The Madagascar dragon tree, one of the easiest and toughest houseplants, can grow up to 6 ft. in height. They thrive well under drought-like conditions and can bear quite a lot of negligence.
Dracaena Marginata, or Madagascar dragon tree, are slow growers and take about 10 years to reach full height. The arching leaves from sideways growing stems provide a tropical palm tree look to any house room. The plant’s older leaves are shed from the bottom of the trunk, a natural phenomenon.
However, several reasons contribute to Madagascar dragon tree leaves turning yellow, including lack of moisture (underwatering), too much water (overwatering), sensitivity to fluoride in tap water and fertilizers, pest infestation, temperature sensitivity, and natural phenomena.
Let’s discuss all the causes of Madagascar dragon tree yellow leaves so that you can promptly identify and fix the issue.
Lack of Moisture/ Underwatering
The best indicator that you are correctly watering your Madagascar dragon tree is keeping its soil slightly moist. Improper soil moisture is one of the leading reasons why plant leaves turn yellow.
Water movement is the primary source of nutrient transport in plants from roots to leaves, and even though the Madagascar dragon tree is quite forgiving if you forget to water it for a few days, too little watering will result in poor uptake of nutrients by the leaves, resulting in their yellowish color.
Yellow leaves indicate dryness and lack of moisture in the plant, and the dried-out leaves eventually fall off.
If you suspect that your Madagascar dragon tree leaves are turning yellow due to underwatering, determine whether the leaves are crispy and dry by touching them. If the yellow and brittle leaves break easily, you are not watering your plant enough.
A moisture meter is always an easy-to-use option if you want to determine the moisture content of plant soil. If the potting mix of your Madagascar dragon tree feels very dry to the touch after you take it out from its pot, then it is a clear indication that your plant is thirsty.
Another sign of underwatering is the soil pulling away from the sides of the pot, which can be either due to a lack of watering or if the pot size is too small to hold sufficient water for your plant to thrive. If you notice signs in your Madagascar dragon tree that contribute to dry, drooping yellow leaves that look completely lifeless, it is time to fix this problem.
Start by reintroducing water slowly by watering it twice a day in small doses and allowing it to absorb the water and breathe before watering it again. In the future, ensure that you maintain a consistent watering routine and do not bring the plant to the brink of dehydration.
Too Much Water/ Overwatering
Conversely, too much watering also suffocates the Madagascar dragon tree plant. Many houseplant lovers worldwide, including those in the USA, tend to make the most common mistake of overwatering their houseplants.
The most common answer to why overwatering kills plants is because plant roots suffocate due to lack of oxygen, and too much water leads to the development of fungal decay diseases like root rot, which leads to irreversible damage and rotting of roots.
Your Madagascar dragon tree’s yellow leaves may also indicate that you are watering the plant more than it requires if the leaves are soft to the touch, as opposed to the brittle texture that results from underwatering.
Stunted plant growth and yellowing old and new leaves that fall off the plant at an accelerated rate means you are overwatering it. The wilted and yellowed leaves become waterlogged, resulting from root rot, as the lack of oxygen and fungal infection can cause the roots to rot and deteriorate the whole plant system.
If you suspect that your plant is choking on too much water, then immediately observe the water content in the soil. You must check the roots for potential diseases if it is moist, clumpy, or soggy.
Smell the wet soil of your plant, which usually gives off a smell of spring. However, if you notice that your plant soil smells unpleasant, rotten, and musty, it indicates a problem.
If such is the case that leads to Madagascar dragon tree leaves turning yellow, then you must stop watering it immediately. Do not try to water the plant again until its soil surface is dry to the touch. Then move the plant to a bright spot, actively allowing it to absorb water.
By shaking up the soil or gently tilting the pot, much-needed pockets are created to air out the drowned roots. Take out the plant from its pot and trim away the damaged roots and leaves, and if the soil is excessively waterlogged, then repotting will be required.
Take some fresh and high-quality mix and plant your Madagascar dragon tree in a new pot with proper drainage holes. In time your plant will start to recover from overwatering effects.
Sensitivity to Fluoride in Tap Water and Fertilizers
The Madagascar dragon tree is one of the houseplants extremely sensitive to fluoride. Mineral fluoride is added to community water supplies throughout America to benefit dental health and cavity protection.
The most prominent symptom of fluoride toxicity in the Madagascar dragon tree is that the leaves turn yellow and brown and eventually develop scorched and dead areas. This phenomenon is called leaf necrosis.
In leaf necrosis, yellowing usually starts developing from the tips of leaves and then proceeds along the margins, finally spreading inwards till it consumes the whole leaf.
Fluoride toxicity is deadly to Madagascar dragon tree leaves, as it inhibits photosynthesis, leading to irreversible damage, which means that dead leaves must be trimmed off the plant.
Since fluoride is most commonly found in tap water across the USA, avoid using tap water for your Madagascar dragon tree if you live in one of the cities where hard water is a common problem, like Indianapolis (Indiana), Las Vegas (Nevada), or Minneapolis (Minnesota), etc. Use filtered water or rainwater for this purpose.
However, if you cannot help but water your plant with tap water, try to avoid using perlite, which is commonly used to aerate the compost. Perlite contains fluoride, which will increase its mineral content in the soil.
Besides perlite, do not use superphosphate fertilizers, as it has high fluoride contents, leading to leaf tip burn. Keep the pH levels of your Madagascar dragon tree soil balanced, and ensure that your potting mix contains high calcium levels if the plant is exposed to fluoride toxicity.
The most common pests attacking the Madagascar dragon tree are mealybugs and whitefly. These pests, and the frequently found spider mites, attack houseplants already under temperature or water stress.
If pests and bugs infest your Madagascar dragon tree, it will develop symptoms that look like yellow patches on leaves. Spider mites are sap-sucking pests that produce tiny yellow specks or spots on your plant leaves. These pests are not commonly visible to the naked eye, but heavy infestations can result in yellow stippling of leaves which then takes on an overall faded color.
If you notice premature leaf dropping along with yellowing of Madagascar dragon tree leaves, then look at the underside of leaves where spider mites take over most commonly. The prompt solution to this problem is wiping the dirty leaves or rinsing the whole plant under running water.
After washing the plant leaves, spray them with insecticidal soap, neem oil, or a solution of rubbing alcohol with water, as it kills these pests instantly.
Prevent the spread of spider mites to other plants by inspecting your plant more frequently in the future and treating your Madagascar dragon tree plant with neem oil in the future to prevent the return of these pests.
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Even though the Madagascar dragon tree can survive in various temperature fluctuations, the optimum temperature for ideal plant growth is between 65°F to 75°F. The houseplant can survive in colder months if you do not water it too frequently, but you should regulate its surrounding temperature if it drops below 50°F.
Cold drafts are one of the most common causes of Madagascar dragon tree leaves yellowing in colder months. To fix this problem, keep your plant away from doors and windows that let in the cold wind or air conditioning or radiator vents that contribute to temperature fluctuations in the room.
A thermometer and hygrometer are efficient tools that allow a plant owner to monitor two of the most critical elements that affect plant growth and leaf yellowing: humidity and temperature.
Keeping a thermometer beside your Madagascar dragon tree will allow you to monitor its surrounding temperature and determine heat fluctuations. In this way, you can move your plant to its desired location and prevent the development of yellow leaves.
Is Madagascar Dragon Tree Leaves Turning Yellow a Natural Phenomenon?
Madagascar dragon tree leaves turn yellow when they age naturally. The lower leaves of this houseplant turn yellow and eventually drop off the plant so that the new, healthier, and bigger leaves can get enough nutrients to grow properly.
Dropping 1 or 2 older leaves in a month in an actively growing plant is a healthy and expected occurrence. The condition is alarming when it spreads to younger leaves, or the yellowing accelerates. This indicates another underlying problem is speeding up the Madagascar dragon tree yellowing leaves process.
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Hi! I’m Sophia, and I love plants – especially an expert in growing house plants. I stay in Chicago, United States of America, and through my blog and social media platforms, provide tips and tricks on how to grow healthy, vibrant plants indoors. Check out more here.