10 Common Causes of Yellow Leaves on Dracaena Marginata Plants

If Dracaena marginata leaves start turning yellow, it’s usually due to overwatering, underwatering, low humidity, or fluctuating temperatures. In this article, I’ll explain how to identify and solve ten common causes of yellow leaves and how to fix the issue at home.

10 Common Causes of Yellow Leaves on Dracaena Marginata Plants

10 Common Causes of Yellow Leaves on Dracaena Marginata Plants

1. Overwatering

Overwatering is the most common reason why Dracaena marginata leaves start turning yellow. Dracaena marginata plants usually need watering once a week or whenever the top 3 or 4 inches of soil feel dry.

Dragon trees hate sitting in waterlogged soil. This is either caused by watering too frequently or soil that doesn’t drain well enough. Overwatering makes Dracaena marginata plants more vulnerable to problems like root rot, which causes drooping yellowing leaves.

If leaves start turning yellow, check to see if the soil feels waterlogged and examine the roots. Rotting roots will be brown, mushy, and smelly, so trim the affected roots away. Repot the dragon tree in fresh, well-draining soil with some perlite and only water once a week.

2. Underwatering

Underwatering your Dracaena marginata can also result in yellowing leaves. Although dragon trees don’t like waterlogged soil, they still need slightly moist soil. If the soil gets too dry, the leaves can start wilting and turning yellow.

Soil that is too dry can become hydrophobic. This means that water cannot soak through to the roots and instead drains straight out of the pot. Dry soil also starts pulling away from the edges of the pot.

If your Dracaena marginata is suffering from underwatering, give it small amounts of water over a few days. Alternatively, place the dragon tree in a tray and let it soak up a few inches of water through the drainage holes. This helps rehydrate the soil.

3. Low Humidity

A dragon tree with wilting brown leaves

Dracaena marginata plants need moderate to high humidity levels (60 to 80%) to truly thrive. If dragon trees aren’t kept in a sufficiently humid environment, they can experience problems like yellowing leaves. The tips of the leaves may also start turning brown. Use humidifiers or pebble trays to keep the humidity levels in the right window for dragon trees.

4. Fluctuating Temperatures

As well as high humidity, most types of Dracaena plants also need warm, stable temperatures. Dragon trees require constant temperatures between 65 and 78ºF (18 to 25ºC). If temperatures get too cold or fluctuate too wildly, dragon trees will show signs of stress, such as yellowing leaves.

Cold or dry drafts can lower the temperature or humidity around your dragon tree, so keeping the plant away from drafts is vital. Avoid placing Dracaena marginata plants near open windows, air vents, or radiators.

5. Too Much Light

A dracaena marginata plant with drooping yellowing and brown leaves

Dracaena marginata plants grow best in bright, indirect sunlight or filtered light. East or southeast-facing windows provide the best light conditions for dragon trees. If dragon trees receive too much bright, direct light, it can cause problems.

Dragon trees that sit in direct sunlight will end up with scorched, drooping leaves that turn yellow or brown. This can cause permanent damage to the plant. Move your Dracaena marginata to a location with indirect or filtered sunlight to help it recover.

6. Not Enough Light

Dracaena marginata cannot tolerate low-light conditions and may experience yellowing leaves if they don’t receive enough sunlight. Dragon trees that don’t get enough light can also suffer from discoloration and weak or stunted growth.

North-facing rooms will not provide enough sunlight for Dracaena marginata plants, so keep dragon trees away from these areas. Place your dragon tree approximately 3 feet away from an east or southeast-facing window to provide the perfect amount of light.

7. Poor Water Quality

A person holding a brown tipped leaf of a dracaena marginata plant

Even if you water your Dracaena marginata plant at the correct time, it may still develop yellow leaves. Tap water contains chemicals and salts such as chlorine or fluoride. A buildup of these chemicals can cause problems such as yellow or brown leaves.

Water your Dracaena marginata using distilled or filtered water. This prevents chemicals and salts from saturating the soil and harming the plant. Alternatively, you can let tap water sit for 24 hours before using it on your dragon tree. This allows any chemicals or salts to evaporate safely.

8. Too Much Fertilizer

Although fertilizer is beneficial for dragon trees, too much fertilizer can actually damage the plant. Dracaena marginata plants should be given a diluted dose of liquid fertilizer once a month during spring and summer. However, fertilizers contain salts and chemicals that can damage plants if they stay in the soil for too long.

Over time, buildups of these salts manifest as white speckles in the soil. These deposits can turn Dracaena marginata leaves yellow or brown. Remove salts and chemicals by flushing the soil through with clean water if yellow leaves appear.

9. Diseases or Pests

A plant insect on a stem

Common dracaena diseases or pest infestations can also turn dragon tree leaves yellow. In particular, sap-sucking insects such as aphids or thrips can have this effect. Leaf spot diseases can also cause discoloration of the leaves, turning them brown or yellow.

Most pests can be removed by blasting the dragon tree with short bursts from a hose. Alternatively, you can use horticultural oils such as neem oil to treat many problems. If your Dracaena marginata is suffering from a disease, providing good care can usually stop the problem from getting worse.

10. Natural Aging

If your Dracaena marginata has a couple of yellowing leaves, it’s not necessarily due to a specific problem. As dragon trees age, older leaves will naturally turn yellow and fall off. This usually happens with lower leaves that are at least one year old.

Dragon trees can live for approximately ten years when grown indoors. Don’t panic if one or two lower leaves turn yellow, especially if you can’t detect any specific issues with the plant. Providing the best possible care requirements helps your dragon tree live a long and healthy life.

How to Fix Yellow Leaves on a Dracaena Marginata Plant

A lush and vibrant healthy dragon tree

Once a dragon tree leaf has turned yellow, the damage can’t be reversed. Remove the yellowing leaf and dispose of it. Then, try and figure out what caused the discoloration.

First, check whether the soil feels waterlogged or completely dry to rule out overwatering or underwatering. Then check for white speckles that may indicate a buildup of chemicals or salts from over-fertilizing. Examine the remaining leaves for any signs of pests such as mealybugs.

Once you believe you’ve identified the cause, deploy the appropriate solution. This should resolve the issue and prevent any more leaves from turning yellow.

For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position Dracaena marginata plants in the home for optimal care and Feng Shui benefits. 

Yellowing Leaves on Dracaena marginata Plants FAQs:

Can Yellow Dracaena Marginata Leaves Turn Green Again?

Once Dracaena marginata leaves turn yellow, they won’t recover or turn green again. Remove them to keep the plant looking good.

Can Direct Sunlight Cause Dracaena Marginata Leaves to Turn Yellow?

Too much direct sunlight can turn dragon tree leaves yellow, so keep the plant somewhere with indirect or filtered light.

Does the Type of Water Cause Dracaena Marginata Leaves to Turn Yellow?

Tap water can cause dragon tree leaves to turn yellow due to chemicals such as chlorine or fluoride. Use distilled or filtered water instead.

Can Over-Fertilizing Cause Dracaena Marginata Leaves to Turn Yellow?

Applying too much fertilizer can turn dragon tree leaves yellow due to buildups of chemicals and salts. Only fertilize once a month during the growing season.

Wrapping Up

Dragon trees are well known for their dramatic, red-edged leaves. So you don’t want to lose that color due to the leaves turning yellow. Dracaena marginata leaves can turn yellow due to overwatering, underwatering, incorrect lighting, over-fertilizing, low humidity, or fluctuating temperatures. Remove yellow leaves, as they won’t return to their original color.

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