Corn Plant Care & Growth: An Introduction to the Dracaena

Corn plant in silver pot

Corn plants aren't related to garden corn at all. They're members of the Dracaena family. But they are called corn plants because their upright growth habit and strappy foliage is reminiscent of those common summer vegetable garden plants. Tolerant of a variety of indoor conditions, including low light, corn plant is definitely worth considering. Keep in mind, however, that they are toxic to cats and dogs, so they should be kept out of any area your pets spend time in.

Corn Plant Care

Corn plants are easy to care for and have very few pest or disease issues.

Light

Corn plant grows well in everything from low light to bright indirect light.

  • It doesn't like intense direct light, so you shouldn't place it too close to south or west-facing windows.
  • While corn plant grows very well in low light, any variegation or striping of the foliage is likely to fade so that eventually the leaves will become solid green. It's still an attractive plant, but it's something to keep in mind if you bring a gorgeous variegated variety home and then see it fading.
  • If you're growing a corn plant in low light and would like to keep any variegation, it's a good idea to supplement the lighting in the area with either a plant light or even a lamp with an LED bulb placed nearby and kept on for several hours each day.

Water

Corn plant prefers soil that's evenly moist, not soggy and not allowed to dry out. The best rule of thumb is to stick your finger into the potting medium every few days to check; if the top inch of soil is dry, it's time to water.

Corn plant, like spider plant, is sensitive to fluoride, which is often added to municipal water supplies. It can cause the leaf tips to brown. If you're noticing this with your corn plant, it's a good idea to either collect rain water to water with (if possible) or buy spring water for watering your plants. Over time, excessive fluoride buildup can eventually kill the plant.

hands spray corn plant

Fertilizer

Feed corn plants once per month during the spring and summer with a balanced houseplant fertilizer.

  • Always fertilize soil that's already moist to ensure that the plant's roots take up the nutrients properly.
  • Stop feeding in fall. Corn plants don't need to be fertilized during the winter, which is when growth slows dramatically.

Temperature and Humidity

Corn plants prefer a mildly humid environment, ideally around 50% humidity, which is higher than the levels of many homes, especially during the winter. You can increase humidity by placing a humidifier nearby or by misting the area around the plants a couple times per day with water.

Soil

Any good quality potting mix will work perfectly for growing corn plant.

Repotting

Corn plant grows fairly quickly, especially the brighter the spot is that it's growing in. It'll most likely need to be repotted every couple of years.

Plant into a container one size up from what it's currently growing in. If you plant into too large of a container, there's a higher chance of the soil staying too wet, since there aren't enough roots yet to take up the excess moisture.

Corn Plant Pests and Problems

Spider mites, scale, and thrips can sometimes infest corn plants, but it's not very common unless other houseplants in your home are already infested.

Browning leaf tips are caused by excess fluoride in the water.

Lower leaves will occasionally yellow, and then start to fall off. This is not something to be concerned about. Corn plants regularly drop their lowest leaves as the plant grows. This is why larger corn plants have an almost woody-looking stalk.

woman florist holding corn plant

Propagating Corn Plant

Corn plant grows readily from stem cuttings, and it's a good opportunity to give your corn plant a bit of pruning. Wherever you prune along the stem, the plant will eventually produce at least two new shoots there, resulting in a bushier appearance.

  1. Take a cutting from one of the stems of your corn plant that is at least six to eight inches long. Use a sharp knife or clean, sharp pruners to do this.
  2. Strip any leaves from the lower part of the cutting, making sure to leave four to six leaves at the top.
  3. Stick the cutting into a small pot of good quality potting soil. If you have rooting hormone, dip the cutting into that first. It will root more readily with rooting hormone, but it isn't absolutely necessary.
  4. Water your cutting well and place it in an area that gets bright indirect sunlight for the fastest root growth.
  5. Be patient. It can take a few months for your cutting to root, but in time, you'll see new growth at the top of the plant, letting you know that propagation was successful.

Corn Plant Varieties

There are corn plants available in many different shapes and sizes.

  • 'Massangeana' is the most common variety of corn plant. It has green leaves with a brighter greenish-yellow strip up the center of each leaf.
  • 'Lemon Surprise' has bright yellowish green leaves with a deep green stripe up the center. Unlike most corn plants, whose foliage tends to grow straight, 'Lemon Surprise' has shorter leaves that grow in a curly manner. It's a more compact corn plant and offers a lot of interest.
  • 'Janet Craig' has a bushy appearance and deep green, glossy leaves. It can grow to about three feet tall and has very long, strap-like leaves.
  • 'Lemon Lime' grows to five feet tall or more and has leaves striped with both green and bright yellow. It forms sturdy, woody stems as it matures.
Dracaena fragrans Massangeana

Stunning Foliage, Easy Care

Corn plants give any room a more tropical feel, and very large varieties grow to smallish trees, filling a corner beautifully. By watering properly, providing adequate humidity, and keeping them out of direct sunlight, your corn plant will grow happily for years to come.

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Corn Plant Care & Growth: An Introduction to the Dracaena