Corn Plant Care: How to Grow Dracaena Fragrans


Dracaena fragrans, commonly known as the corn plant for its likeness to the tall, sweet corn stalks that grow across the Midwest, is a striking and low-effort houseplant that can grow up to six feet tall. The Latin name comes from the night-blooming flowers this plant produces, which are said to give off an almost overwhelming sweet fragrance. 

This plant has become increasingly popular because corn plant care is so easy. They require little fertilizer, need water only once or twice a week, and can live in a variety of lighting conditions.

Their striking green and yellow leaves, and palm-tree-like appearance, add style and a sense of well-being to any office or home. Experiments performed by NASA have shown that this plant improves air quality by removing pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde.

Here’s our corn plant care guide:

Light requirements

Corn plants are happiest in light shade or filtered sunlight. However they tolerate a variety of lighting conditions and a dimmer room or artificial light will not harm them. Your corn plant may not grow as quickly or may have less vibrant leaves if you choose to keep it in less than ideal lighting conditions.

Temperature requirements

As a plant native to tropical and subtropical Africa, corn plants don’t like the cold. Your Dracaena fragrans will thrive between 60-75oF (16-24oC) but be sure to never let your Dracaena be exposed to temperatures below freezing.

Watering requirements

Water your corn plant as soon as the top two inches of soil are dry, rather than depending on a strict watering schedule. Keep the soil from staying soggy or soaked by placing it in a pot with drainage holes in the bottom.

Corn plants are sensitive to fluoride, so water with reverse osmosis or distilled water. If you use tap water, or fertilizer containing boron or fluoride, you may need to flush the soil occasionally to avoid leaf burn.

Soil requirements

Corn plants prefer moist, well-drained, loamy soil, such as a commercial potting mix. To avoid root rot and fungus gnats, as well as yellowing leaves, allow the soil to dry out in between waterings.

Special care

Your corn plant will not flower under normal indoor care, but you can prompt it to flower by exposing it to cool night temperatures around 45oF (7oC) for 1-4 weeks. Make sure to bring it inside if the temperature threatens to drop below freezing, and cover the leaves if a frost is possible.

misting a corn plant

Propagating

Corn plants are easily propagated in both soil and water. 

  • Make sure your cutting has at least 2 inches of stem and remove the leaves. 
  • You may choose to dip the end of your cutting in root hormone, which will increase the speed of root development. 
  • Place the cutting in damp soil, with the top inch exposed to the air. 
  • Keep out of direct sunlight.
  • Check the soil every day and keep the soil damp. 
  • After 4 weeks, your new corn plant should have roots and be starting to push out leaf growth.

You can also choose to root your cutting in water by following those same directions with the following changes:

  •  Place the cutting in distilled or filtered water.
  • Make sure to change the water every week.
  • Unless you intend to grow your plant hydroponically, transfer it from water to soil after 60 days.

Pests & Problems

Issues with pests are rare, but your Dracaena may become infested with mealybugs, spider mites, or fungus gnats at some point. Removing them is easy with a little care and diligence. 

For mealybugs and spider mites, use a natural, insecticidal soap spray daily until the bugs are gone. Cleaning the dust off the leaves makes the bugs more obvious, so you can be certain that all the pests have been exterminated.

Fungus gnats are the result of overwatering, and you will need to: 

  • Get an insecticide containing Bacillus thuringiensis, which is organic, non-toxic to humans, and will kill the fungus gnat larvae in the soil.
  • Let your corn plant dry out completely in between waterings. 
  • Before watering, add the insecticide to the water and allow to soak overnight. 
  • Strain out the solid pieces from the insecticide-treated water.
  • Water your plant.
  • Use yellow sticky traps to take care of the adults.

Leaf burn can occur if you have been watering with fluoridated tap water, have over-fertilized your plant, have underwatered it, or if the plant is receiving too much sun. Yellowed and falling leaves are a sign of overwatering.

Toxicity

While consumption of corn plant leaves or stalks is not toxic to humans and rarely deadly for pets, this is one houseplant you should keep away from cats and dogs. It contains saponin, which can cause vomiting (occasionally with blood,) dilated pupils, excessive drooling, depression, nausea, and anxiety in pets. 

corn plant leaf coloring

Common Questions About Corn Plant Care

What Kind of Corn Plant Do I Have?

There are a number of varieties of Dracaena fragrans, with slight differences in the color and texture of the leaves

Dracaena fragrans ‘Rothiana’Leathery leaves with white edges
Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’Yellow stripe in the center of each leaf (Most popular type)
Dracaena fragrans ‘Lindenii’Creamy/yellow stripe on the leaf edges, yellow center stripe
Dracaena fragrans ‘Victoria’Wider, shorter leaves with yellow stripe in the center

Do I Need to Mist My Corn Plant?

Your plant will not die if you don’t mist it, but it is a tropical plant that thrives in humidity. Misting daily or every other day, particularly in the winter when the air is dry, will help keep your corn plant healthy and vibrant.

Is My Corn Plant Growing?

Corn plants are slow-growing, and it can be frustrating if you bought a small one and want a six-foot-tall tree in your house right now. As long as the plant is receiving the right amount of water and light, and hasn’t outgrown its pot, it is growing.

Should I Add Fertilizer to the Soil?

As a slow-growing houseplant, the corn plant has a slow metabolism and requires very little fertilizer. Give it a fluoride-free and boron-free liquid fertilizer, diluted to half strength, twice a year during the growing season.

Are Corn Plants suitable for beginners?

Corn plant care is fairly easy, making these plants perfect for first time houseplant owners. They can make a striking addition to your home with their interesting striped leaves.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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