Dragon Tree, or Dracaena if you want to use their Latin name, tend to be one of the easier houseplants to take care of. This also means that if you do spot a problem, it is usually fairly easy to diagnose and correct the issue before it damages your plant’s health too much. There are not many causes of leaves dropping for Dragon Plants, the main ones being overwatering, low light levels, or cold temperatures/drafts.
Overwatering can cause your Dragon Tree to start losing leaves
If you find that your Dragon Tree is losing leaves from the bottom up, then it may be a problem with the roots that is causing the issue. The most common one is overwatering. Giving them too much water too often is one of the main killers of Dragon Trees so you need to act quickly if you suspect this is the problem.
Dragon Trees absolutely hate sitting in water as this can easily lead to root rot meaning the plant becomes unstable and also cannot get needed nutrients from its root system. Waterlogged soil also gives off quite a damp and musty smell so get up close to all of your houseplants every so often to check for any smells.
If you think that your Dragon Tree is waterlogged (and this is why it’s losing leaves), check the moisture of the soil immediately and adjust watering accordingly. We also recommend replacing the potting soil straight away (rather than waiting for it to naturally dry out) so that the roots can begin to recover and resume healthy growth.
If you decide to wait for the soil to naturally dry out, you risk causing more damage to your Dragon Tree, causing it to maybe start losing even more leaves. Take a look at our guide to handling root rot for more information on how to diagnose, treat and prevent the issue.
In future, to avoid your plant losing any more leaves, try to regulate your watering and always check that the top of the soil is dry before giving your Dragon Tree any more water. You need to also water according to the seasons; in the spring and summer (growth period) your Dragon Tree will require water about every 5-6 days. However, in winter (dormant period) about once every few weeks is enough.
Using a moisture meter can really help establish when it is time to water your plant, and when it might need a few more days to dry out a bit further.
We also recommend removing any excess water from the saucer, tray or planter about 20 minutes after watering. This will allow your Dragon Tree to take in as much as it needs but will prevent the soil from becoming too waterlogged.
Leaf drop can also indicate drainage issues
It’s worth checking the drainage of the soil and pot that you’re using for your Dragon Tree as even if you are watering the correct amount, without proper drainage your plant may still be waterlogged. Having the root system soaked in water for long periods of time is likely to bring about a whole host of problems, not just your plant losing leaves.
There are a few ways you can increase the drainage for your Dragon Tree and other houseplants to prevent them from losing any more leaves.
Firstly, make sure that the pot has several drainage holes and that they are unblocked. These will allow excess water to flow out of the pot into a saucer, tray or planter and it keeps the roots from sitting in waterlogged soil. If your Dragon Tree’s pot doesn’t have any drainage holes, then repot it to a pot of a similar size.
Add perlite to the soil
Another way to increase drainage is to add some perlite to the soil. This not only helps the soil drain better but perlite also increases aeration in the potting mix. This will go a long way to preventing your Dragon Tree and other houseplants from losing leaves due to waterlogged soil.
Switch to terracotta pots
If you are using a plastic pot for your Dragon Tree, then you might want to consider switching it to a terracotta pot to prevent it from losing any more leaves. Terracotta pots are permeable which means some of that excess water can evaporate out of the sides of the pot, whereas plastic pots retain every single drop of moisture. This can mean even the occasional overwatering or blocked drainage holes can have serious consequences for your Dragon Tree, losing leaves being one of them.
Dragon Trees can start losing leaves due to lighting issues
Dragon Trees like bright, indirect light and if they spend too long in a shady spot, they may start losing some of their leaves. Make sure you place your Dragon Tree in a spot that receives several hours of bright light. You might also need to think about moving your Dragon Plant around depending on the seasons. In the winter months, when the sun isn’t as strong (and out for less of the day) it might be necessary to move your plant a little closer to the window to make use of the limited sunlight as best as possible. Because the sun is weaker during winter, there isn’t so much of a risk that the leaves will burn or dry out compared to direct light in summer.
If you can’t find a sunnier spot in your home for your Dragon Plant, don’t worry. They are pretty resilient plants so they can cope in a range of environments. Your Dragon Plant will adjust to the light levels and should stop losing as many leaves as it begins to adapt. It may drop one or two every few months but this shouldn’t be anything to worry about, it is just prioritising new growth over its older leaves (more on that below).
Cold temperatures/drafts may also be to blame for your Dragon Tree losing leaves
Another cause of leaf drop in Dragon Tree plants can be cold temperatures and drafts. They dislike cold air so make sure that you do not place your plant near doors or windows that may be drafty. Even though the temperature of your home may be perfect for your Dragon Tree and feel fine to you, the cold drafts coming in from outside may be colder and harm your plant’s health.
This won’t cause too many issues from one day to the next (unless there is a substantial drop in temperature) but if exposed to cold air over a longer period of time, this is when your Dragon Tree can start losing leaves in response.
A lack of tolerance of cold air is actually the case for most houseplants so try and avoid placing any near drafty windows or doors that are often open to the outside. It can be a really good idea to pick up a digital thermometer to check the spot your Dragon Plant is in as it will help you spot any fluctuations in temperature before they start negatively impacting its health.
Natural ageing can cause some leaves to fall off
As your Dragon Plant matures, it may occasionally start losing a lower leaf as a natural sign of ageing. This is absolutely nothing to worry about but make sure that you keep track of how many leaves have dropped off your plant and how often this is occurring. If you feel it is losing too many leaves, more than a few each month, double-check the environment around your Dragon Tree as it could be a sign of one of the issues detailed above. There is no harm in giving the soil and roots a once over to check for signs of root rot and keep an eye on any changes in light or temperature that may be affecting its health.
Another important thing to monitor when it comes to diagnosing natural leaf drop is how many new healthy leaves your Dragon Tree is growing compared to the ones it is losing. If it’s dropping a lot more than it is growing, this also signals something isn’t quite right.
Leaf drop isn’t always something to be alarmed about, but it is good to double-check the care you are giving your Dragon Tree to see if it may be a sign of a more serious issue. Thankfully there aren’t too many reasons you need to check through and a small adjustment to your care routine or its environment should have your Dragon Tree back in full health pretty quickly.
Check out our Dragon Tree care guide for more information on how to best look after your plant and prevent any further problems from arising.
Written by Billy Dawson