Dracaena Fragrans (Corn Plant)

The Yellow Corn Plant

Dracaena fragrans or the Corn Plant standing strong in an officeThis very popular houseplant often goes by the name Corn Plant, or by its official Latin name of Dracaena fragrans (impossible to say without sounding French!), it may also be known as Dracaena massangeana. The genus has several other well-known members that we invite happily into our homes, such as Dracaena marginata and Dracaena sanderiana all of which are reasonably content to share our living or office space without a lot of fuss.

In return for a little bit of care and attention from time to time, the Corn Plant will show off its shiny good looking leaves and removal various indoor air toxins. If you treat it very well, after many years you should get a bold ascent specimen with multiple crowns and the opportunity for it to produce a small spray of fragrant white flowers. Simply beautiful with minimum effort.

It will come either attached and sprouting from a brown textured stem, more correctly known as a Ti Tree, (much like a Yucca does) or the stem will still be "alive" green and resemble that of the Lucky Bamboo. Three Dracaena fragrans cultivars, massangeana, lindenii and victoriaEither type is suitable for the home so pick the style you like best. In shops you will tend to find one of four popular varieties and cultivars for sale. Again just pick your favorite as they all need the same general care requirements and are all quite easy going.

D. fragrans

The original, with solid green leaves. The original is the least common and of course, it will have its fans but the variegated versions outsell this one massively.

D. fragrans 'massangeana'

By far this is the most commonly found and bestselling Corn Plant cultivar. Distinctive with its sold corn yellow like stripe that runs through the center of each and every leaf means it's easy to see why it is so sought out and why so many people just call this plant Dracaena massangeana and drop the "fragrans". In comparison to the other variegated ones, it tends to have a thinner yellow line and is less distinctive than D. fragrans 'victoria' (see below). The leaves overall also tend to be narrower and longer.

D. fragrans 'lindenii'

This time, the corn yellow is found on the edges of the leaves rather than through the center, which makes it easy to confuse with another houseplant called Dracaena reflexa 'variegata' or the Song of India. The Song of India however is not overly popular as a houseplant (which is why you won't find a profile for it on Ourhouseplants.com) but if you are a fan of the colorings, do try and seek out D. fragrans 'lindenii' instead.

D. fragrans 'victoria' or 'victoriae'

Very similar to 'massangeana' in that the yellow stripe runs through the middle of the leaf, however it tends to have smaller but wider and almost triangular leaves. The Yellow corn stripe is also bolder and more distinctive. Overall this cultivar is probably the most attractive out of the four mentioned here, not just because of the yellow stripe but also the leaf shape is neater and more compact. However it does not grow quite as fast and commercially it can be a pain to find.

A Modern cultivar of the Corn Plant - victoria or victoriae

Corn Plant Care Instructions

Light

Most of those in the Dracaena genus including the Corn Plant do best in light shade or gentle filtered sunlight. The leaves will scorch if too bright and if it's too dark the new leaves will be quite small and the stripe(s) may look quite different to those found on the older ones.

Watering

These plants benefit from a little "drying time" between waterings. So water well and then wait for the top inch of the soil to dry out before watering again. If your Corn Plant is placed in a good spot with reasonable light and warm temperatures, (excluding Winter) you can keep the soil moist at all times. Regardless of your placement, in Winter reduce the watering like you would for almost all houseplants, but the soil shouldn't be allowed to dry out completely.

Humidity

Reasonable humidity is required to prevent blemishes on the Corn Plant's leaves. Misting is a good way to achieve this as well as helping to keep the leaves dust free.

Feeding

Regular feeding in Spring and Summer is recommended. You don't need to feed in Winter or feed newly repotted plants.



Temperature

The Ideal growth range is between 16°C - 24°C / 60°F - 75°F. No lower than 10°C / 50°F and avoid even light frosts at all costs.

Repotting

You only need to really repot every two or three years. But there is no harm in doing it more frequently if you feel it's needed and of course if you have the space and a big enough pot for it.

Propagation

There are three main ways to propagate and typically you can do all three methods at once to create multiple plants. In time the canes will become leggy as the leaf area shifts higher and higher up the plant which means you can:

  • Remove the crown and pot it up in potting compost to start a new plant, use a rooting hormone and to increase your chances further, provide bottom heat.
    You can see where brand new shoots have sprung from this Dracaena fragrans Ti TreeTip
    - if you can't provide bottom heat, only attempt this in Summer and keep it warm.
  • Once the crown has been removed you can cut the remaining cane back to about half the original length (or more or less depending what you are trying to achieve visually). New growths should eventually form at the cut edge.
    Tip
    - because several new growths can form at the cut, this is how you can create a multi-caned plant.
  • Assuming you've done both things above, you will have a piece of cane left which can be cut into bits and used to create a "Ti Tree". Allow to dry slightly before sticking straight up in potting compost. Keep the soil warm and moist.
    Tip
    - the pieces need to face "up" in the direction they were growing when part of the parent plant so you may want to mark the cane before you get started.

Speed of Growth

It's quite slow growing, but there is enough new growth to notice its "alive" and draw attention to itself (that might sound wacky, but seasoned indoor plant owners will know what we mean).

Height / Spread

This depends on how tall your ceiling is! To be fair, while natively it could reach 15m / 49ft or more, indoors you will probably run out of large enough pots to allow the plant to ever reach such a size,The flowers of the Corn Plant are rare but smell amazing when in bloom so expect it to only reach 2m / 6ft after many years.

Flowers

You rarely find flowers on indoor plants from the Dracaena genus, D. fragrans though is the exception. Pay attention when we say the flowers are still not frequent enough to call their appearance "common", but they do occur occasionally if the plant is mature and being treated well. Sprays of small numerous white flowers will come shooting out of the crown and they have a highly fragrant almost sickly sweet scent.

Anything else?

Don't forget to clean the leaves when they get dusty and if your Corn Plant gets too big... Don't be afraid to cut it down to size and start again.


Help! My Corn Plant is Dying

No Flowers

In most cases if you end up with flowers you are very lucky. You'll need a mature, well cared for plant that is basically happy. Even then, the flowering is unpredictable and does not occur every year or with any sort of pattern.

Yellow lower leaves / leaf drop

All Dracaenas including the Corn Plant are False Palms, with a crown of leaves sitting at the top of their stems, new growth forms at the very tips of these stems and the older leaves at the bottom of the crown will gradually yellow and fall. This happens quite often, but providing new leaves are forming as well it's normal.

Leaves with brown spots

Problem Corn Plant with brown spots and bleached leaves caused by underwatering and too much sunlightNormally this is a sign of underwatering. You must try to keep the soil moist at all times where possible because although the plant will cope with periods of occasional dryness, if it's prolonged then damage will result. If the brown spots are are more "blotches" than dots, it's caused by overwatering. The plant in the photo shows brown spots as well as the next problem:

Bleached dry leaves

Scorched leaves caused by too much sun. Move to a more shadier area.

Leaves have brown tips and yellow edges

This is often caused by dry air or cold draughts. Increase humidity and keep warmer.

Soggy Cane / Stem

Too much water over a long period, usually when it's also cold. If this happens then your Dracaena is probably already on its way out and can't be saved in its present form. Although if any parts of the stem feel firm, or the leaf crown is intact you could try and propagate.


Also on OurHousePlants.com

Credit for Dracaena fragrans flowers - Article / Gallery - Ripepette
Credit for Dracaena fragrans 'massangeana' - Article / Gallery - KENPEI


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