Everything You Need to Know About Growing & Nurturing Corn Plants at Home

With slender leaves that grow atop a cane, the corn plant is a truly stunning houseplant and makes a great addition to a host of living spaces. Plus, this member of the Dracaena genus is easy to care for, making it perfect for new plant parents as well as seasoned plant enthusiasts alike. What’s more, with the right environment and adequate care, this plant can produce gorgeous rosettes and grow up to eight feet tall indoors. Here we’ll share everything you need to know about Corn Plant Care as well as some interesting facts about the Dracaena fragrans origin, history, meaning, symbolism, and uses today. Let’s go!

Contents


Corn Plant Care Basics

Corn plants are easy to care for and prefer a light-handed approach. Find a spot in your home where the ambient temperature remains between 65F and 78F during the day and night and keep the plant away from direct sunlight. Water your corn plant thoroughly when the soil base is approximately 50% dry (typically every 7 to 10 days in spring & summer) allowing the excess water to be collected in a drainage saucer underneath before discarding. An all-purpose houseplant fertilizer can be used once or twice during the growing season to supplement the plant’s nutritional base.


All About Corn Plants

All About Corn Plants

Corn Plant Origins and History

The corn plant is native to tropical regions of Africa, including modern-day Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Mozambique. It thrives in the dappled light of the understory of hot, humid forests.

European botanists brought the plant to Europe during the 1700s. They named it after the words drakaina, a mythological female dragon, and fragrans due to its sweet-smelling flowers.

From this point on, people have kept Dracaena fragrans as a houseplant.

Botanical Information and Names

Family:Asparagaceae
Subfamily:Nolinoideae
Genus:Dracaena
Species:fragrans
Common Names: Corn plant, Cornstalk dracaena, False palm, Fragrant dracaena, Dragon plant

Popular Corn Plant Cultivars

bloomscape dracaena warneckii for sale
Credit: Dracaena Warneckii from Bloomscape

The Dracaena genus contains hundreds of species of plants, and Dracaena fragrans is only one. Some other popular houseplants in this genus include the snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata) and lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana).

When it comes to the fragrans species, things can get a bit confusing. Some botanists consider Dracaena deremensis a separate species, but the majority list deremensis as a group under Dracaena fragrans. So if you see a Dracena fragrans ‘Janet Craig’ and a Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’, know they’re the same plant.

Popular cultivars of Dracaena fragrans include:

NAME: COMMON IDENTIFIERS:
Massangeana:Green leaves with central yellow stripes
Lindenii:Green leaves with central yellow stripes and white margins
Victoria:Green leaves with yellow margins
Limelight:Bright lime green leaves
Janet Craig:Dark green leaves
Warneckii:Dark green leaves with white stripes

What’s more, the cultivars ‘Lemon Lime’, ‘Massangeana’, and ‘Warneckei’ bear the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit.


Are Corn Plants Toxic to Pets or People?

Corn Plants Toxicity to Pets

Corn plants are toxic to pets including cats and dogs, so you should keep them out of your furry friend’s reach. If pets do ingest the leaves, they will experience symptoms including vomiting, depression, and a lack of appetite.

The plants aren’t toxic to humans, but best to keep the plant out of the reach of children if possible.


Corn Plant Uses and Benefits

Corn plants are great at removing toxins from the air: Scientists used the corn plant in NASA’s clean air study, which proved that plants can remove toxins from the air. As such, you can use the corn plant to remove harmful compounds including benzene and formaldehyde from the air.

Studies have shown that houseplants such as the corn plant can reduce stress and anxiety. Not only do these plants brighten your spaces, but they also improve your mood!

Corn plants are also super popular as privacy hedges: In tropical regions, people plant corn plants in a row to form outdoor hedges.


Corn Plant Meaning and Symbolism

Corn Plant Meaning & Symbolism
  • The Chagga people of Tanzania have special uses for the corn plant. They use it as a grave marking as well as an element of a marriage proposal. The Chagga also utilize various Dracaena species to mark areas that hold ancestors’ skulls.
  • In some Asian countries, people view the corn plant as a symbol of luck. If the plant blooms in your home, you’ll receive good fortune.

How to Grow Corn Plants Indoors at Home

How to Grow Corn Plants

4 Things to Do Before Planting a Corn Plant

  1. Select a healthy plant – Before adding a plant to your home, look it over for any signs of disease or pests. Avoid plants that have discolored or drooping leaves.
  2. Choose a proper location – Look for a spot in your house that is free of drafts and direct light. Also, make sure your ceilings are high enough to handle the corn plant’s growth — it can grow up to eight feet tall!
  3. Select a suitable container – Pick a container that is large enough to hold the corn plant’s rootball. These plants hate sitting it water, so make sure the pot has drainage holes.
  4. Fill the container with potting mix – Provide your corn plant with a great soil mix. See below for tips.

How Big and Fast Will Corn Plants Grow?

Corn plants grow over 15 feet tall outdoors, but indoors they will max out at six to eight feet tall. They grow slowly indoors, so don’t expect more than a foot of growth in a year.

How to Plant a Corn Plant Indoors

  1. Fill your pot 1/4 way full with potting mix.
  2. Place the rootball in the container.
  3. Fill the rest of the pot with potting mix.
  4. Water well.
  5. Place the pot in your desired location.
  6. Avoid moving your plant so it can get cozy in its new home.

3 Characteristics of the Best Corn Plant Soil Mix

  • Well draining – Look for a mix that contains a material that increases drainage, such as perlite.
  • Nutrient holding – Clay and organic matter will help hold nutrients. Peat moss and coco coir are great materials for a corn plant soil mix.
  • Slightly acidic – Corn plants thrive in soils with a pH of 6.0.

Light Preferences

Corn plants thrive in bright yet indirect light. But, they can tolerate low levels of light. An ideal spot would be in a south or easterly facing room that receives extensive periods of light throughout the day.

Temperature and Humidity Preferences

Since they’re native to the tropics, it’s no surprise that corn plants love hot and humid conditions.

Keep your house above 65ºF and provide a medium amount of humidity if at all possible. To help with humidity in dry areas, utilize a humidifier or mist your plant (lightly) every now and again if needed. A humidity tray is a worthwhile investment for a lot of houseplants as well, particularly during the cold, dry winter months.


Corn Plant Care

How To Water Corn Plants

Corn plants are drought tolerant and hate sitting in standing water. To keep them happy, following these watering practices.

  • Water when dry – Water plants thoroughly, then wait for the top half of the soil to dry out before watering again. You won’t need to water more than once a week.
  • Use the right water – Chlorine, fluoride, and minerals present in tap water can harm corn plants. To avoid adding these harmful substances, use filtered water or rainwater. Alternatively, let tap water sit out on your counter for a day before applying it to your plant.
  • Take note of the season – During the cooler and darker winter days, plants grow slower than in the summer. Therefore, they require less water in the winter.
  • Account for environmental conditions – Since these plants live inside, you’ll need to take note of your temperature, light, and humidity. Plants require more frequent waterings with low humidity, high temperature, and high light.

Fertilizing Corn Plants

Corn plants are light feeders, meaning they don’t require much fertilizer. Fertilize them once in the spring and once in the summer with a diluted houseplant fertilizer.

Pruning Corn Plants

You don’t need to prune corn plants, but you certainly can. The best time to prune is when the plant is actively growing during the spring and summer.

To prune, simply cut a stalk with a sterile and sharp knife or pair of shears. New leaves will emerge from the cut.

To avoid stressing the plant too much, be sure to leave at least half of the stalk attached to the plant.  Also, avoid pruning more than one stalk at a time.

When and How to Propagate Corn Plants

Propagating corn plants is easy and goes along well with pruning. You can propagate corn plants anytime, but the best time to take a cutting is during the spring and summer.

Follow these steps to propagate your corn plant via a cutting.

  1. Take a stem cutting – Following the above directions, prune a stalk off your plant.
  2. Place the cutting in water – Put the cutting in a jar filled with one or two inches of water.
  3. Wait – Wait for the plant to form roots. This can take two to four months.
  4. Place the rooted cutting in soil – After your plant has formed roots that are 1/2 inch long, place the cutting in a pot with soil. Be sure to follow the previously mentioned planting steps.

Repotting a Corn Plant

Since corn plants are slow-growing, you won’t have to repot them very often. Aim to repot once every three to five years.

To repot a corn plant, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a pot or planter that is one inch larger in diameter than the old pot.
  2. Remove the plant from its old container and inspect the roots for any signs of disease.
  3. Dust off any old potting soil.
  4. Place corn plant in its new pot.
  5. Add new potting soil.
  6. Water thoroughly.

3 Common Corn Plant Problems and How to Treat Them

Dracaena Maringata for sale at Lively Root
Credit: Lively Root

While corn plants don’t experience many problems with pests or disease, they often deal with issues caused by poor environments. Here are three of the most common corn plant problems.

Brown or Yellow Leaves

If your corn plant’s leaves begin to discolor and/or drop, check for the following.

  • Excess water – Ensure your plant’s soil is drying out between waterings. And don’t forget to dump water that flows through drainage holes.
  • Cold temperature – Temperatures below 60ºF and drafts can stress out corn plants. Raise your home’s temperature, and move the plant away from exterior doors and poorly insulated windows.

Brown Leaf Tips

Brown and crunchy leaf tips indicate an issue with water or fertilizer.

  • Poor water quality – Tap water can introduce salts that harm plants and cause browning. To avoid issues, switch to filtered water or rainwater.
  • Excess fertilizer – Corn plants don’t require much fertilizer, so only apply nutrients twice a year. And don’t exceed the recommended application rate.
  • Overwatering – Allow soil to dry out between waterings.

Bleached Leaves

Faded leaves indicate that your plant is receiving too much direct light. Move the plant to a location where it receives indirect light.


Essential Corn Plant Tools

Essential Gardening Tools for Peace Lily Plants

Since corn plants are easy to care for, you’ll be able to meet their needs with basic tools. As long as you have a watering can and a sharp pair of shears, you can provide excellent care.


Wrapping Up

With unique branching habits and a variety of leaf colors, corn plants make the perfect addition to any home. Plus, they’re easy to care for! Just provide a tall space, indirect light, and a proper amount of water and you’ll have a stunning plant for years to come.

For more, see our guide to the best plant shops and nurseries delivering Dracaena plants throughout the United States.


Corn Plant Care FAQ:

Corn plants in their native environment are used to shade being provided throughout the day by overhanging trees and plant life. Aim to position your corn plant in a bright room away from the direct rays of the sun. 

Corn plant leaves turning brown is typically a result of over-watering. Stagnant water in the soil base or on the leaves can put significant stress on the corn plant causing discoloration. Sudden changes or very cool temperatures are other common reasons for corn plant leaves turning brown.  

Brown tips on corn plant leaves can be cut off with sharp gardening scissors especially if there’s any sign of decay or fungal infection forming. Be careful not to cut away any of the healthy foliage. 

Corn plants are considered easy-care plants and are suitable for both plant novices and enthusiasts alike. As they thrive in moderate to low-light settings and generally require less watering than other houseplants their maintenance requirements are also considered minimal.

With due care and attention, corn plants are able to thrive for several years in most indoor environments. The plant can also be propagated every spring or summer if you’re looking to start new growth afresh. 

Corn plants grown indoors will typically grow at a slower rate compared to those grown outside. Corn plants need to reach maturity before they will start to flower which can take several seasons of growth indoors.

Author

I’ve long been fascinated with the world of flowers, plants, and floral design. I come from a family of horticulturists and growers and spent much of my childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and greenhouses filled with tropical plants, cacti, and succulents from all over the world. Today, my passion has led me to further explore the world of horticulture, botany, and floristry and I'm always excited to meet and collaborate with fellow enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe.

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