Why Dracaena Leaves Turn Brown

Hi Judy. I believe I have a Dracaena Carmen (although I once saw it referred to as a Dracaena Art Carmen) that is showing signs of distress (see photo; the “healthy” leaves are firm, dark green with a yellow stripe along each edge). Any idea what I’m doing wrong and how to remedy? I don’t know if it matters, but I recently moved from an almost 100% fluorescent office light interior office to an office with a south facing window that lets in plenty of indirect sunlight and a few hours of direct sunlight. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!

Hi Brady,


Leaf tips and edges of a dracaena turn brown, or “leaf tip burn” as this condition is sometimes called, is usually caused by too much chlorine, fluoride, salt, or plant food. Never use water that has passed through a softener on houseplants, it has much too  much salt in it. Dracaenas are very sensitive to chlorine and especially fluorine. If your household water contain a great deal allow it sit out over night before using it. You can also use rain water or distilled water. Feed a dracaena monthly in the spring and summer, and always dilute your plant food to 1/2 the recommended strength. Dracaenas are low lightWhen you select “Low Light” a list of the most adaptive plants in our database appears. These plants can live in lighting conditions too low to support any other plants in our database, but will grow faster in medium and high light. Variegation (color) in the leaves is often lost in low light. A plant in low light needs less water and fertilizer than the same plant in better light. Place a low-light plant within 2-3 ft. of a window with a northern exposure, 3-5 ft. of a window with an eastern exposure, 4-10 ft. of a window with a western exposure, and 10-18ft. of a window with a southern exposure. A low light area has between 50-150 ft. candles of light. The best low light house plants are: Chinese Evergreen, Dracaena Janet Craig, Peace Lily, Heart leaf Philodendron. plants that get bleached and damaged if any direct sun hits the leaves. So if it were my plant I’d move it further from the window perhaps into a corner protected from the sun. You can read all my care tips on how to grow a dracaena in the Popular Houseplant section of the website.