8 Common Problems With Dracaena | Yellowing, Browning, Drooping, And More

Dracaena plants are easy to grow, but even these plants are not without their problems. You will inevitably have some sort of issue with your plants at some point.

The good news is the hardest part is knowing what the plant needs from you. 

The rest is much easier once you know what the problem is, you can take steps to fix it.

It can be stressful looking at your less-than-thriving plant, and wondering what the heck is wrong with it, and if you can save it.

Here are some of the most common problems your plant might be suffering from, what causes them, and how you can fix them.

Let’s save your Dracaena, shall we?

Dracaena Leaves Wilting

Common Causes: Overwatering, underwatering, temperature extremes, stress

How To Fix It: Be consistent with plant care

One of the first signs of problems you might see on your Dracaena is the leaves wilting or drooping.

Underwatering Or Overwatering

More often than not, the foliage drooping on most plant species is due to a moisture problem, where the plant isn’t getting the water it needs.

Conversely, this can also happen if you overwatered your plant. If the soil is too wet for too long, the roots will become damaged, affecting their ability to take up moisture, so it presents the same as a plant in very dry soil.

So how do you tell? Check the soil with your finger. If it’s very wet and smells a little moldy, this can be root rot, in which case you should propagate the top of the plant, and repot the rest into slightly damp soil.

If the soil is very dry, and it’s pulling away from the sides of the pot, give it a good soaking. Once to rehydrate the soil, and the second to rehydrate the plant.

Just don’t forget to tip out any excess.

Temperature Extremes Or Stress

If you’re sure that the watering practices are not the problem, there are a couple of other things to consider, mainly to do with your plant’s position.

The temperatures your plant is exposed to could be wildly wrong, either too cold or too hot. Take a look at the temperature range your Dracaena is used to in its native environment, and exactly what this will be is dictated by the species.

Something else to consider is stress. Your plant’s leaves may droop after you’ve just repotted it, which is normal.

Give it a couple of weeks with normal care (avoiding fertilizer during this time) and your plant will soon perk up.

Dracaena Leaves Turning Yellow

Common Causes: Underwatering, overwatering, sun or cold damage, over-fertilization/nutrient deficiency, pests

How To Fix It: Check the soil regularly to review moisture, keep conditions stable, feed regularly, check for pests

Dracaena plants are particularly prone to yellowing leaves, and frustratingly, it can be caused by wildly different extremes. 

If only one or two leaves are turning yellow at the bottom, this is just the plant getting rid of old leaves and is nothing to worry about.

Underwatering Or Overwatering

The biggest cause of yellowing leaves is moisture issues. You may be underwatering or overwatering your plant!

Rapidly yellowing leaves are not something you should ignore, as this means something is very wrong.

The majority of Dracaena species will grow well if you let half the soil dry out in between watering, but watering your Dracaena more often than this can mean the plant will struggle to dry out, and this will damage the roots through overwatering.

If the leaves are yellowing all over the plant, not just at the bottom, this can mean your plant is getting too much water.

Repot your plant as quickly as possible into mostly-dry compost, trimming off any brown or mushy roots.

Always check the soil before you water, as this largely prevents overwatering.

The leaves may also turn yellow when the plant has gone without water for too long, and the plant pulls what moisture it can get out of the leaves in a bid to survive.

Underwatering is very easy to do when life gets in the way, or when temperatures or light levels increase, and the watering frequency does not.

This is why it’s a good idea to feel the compost regularly, as you can then change the moisture levels as other parts of the plant’s environment change.

Sun Scorch

Dracaena plants like some direct sunlight, but even these beautiful plants have their limits. If you have your Dracaena plant in a window that’s essentially a sun trap, your plant is likely getting too much light.

This is especially true if you don’t acclimatize your plant to higher light than it is used to, as the leaves will just burn in higher light levels.

Consider moving your plant a little way back from the window, or choose a window that gets morning sunlight, if you have one.

Drafts Or Temperature Damage

Yellowing leaves can also be caused by temperature extremes, whether that’s because your plant is sitting in a drafty place, a high-traffic area you’re constantly moving through, or near a source of heat or an air conditioning unit.

Nutrient Imbalance

If you regularly eyeball the amount of fertilizer you give your plants, feed them when the soil is very dry, feed them with every single watering, or don’t feed them at all, the chances are the yellowing leaves are a nutrient imbalance.

Let’s start with the easy one. If your plant has been in the same pot for a while and you never feed it, it’s probably run out of nutrients, and the growth is starting to struggle with nothing to power it.

You should feed your Dracaena plants occasionally during the growing season, but be careful not to overdo it.

Always follow the instructions on the label regarding dosage, and measure it out properly, so the plant doesn’t get burned.

Feed every fourth watering or so during spring and summer, scaling this back in fall, and not feeding your plant at all during winter. If the soil is more than halfway dry, water the plant before you feed it to avoid burning the roots.

It’s also important to flush the soil out occasionally with distilled water, as this helps stop a buildup of salts that would turn the leaves yellow and burn the roots.


If nothing in the growing conditions has changed, but you’re noticing leaves turning yellow, it’s a good idea to check for pests, as unexplained leaf damage is a sign that an unwelcome houseguest has made themselves at home.

Take a closer look at the leaves, and the stem, too. If you notice any blistering, any holes in the leaves as well as them turning yellow, this is a sign that pests have moved in.

Watch out for fuzzy spots on the leaves and stems, or tiny insects crawling on the soil or leaves. Check the undersides, too.

When you spot pests, use a horticultural soap at the earliest opportunity, and rinse the leaves in tepid water between applications.

Dracaena Leaf Drop

Common Causes: Moisture issues

How To Fix It: Check the soil regularly

Your plant dropping leaves is not an encouraging sign by any means. One of the biggest reasons why your Dracaena plant is dropping leaves is that the plant is suffering from a moisture extreme.

The way to tell the difference is to look at how the leaves are dropping from your Dracaena plant. 

If the plant’s leaves are going yellow, and then they brown from the bottom upward, this suggests that the plant is extracting what water it can from the leaves as it is desperate for more water.

If they go floppy, and they’re dropping from all over the plant rather than a specific area, this suggests that the plant is in soil that’s too wet, and the roots are rotting.

Brown Leaf Tips On Your Dracaena

Common Causes: Using tap water to water your Dracaena, low humidity, underwatering, overfeeding

How To Fix It: Use distilled water or rainwater, increase humidity, water thoroughly, flush with distilled water

Brown leaf tips are an ugly problem that can ruin the look of gorgeous leaves, and unfortunately, it is extremely common with Dracaena plants. 

Once they crisp up, you can’t do anything about it, as they won’t heal, but you can stop them from spreading to the rest of the foliage.

Tap Water Issues

Dracaena plants are a little fussy when it comes to tap water, and unfortunately, this can cause brown leaf tips.

Exactly how harsh the tap water depends on where you live! Chlorine and chloramine are an issue, as well as fluoride, as both can cause brown leaf tips.

If you have a water softening system in your home, avoid watering your plants with it. The majority of these systems contain sodium, which will kill your plants!

There are things you can do to minimize this if you don’t want to get some distilled water or collect rainwater to water your plants, though if you do have a softening system, you will have to use distilled water or rainwater. 

The best way to minimize brown leaf tips when you want to use tap water is to boil it first. Boiling it for fifteen minutes will get rid of the chlorine, but even using cooled kettle water makes a huge difference.

I tend to fill a dedicated water bottle with the dregs of every kettle, boil once cool, and leave it open for a day or so, and then it’s fine for my plants. No brown leaf tips!

Low Humidity

Dracaena plants don’t need a huge amount of humidity compared to other plants, but if you stick your plant near a radiator or in a draft, brown leaf tips will form.

Keep your plants somewhere stable, away from temperature fluctuations.

Improper Watering

If you don’t water the whole area of the surface of the soil, this can create air pockets in the soil. 

Where the soil stays too dry, this harms the root system of your plant, causing it to weaken, resulting in a weaker plant with a less-than-ideal root system.

When it comes to watering, always water all the surface you can reach, watering it deeply but away from the stem. 

This will help stop air pockets from forming, and the roots will follow the water down into the soil, anchoring the plant better, and creating a more robust plant that will weather minor issues with no problems.

Feeding Issues

If other elements of care such as watering and location aren’t an issue, but you’re still seeing brown leaf tips on your Dracaena plant, this could be a fertilizer-related problem.

You might be feeding the plant when it is too dry, eyeballing the dosage amount (whether that’s the fertilizer itself or how much you’re diluting it), or, fertilizer salts have been gradually building up in the soil, and now they’re burning the roots.

It’s very easy to overdo it when it comes to feeding your plants, especially Dracaena plants, as they aren’t overly demanding when it comes to nutrients.

Avoid feeding your plant if the soil is very dry. Water it first, or wait until the next watering to do so, and this will avoid burning the roots.

Try not to guess the amount of fertilizer and water you should be using. Though it gets easier to tell with practice, it’s very easy to overdo it. It’s worth having a dedicated measuring spoon and jug just for this purpose. 

Don’t be tempted to use the ones from your kitchen! It’s not a good idea to mix measuring implements that you use for cooking or baking with plant care, as this can invite disaster.

Even if you don’t feed your plants very often, it’s a good idea to flush the soil out with distilled water every third or fourth feeding, and this will help stop any salts from accumulating in the soil, which would eventually burn the roots.

Brown Spots On A Dracaena

Common Causes: Fusarium leaf spot (fungal infection), sun or cold damage, fertilizer issues

How To Fix It: Water at the base, cut off affected leaves

If you’re seeing brown spots on the leaves of your Dracaena plant, but there aren’t brown leaf tips or fully brown leaves, this is something you shouldn’t ignore.

But there are a few causes to think about.

Sun Scorch Or Cold Damage

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if the growing conditions you give your plant are right, but when your plant has brown spots on the leaves, this does mean something is wrong.

Sun scorch is caused by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, more than the plant can cope with. 

If your plant gets indirect sunlight for most of the day, but you leave it near an open window at night, or in the path of drafts, the plant is likely suffering from cold damage, and you should move your plant to a different room that has more stable conditions.

Fungal Infections On A Dracaena Plant

Brown leaf spots can be caused by fungal infections, such as Fusarium leaf spot. If the brown spots you’re seeing on your Dracaena plant have a yellow ring around them, this is a sign of fungal disease.

Get rid of any affected leaves using sharp and clean scissors, putting them straight into a trash bag, and into general waste rather than garden compost. 

Fungal infections can spread, and you want to limit this as much as possible. Clean the scissors with hot and soapy water after trimming off the affected leaves.

Fungal infections can be caused by watering the plant from above, allowing the water to splash the leaves, but also by poor air circulation and overwatering your plant.

Always water the plant as close to the base as possible, and make sure there is plenty of airflow around your plant. Try not to place it in a very dim area, as excess moisture and dark conditions are ideal for fungal problems to take hold.

Brown Leaves

Common Causes: Underwatering, cold temperatures, sun scorch, using tap water, overfeeding your plant, old leaves dying

How To Fix It: Check moisture levels, move to a better location, use distilled water, and put down the fertilizer!

If you notice brown leaves on your Dracaena, you have some detective work to do, as there are a few potential causes.

Let’s start with the easy one. If there are only a couple of leaves turning brown at the base of your plant, and the new growth at the top of the plant is healthy, there is no need to worry. 

This is just your plant getting rid of old leaves.

Moisture Issues

If you’re under watering and then overwatering your plant or leaning to one extreme most of the time, this can cause the leaves to turn brown. 

Try to be consistent when it comes to watering Dracaena plants, only do so when half the soil has dried out, but don’t let the soil dry out completely for too long, as this can cause stress to your plant.

Tap Water

Again, Dracaena plants are sensitive to the chemicals in tap water, and this will build up over time if you don’t use distilled water to flush the soil occasionally. 

Rainwater is the best way to water Dracaena plants, but if that’s not an option, use distilled water or cooled kettle water.

Distilled water also helps get rid of any fertilizer salts left in the soil, too, which can be another reason why your plant isn’t looking its best.

Fertilizer Problems

If you’re overdoing it with the fertilizer or using the wrong kind of fertilizer, this can cause problems when it comes to your Dracaena plants. 

Use a diluted balanced houseplant fertilizer, always following the dosage instructions on the label. Do not feed your plant in winter, and scale back the feeding schedule in fall as the growth slows down

Dracaena Stem Rot

Common Causes: Overwatering

How To Fix It: Cut off healthy stem pieces and propagate them

If the stem on your Dracaena plant is rotting, you need to act fast. Propagate any healthy portion of the stem that’s left, and repot the original plant, though you may not be able to save it.

Dracaena Looking Shriveled

Common Causes: Overwatering

How To Fix It: Propagate healthy parts of the stem

Similar to the problem above, if your Dracaena plant takes on a shriveled appearance, it’s time to propagate what’s left of your plant, as this is the best way of salvaging it.

Final Thoughts

Dracaena plants are robust, but get the conditions wrong and the plants will soon let you know! 

Keep an eye on the growing conditions, keeping them as stable and as consistent as possible.

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