Helping horrible houseplants

Although I'm quite proud of my garden and have a good amount of success with most plants I try, the indoor greenery is another story. Too little light and a maddening design that puts all of the heater vents right in front of the windows means that houseplants face a challenge in my home.

Take for instance this Dracaena (which I believe is Dracaena deremensis but I'm no expert). When it was new it was short and bushy, and looked so healthy.


It was quite happy, which means it grew pretty fast. After a year or so it started becoming too tall, and now...

...well, you can see it's just horrible. So much stem and so little happy foliage. I've been planning on doing something drastic with it for months, and now that outdoor gardening is finished for a while I have the time.

Knowing that most (all?) Dracaena root readily from cuttings (lucky bamboo is a Dracaena) I got the pruners out and went to town:

I cut the stems into sections, removing lots of the leaves so each section had a stem.

Then I put most of the stems into water, hoping they'll root:

I did poke one of the stems into the soil, as having only two plants in this pot was bothering me. I'm pretty sure that both of the existing plants will resprout, and that the new cutting will too after rooting:

I left one leaf on each plant, thinking it would help if and when the new growth appears.

It's looking so much better already!

I'll keep you posted on the progress. If this works and they start to root, I'll repeat the process with a different Dracaena I have that's looking similarly sad.

Does anybody know if this will work?

(I also spent some time repotting a few of my older houseplants. I know this is better done in late winter before the growing season, but that's when I get busy outdoors again so it's now or never.)


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (November 25, 2013 at 10:30 AM)  

Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about houseplants but please keep us posted on what happens.

Kris Peterson  – (November 25, 2013 at 12:52 PM)  

I'll be interested to see if the dracaena root in water. When I was a kid, my father would cut into a main stem, wrap soil around the cut using saran wrap, and cut the stem off once roots appeared. I'm not sure why he didn't just cut the branch off to begin with and root it in a pot but it did work.

scottweberpdx  – (November 25, 2013 at 1:28 PM)  

I'll admit...I'm hopeless with houseplants...I just don't have the patience for them.

Unknown  – (November 25, 2013 at 2:36 PM)  

Kris Peterson - that method of rooting plants is called air layering. The reason you don't just chop off the top in that method is because when you carefully slice only the bark and some of the vascular bundles. This leaves the plant with the ability to send water from the roots to the leaves, but it can't send food back down to the roots. So it grows new roots on the stem where it was cut.

Alan  – (November 25, 2013 at 3:07 PM)  

Kris: Even if I did want bags of soil (or peat) hanging from these already ugly plants, my cats would have probably pulled them down for me. :)

Steven: thanks for the info! I've heard about air layering but never knew the biology behind it.

Lisa  – (November 25, 2013 at 8:19 PM)  

I am hopeless with house plants. People assume my love of gardening extends to the indoors - nope! I like working outside where I can make big messes and clean up involves a hose!

Alan  – (November 26, 2013 at 7:23 AM)  

Lisa: good point about cleanup. As careful as I was trying to be with the potting soil in the living room, it's impossible not to spill some. I had curious cats with soil covered heads too who weren't helping.

Unknown  – (December 20, 2013 at 9:31 AM)  

Lucky bamboo is a dracaena? Wow! And I didn't know how air layering worked either. There you go, you learn something new every day!

Anonymous –   – (July 20, 2016 at 9:03 PM)  

I am hopeless with house plants. People assume my love of gardening extends to the indoors - nope! I like working outside where I can make big messes and clean up involves a hose!

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