Corn plants (Latin name Dracaena fragrans) is a classic choice of houseplant, being grown indoors as early as the mid-1800s in Europe before moving into the United States early in the 20th century. However, despite this, they still have a lot of specific needs to grow properly, and caring for a corn plant still takes a little bit of effort to do it correctly. This profile should tell you everything you need to know about growing Dracaena in your home, as well as the kind of support they might need if they aren’t growing in the way that you expected.
The standard Dracaena corn plant grows with thick cane-like stems that create narrow green leaves at the top, making them somewhat similar to small palm trees. This has earned them the nickname “false palms” to some people, and taller ones are often used as stand-ins for the harder-to-grow palm trees. They are quite tough and can withstand all sorts of damage without dying, making them a good beginner plant as well as a nice long-term addition to any indoor area.
How to Grow a Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans)
Growing a corn plant is best done in large pots that are placed away from direct sunlight, ideally in areas with higher humidity. Any kind of humidity works: some people use wet pebbles as a base, while others will mist the area every so often. Moving it outside is possible, but not if the temperature is falling below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Any kind of extreme exposure, from temperature to wind, can easily harm the plants.
Try to keep the soil well-drained so that you don’t drown the plant, especially if you are already in a humid area. The roots don’t like sitting in large amounts of water, and soil that can remain wet while still draining away most of the liquid are the best options. However, you also have to keep the soil from completely drying out as often as possible, since this can turn the green leaves brown and start to harm the plant. Other than that, most soil types should work, although potting soil mix is best.
Watering your corn plants should be managed carefully since you are supposed to keep a careful balance between “dry” and “drowning.” Distilled or pure water is best, like all Dracena plant types, the boron and fluoride in tap water can harm them, or sometimes even kill them in large amounts.
How often do you Water a Corn Plant?
Most corn plant care sites suggest that you water them once every week, using about 1.5 inches of water each time (per plant). A drought is worse than over-watering, but if you add to much water, leave the soil to dry for longer so that the plant isn’t being overwhelmed. Like any plant, too much water – even pure water – can end up killing it.
Ideally, you will want to keep the Dracaena fragrans in an area with filtered but natural light. Low light can start to kill the leaves, but direct bright light is likely to burn the plant and slowly kill it too. Low light is less of a danger overall, but it is best to try and keep the light levels as average as possible.
The average corn plant will grow best at heat levels of around 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and shouldn’t drop below 50 degrees if possible. The best humidity levels are somewhere between 40 and 50 percent, similar to the natural conditions that the corn plant Dracaena fragrans grows under.
How Big do Corn Plants Get?
Corn plants grow to an average of around eight feet at full height, but this is heavily dependent on weather. As houseplants, you will usually want to cut them down before they reach this height, but some people may prefer to leave them to grow if they have a high ceiling. In extreme cases, some can reach as high at 49 feet if left unchecked, which can be taller than an average house.
Fertilizing your Dracaena Fragrans
It is best to use rich soil if possible when planting Dracaena fragrans, and it thrives best when you use a balanced liquid-style fertilizer around once per month. You should reduce (or completely stop) feeding the plant fertilizer once winter starts.
Potting a Corn Plant
You should normally repot your corn plant at least once every two years, with most people preferring to do it annually. Use the same kind of fresh soil and slowly lift it from the base, then place it into a new container, leaving the roots intact. Drainage is still important, so make sure that you don’t pack too much in at once, or the water won’t drain correctly.
Corn Plant Propagation
Spreading and re-planting the cutting from your corn plant isn’t too hard, but it still requires some precise plant care. Be sure to take stem cuttings a few inches long and place them into a moist, warm soil – you can help it grow by adding some upright cane pieces, too. A rooting hormone can help speed it up, but the rooting process as a whole will take a while: all Dracaena corn plant varieties can root almost at random, so it might be slower than you expect.
Corn Plant Pruning
Pruning the leaves on your corn plant can be done quite quickly, and it doesn’t take long to cut them down as needed. If a corn plant grows too tall, you can prune off the top: in most cases, the corn plants will break out with more buds around the cut. Like any plant, you should be careful that you don’t cut off too much, just in case.
Types of Corn Plant
There are multiple corn plant varieties, but many of them are very similar to one another and require the same plant care precautions. One of the more notable variants is Dracaena fragrans massangeana. Unlike the regular plants, Dracaena fragrans massangeana has a lime-green stripe on the leaves, setting it apart from the regular corn plant leaves. For this reason, many people grow Dracaena fragrans massangeana specifically: like normal Dracaena fragrans, Massangeana varieties need the same level of general plant care.
There are other types of plants, such as the Lindenii variety, that boast different leaves or other small differences. In the case of Lindenii, the leaves are white and cream but are much rarer plants overall. Growth rates can change between each Dracaena plant, as can the way you need to pot them and how easy it can be to grow the plants. Make sure that you keep track of how each plant is doing and adjust your routine as necessary.
Diseases and Pests
Any corn plant, Dracaena fragrans included, will have various pests that threaten the leaves or main body of the plant itself. One of the biggest problems is spider mites, which can damage the plant without you realizing until it is already struggling. Most corn plants need to be watered properly to survive, so make sure that you aren’t just under-watering them first.
If the leaves suddenly turn brown, there can be various reasons: fluoridated water is likely to harm the leaves, and temperature fluctuations can temporarily kill some of the leaves until they have grown back. A lack of calcium and poor watering are the most likely causes of dead leaves, but the leaves can also be harmed by regular pests that attack any plants, too.