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Garden Help Desk: How to root trimmings from a tall dracaena plant

By USU Extension - Special to the Daily Herald | Feb 17, 2024
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Indoor plants often become leggy, or "stretched out," if they aren't getting enough light. Many times, this can be corrected by cutting back the plant and relocating it to a brighter setting.
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You can check the viability of seeds that have been in storage for a while by doing a germination test. The results of your test will help you decide whether, and how thickly, to plant older seeds.

We have a dracaena plant that’s grown too tall. Can we remove the top of the tall part and root it? What is the best way to shorten the plant?

From what I can see in your photo, your dracaena looks like a Dracaena marginata, also called a dragon tree or dragon plant. Dracaenas are popular indoor plants because they do well in a variety of lighting and temperature conditions.

There are a few different options for reducing the height of the tallest stem on your plant, some easier than others.

The easiest: Simply cut back that tallest stem to a height that will look good with the remaining stems. With a little patience, you should see new shoots growing at the upper nodes at the cut you’ve made. You can root the leafy top you’ve removed from your dracaena if you’d like to get a bonus plant.

You can also cut that stem you’ve removed into one or two additional lengths and root them. Each stem must have at least two sets of leaves plus one to two pairs of nodes for roots. It’s important to keep track of the top and bottom of the cuttings so that they don’t get planted upside down.

Dracaena cuttings usually root easily. Rooting hormone isn’t essential, but it can be helpful when trying to root cuttings from larger, older stems.

Putting the stem of that leafy top, or any cutting, in a glass of water is the easiest way to root a cutting. Once you see enough sturdy roots to support the cutting, you can pot up the cutting. Choose a container that’s large enough for the new roots without crowding them in, and use a potting mix that drains freely.

You can also tuck a cutting into a container of moist potting soil instead of using a glass of water. Keep the soil moist but never wet.

Air layering is another way to shorten a leggy branch on an indoor plant. Wound the stem just above where you’ll make your cut by nicking, scratching or scraping into the stem. Surround the wounded area with moist sphagnum peat moss and wrap the area with plastic wrap. Check for roots every couple of weeks and mist the peat moss to keep it lightly moist. Once there are enough roots to support the new plants, you can remove the plastic wrap and sphagnum moss and cut free the rooted stem just below the new roots. Pot the cutting just like you would any other rooted cutting.

No matter how you decide to take care of the leggy stem on your dracaena, make sure you use sharp, clean tools.

I still have some garden seeds that I bought a few years ago. Should I throw them out? Double or triple the number of seeds I plant? How can I tell if they are still good?

What you should do depends on what kind of seeds you have and how they’ve been stored.

Some flower and vegetable seeds have a longer storage life than others. For example, seeds from pansies or onions germinate poorly after just a year or two in storage, while lettuce and snapdragons will store for several years and still germinate well.

Seeds should be stored in a cold, dark location where they’ll be protected from humidity. If your leftover seeds have been sitting in a box on a garage shelf for a few years, you’re probably better off starting over. If your storage conditions have been ideal, it’s worth testing their germination rate.

All you need for doing your own germination tests is a few paper towels, a plastic bag and a warm place to put your test. Moisten a paper towel, lay 10 to 20 seeds across the towel and fold up the towel to cover the seeds. Put the folded towel in the plastic bag and set it in a warm location. Check every few days to make sure the paper towel is still moist and watch for germination.

Once you stop seeing new sprouts, do a little math to determine the new germination percentage. If germination hasn’t changed much compared to the germination listed on the seed packet, go ahead and plant as usual. If germination was just a little lower, sow your seeds a little more thickly. If germination was very low, it’s best to purchase new seeds.


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