be significant issues of yellowing leaves or black stems that arise from simple factors like overwatering or direct sunlight.

Final Thoughts

Dracaena plants are fantastic houseplants to own that require minimal care. If you are looking for a plant that will brighten up your home and does not involve complicated maintenance, the dracaena plant is the answer.

To avoid any leaves or stems turning yellow, brown, or black, you should remember to keep it out of direct sunlight, water sparsely, fertilize it regularly and monitor the temperature and humidity. By following a simple care routine, your dracaena plant will thrive for years in your home.

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