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Stem Rot or Root Rot in a Dracaena Marginata

Standing Water image by Andrzej Thiel from

The Dracaena marginata plant, commonly referred to as the dragon tree, is commonly attacked by a bacterium that leads to stem and root rot. Damage ranges from moderate injury to plant death. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms to watch for as well as ways to prevent spreading and infection for the continuation of healthy plants in your home garden.


Healthy, uninjured plants have a greater likelihood of avoiding or recovering from rot problems when compared to poorly maintained, injured and stressed plants. Grow your Dracaena marginata in partial sun to partial shade for best development, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Though this plant grows successfully in many conditions, including drought, Dracaenas thrive in moist, well-drained soil high in organic content.


Stem and root rot of Dracaena marginata plants is caused by the invasion of the bacterium Erwinia carotovora ssp. carotovora, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The bacterium primarily invades plants through wounds, and pathogens are spread in water. Bacteria of this disease thrive in high temperatures and moist conditions.


Soft rot bacterial disease on Dracaena marginatas leads to brown rot on the base portion of the plant, including the stem near the soil line and plant roots. The base appears saturated in water, takes on a dark hue that eventually becomes dark brown and decays into a soft state. The decay produces a displeasing odor and the leaves near the bottom of the plant often drop.


Bacteria of the stem and root rot disease affecting Dracaena marginata plants can spread from one plant to the other when grown in close proximity. Take other host plants into consideration when making your home garden selections to prevent the spread of disease that increases the potential for plant damage and death. Common host plants include other Dracaena species, Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera X buckleyi (T. Moore) Tjaden), Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema species) and dumbcane (Dieffenbachia species), according to the Penn State University Cooperative Extension.


For control of soft rot on the stems and roots of Dracaena marginatas, maintain extremely well-drained soil to avoid creating ideal conditions for bacterial growth. Handle your plants with care to avoid injury. Purchase disease-free plants and avoid overhead irrigation that creates areas of standing water. For mildly affected plants, remove and destroy infected parts to prevent further development of the disease and to provide potential for recuperation. For severely infected Dracaenas, remove and destroy the entire plant; there is no chemical cure.

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