Caring for Dracaena Compacta
Meet the Shapely Proper Compacta
Dracaena compacta are widely used as houseplants. This plant is highly distinguishable from most other interior Dracaena, having a green stem and very tightly compacted clumping leaves that are only two to four inches in length from the base of the cane. It has a very distinct shapely look that is very popular in contemporary designs, similar to Pleo reflexa.
Dracaena are generally slow growing indoor plants. Compacta is possibly the slowest growing of all common indoor Dracaena. Due to this very slow growth, these specimens are slow to change. This plant is also one of the most expensive indoor Dracaena.
It is often found to be a bit more difficult to care for than some of the other Dracaena, including Mass Cane, Lisa, Warnekii, Rikki, and Reflexa. It seems that the difficulty is compounded by the added delay in reaction to trauma.
To have a higher potential of success, a better understanding is a must.
Finding a Space
Compacta is often touted as being a low light tolerant plant, but experience has shown that the degree of tolerance lower light is not much, it is best to stay within the range the low end of moderate light for best results indoors. Productivity can slow to a near stall for a compacta in low light, watering must be adjusted to match the condition.
In low light it will begin to loose foliage from the bottom to the top. A common problem is brown tipped leaves that can frequently appear in mass quatities, if too many of these leaves are removed at once the cane is often found to shrivel where the leaves are removed, and the remaining foliage head becomes top heavy and tips over. Symptoms such as these are typically attributed to over watering but compacta are prone to exhibit these symptoms as side effects of acclimation.
High indoor light is acceptable for compacta. In high light compacta will use water at a more regular rate, so it may dry out over a weeks time and need watering as frequently as once a week.
Watering compacta can be a challenge since it is most often potted in lava rock, and has incredibly slow productivity.
Lava rock is a difficult soil medium for checking moisture, when watered the water rushes through to the liner. If Lava rock is the soil medium it is often best to put your plant on a watering schedule. For a compacta in moderate light conditions watering every other week, just to the point that water starts to trickle into the liner should be sufficient. In higher light increase the frequency, in lower light decrease the frequency and or amount.
The very slow productivity of this plant makes it very slow to show symptoms of over or under watering. For example when brown tips are produced the initial over watering damage that caused it may have occurred several weeks prior to the display of the symptoms. Paying attention, remembering any changes in environment, and keeping track of water application from week to week are most helpful to identifying issues and making sure to avoid over correction for a past issue that has recently shown its effects.
In general, compacta is a houseplant that can be described as doing best when kept on the dryer end of the water spectrum, however it does well with a consistent watering schedule. Feast or famine watering is not a great choice for compacta. Use more of a regular distribution, limited portion control mentality when watering compacta for best results.
Like most cane Dracaena the reactions of particular cane's can be very telling in regard to watering anomalies. Different canes have roots at different levels and their reactions will indicate different watering issues in detail. Check the link to the right for more information about the internal potting structure of Dracaena cane's, and how to use the individual cane reactions to troubleshoot watering issues.
Remember to distribute water evenly across the soil surface when watering.
- White Lint on House Plant, You May Have Mealy Bug
Have you noticed something that looks a bit like lint on your houseplant. You could have some cotton stuck on your plant, but more likely your plant has Mealy bug. To find out more about this common pest look inside the Thoughthole.
Dracaena Compacta and Mealy Bug
The most common houseplant pest found on compacta is the mealy bug. These little white linty looking bugs love to live nestled down in the foliage crowns.
The best treatment for mealy bug is to hand wipe the visible bugs off with a baby wipe or wet paper towel. In extreme cases the new growth crown can be cut out to remove the bugs nestled deep inside. The crowns will regrow, and will often sprout multiple crowns in place, but since this is a slow growing plant regeneration of new growth can take a significant amount of time.
For more information on identifying and treating mealy bug check the link to the right.
General Maintenance Tips
There are some very common issues associated with compacta that should be tended to regularly.
- Yellow Leaves or full brown leaves should be completely removed. This is commonly a symptom of under watering at some point.
- Brown crunchy, or yellow leaf tips are one of the most prevalent issues. The tips can be trimmed back to the green area of the leaf if needed, or if it is severe enough the entire leaf can be removed. If this problem becomes persistent and severe there is either an issue of over watering or inadequate.
- No need to fertilize in most interior situations. Even in high light it is rare to find a compacta that is active enough indoors to process nutrients sufficiently from the soil, adding nutrient will most likely cause leaf spots and chemical burn. Even more rare is to find that this plant has been active enough and lasted long enough to have used it's pots nutrients
- Remove dead canes if they are to die out.
- Rotate to maintain balance and distribute light evenly around the entire plant.
- Dust your plant to keep it looking green and shiny. Start from the top and go down the foliage with a duster, a bit of detailed dusting may be needed to get into the tight leaf bases.
Given the proper attention and living space compacta can make for an interesting and visually striking houseplant.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
One of the canes on my twenty-year-old plant is dying. The cane is dark and wrinkled and the leaves have started to yellow. What do I do with this cane and is there still hope for the rest of the plant?
Unfortunately, once a cane has become visibly wrinkled and discolored it is usually done for. The cane has likely been on the decline for a while. If this is a plant with multiple canes, simply remove the cane that has died by twisting it and gently pulling it from the pot. Some soil may need to be added after it is removed in order to backfill the whole that will be left.Helpful 3
The leaves are turning black on my Dracaena Compacta, what would be the problem?
Black or purple leaves most often indicate damage from cold exposure. Compacta leaves will also begin to turn purplish black at the base and defoliate if light exposure is too insufficient.Helpful 14
Almost all of my dracaena compacta's heads have completely flopped over. I neglected them for a while, and a lot of its leaves turned brown. After I removed the brown leaves and started paying attention to it, I've watched as they've all just tipped over. Some of the canes have started to shrivel too. Even these sad heads seem to have new growth, so I'm confused--do I cut them back? Can I stake them up?
Since compacta is a slow processing plant, it is very common that a plant that has been neglected for a while will display the full effects of that neglect after normal care has been resumed. It is a delayed reaction which does commonly cause confusion. From what you describe, it sounds like some permanent root damage has occurred during the period of neglect effectively cutting off or dramatically diminishing the plant's ability to absorb and deliver water. I believe the growth on the tips is living on reserve water between the space where the stalks have wrinkled and bent and in the crow. Once that water is gone, the foliage crowns will completely die.
To revive this plant the leaf crowns will have to be removed. Check the remaining stalks for overall stability. If the whole stalk moves from side to side with ease, the root structure is very weak. If the stalks are still sturdy, there may be a reliable root structure left.
Water what is left consistently, and allow the soil to dry between waterings. It is common for people to overcorrect an issue like this with too much or frequent watering. This will further damage any remaining roots.
If the plant has been able to hold onto enough root structure and has enough viable plant cells left in the stalk, it will slowly begin to regenerate foliage. If too many roots and remaining plant cells have been damaged the remaining stalk will not be able to absorb water and will ultimately die. If this is the case, you will continue to see more wrinkling and discoloration of the remaining stalks.Helpful 10
The leaves of my Dracaena Compacta are looking a little droopy. Would this mean that I am over or under watering it? What should I do to correct this?
Drooping leaves are most commonly associated with underwatering, however, if a plant has been overwatered to the point of causing root damage weepy foliage can result. Check the moisture level in your soil using your hand, and or a soil probe. If it is overly dry water accordingly. If the soil is wet take measures to allow for adequate drainage, and avoid watering until the time soil media has dried out.Helpful 5
Do Draceana thrive in a humid or more arid environment? I have rooms with fans to circulate the air, but I've read that some plants don't tolerate drafts.
Dracaena should not be affected negatively by a ceiling fan, just be sure to be mindful of watering to compensate for the increased airflow that may increase the evaporation rate of moisture in the soil.Helpful 4