Why does my Dragon Tree have yellow leaves?

Last Updated: May 3, 2022

Dragon Trees are great, low maintenance houseplants but it can be worrying when their leaves start to turn yellow as this usually indicates that there is something wrong. Luckily, we have learnt the hard way and figured out all of the reasons why your Dragon Tree may be developing yellow leaves. You’ll find out everything you need to know below so you can fix the issue. 

Overwatering often causes yellow Dragon Tree leaves

Too much water can quickly turn your Dragon Tree’s leaves yellow and it can be quite a worrying issue if not solved fast. Waterlogged soil means that the root system on your Dragon Tree will be damaged and your plant won’t be able to get the nutrients it needs. This will cause the leaves on your Dragon Tree to turn yellow and they may start to fall off. You want to make sure that your Dragon Tree’s potting mix has fully dried out before watering again. 

How do I know if overwatering is the cause of the yellow leaves?

Luckily, there are a lot of ways you can figure out if overwatering is harming your Dragon Tree:

Leaves are soft

If you notice that the leaves on your Dragon Tree are a little softer than usual, as well as yellow,  then overwatering is the most probable cause.

The potting mix is waterlogged

If you notice the potting mix is soggy and clumpy, overwatering is probably the cause of your Dragon Tree’s yellow leaves. To check the moisture either take the plant out of its pot, or use the finger/chopstick method. Stick a chopstick in the top few inches of the soil, if it comes out with potting mix stuck to it, there is still moisture in the soil. 

The potting mix will smell musty

We always recommend getting up and close to your houseplants on a regular basis as waterlogged soil will smell quite unpleasant, musty and damp. 

Use a moisture meter

To be sure that overwatering is the cause, you may also choose to use a moisture meter. These affordable little devices can tell you with certainty how dry or soggy the soil is and make watering a stress-free routine. 

How do I fix an overwatered Dragon Tree?

Once you have determined that overwatering is causing your Dragon Tree’s leaves to turn yellow, then you must act quickly to prevent any more damage. Take your Dragon Tree out of its pot to check if the potting mix is waterlogged. Inspect the root system and trim away any rotten or damaged roots as well as the worst affected leaves as this will help produce new healthy growth. If the potting mix is waterlogged, replace it with fresh high-quality mix so that your plant can start to recover. 

In future, make sure to only water your Dragon Tree when the potting mix has dried out to avoid overwatering again. 

Underwatering also often causes yellow Dragon Tree leaves

Yellow leaves can be a tricky one to diagnose because they are also caused by a consistent lack of water. Dragon Trees can be quite forgiving if you forget to water them occasionally, but if the problem goes on for several months you’ll start to notice issues including dry yellow leaves which will eventually fall off the plant.

How do I know if underwatering is the cause of the drooping leaves?

Leaves are dry and crispy

Along with yellowing, if the leaves on your Dragon Tree are also very dry, crispy or break easily if touched, then you are probably underwatering your plant.

The potting mix is dry

An easy way to see if the drooping leaves are caused by underwatering is by taking the plant out of its pot and inspecting the potting mix. If the soil feels very dry to touch, almost like dust, then your plant needs more water. 

The soil is coming away from the sides of the pot

This is a great method to be able to tell if your Dragon Tree is being underwatered just by looking at it. If you notice that the soil has compacted and is actually coming away from the sides of your pot, then it indicates that you need to increase watering and this may be the cause of the yellow leaves on your Dragon Tree.

Use a moisture meter

If you aren’t sure about how much moisture is good for your Dragon Tree, then we recommend using a moisture meter as this takes the guessing part away. They conclusively tell you how damp the soil is and if it’s time for water. They are super affordable too so we definitely recommend picking one up. 

How do I fix an underwatered Dragon Tree?

Now that you have established that your Dragon Tree needs more water, you need to fix it in the right way. Initially, you may think that you should drown your plant to compensate for the lack of water. However, this may actually shock your plant as its environment has suddenly and drastically changed. Instead, you want to slowly reintroduce watering by giving it a little twice a day for one week. This will slowly dampen the soil and help your plant recover. In future, make sure to give yourself a better watering routine so you don’t underwater your plant and cause any more yellow leaves. 

Temperature extremes may be causing yellow leaves

Dragon Trees don’t like rapid changes in temperature and will struggle if exposed to really cold drafts or hotspots, causing yellow leaves. Keep them away from drafty windows/ doors, air conditioning vents, radiators and any spots where heat may build up during the day (right next to windows). 

It can be difficult to determine if the temperature is causing the yellow leaves on your Dragon Tree as whilst you may feel as though the temperature is fine in the room, drafts and hot spots may still exist. The only way you’ll be able to know is by using a digital thermometer to check the temperature next to your plant throughout the day and night. We recommend popping the thermometer there for several days throughout the year to pick up on any changes throughout the seasons. This will help you know if you need to move your Dragon Tree around a little throughout the year. 

Fluoride toxicity can cause yellow leaves

Fluoride poisoning is quite common in Dragon Trees as they’re particularly sensitive to chemicals found in tap water/ potting mix/ fertiliser. Here are a few things you can do to avoid fluoride sensitivity: 

Avoid using perlite

Although perlite is great to aid drainage and aeration in the soil, Dragon Trees can be a little sensitive to fluoride contained in perlite which can cause yellow leaves so it’s better to use a mix that doesn’t contain it. 

Check the fertiliser you’re using

If you regularly feed your plant, check to make sure that it doesn’t contain superphosphate as this can cause yellow leaves to develop on your Dragon Tree. 

Avoid using hard water

Although the fluoride levels in tap water should be fine for watering your Dragon Tree, if you live in a particularly hard water area you may need to take some extra steps to reduce the level. You can do this by using filtered water, collected rainwater or by letting your tap water sit for a day before using. The fluoride will sink to the bottom so just remember not to use the last few inches of the water. 

Yellow leaves can indicate a pest infestation

If the yellowing occurs as patches on the leaf, rather than entire leaves at a time, then pests may be the cause. Spider mites are the most common pests found on Dragon Trees so take a good look over your entire plant to spot any unwanted insects. Look especially close at the underside of the leaf as this is where pests like to hang out. 

The best technique for removing them that we’ve found so far is taking your Dragon Tree for a shower. Just rinse down the leaves and stems with water and let them dry off. Keep the water pressure on medium as high pressure can damage the leaves. After a few showers, the spider mites should be gone for good. We also recommend treating your Dragon Tree with neem oil to curb the infestation. 

Natural ageing

If it’s only the lower leaves on your Dragon Tree that are turning yellow then this may be simply natural ageing. Over time, your Dragon Tree will drop some of its oldest leaves in favour of growing bigger healthier new ones. This is completely natural and isn’t something you did wrong or anything to worry about. The rate of natural ageing should be 1 or 2 of the oldest leaves every few months. Monitor the rate of yellowing to see if it is speeding up or well above this rate as there might be another cause you need to look out for.

Should I trim away the yellow leaves?

We always recommend getting rid of the yellow leaves on your Dragon Tree. Unfortunately, once they have turned yellow there is no going back to their usual green colour. So trimming away the leaves means that your Dragon Tree can focus all of its energy on producing new leaves, rather than wasting energy trying to keep the dying yellow leaves alive. 

When trimming the leaves off, always cut them with a sharp pair of scissors rather than ripping them off. Ripping them can damage the plant further. 

So those are the most common reasons why your Dragon Tree has developed yellow leaves. If you have caught the issue early then your Dragon Tree should recover quickly with a few changes here and there to your plant care routine and its environment. 

To find out more about caring for your plant, as well as propagation tips and common problems, check out our full Dragon Tree care guide. 

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