Few houseplants match the bold appearance and fuss-free nature of the Corn Plant. The massive shiny leaves with yellow stripes are impressive and impossible to resist. The Corn Plant (Dracaena Fragrans) just likes a bit of light, some watering when the soil gets slightly dry, and it’ll grow happy and healthy for decades.
All About Dracaena Fragrans
The Corn Plant is native to tropical Africa and also goes by the names Striped Dracaena, Happy Plant, and Compact Dracaena. It’s been a popular houseplant since the 1800s because it is adaptable to many household environments and looks fabulous.
It is a slow-growing shrub that easily reaches 30-40 feet in the wild. At first, it grows from a single unbranched stem. After it flowers, or if the top gets damaged, it produces branching stems and then continues to do so every year after it flowers.
As a houseplant, the Corn Plant usually gets to 6-feet or so. It takes a long time to get there, so be patient. This is a houseplant to enjoy for many years (30-40 years, if treated properly!) and watch grow with you. It may get taller if you have higher ceilings; it’s up to you how much space you give to height growth.
Corn Plant stems are narrow and woody and become more solid and dense with maturity. The foliage growth is concentrated at the top of the plant, leaving the lower portion of the stem very visible. This gives it a very tree-like appearance. Corn plant leaves are long and lance-shaped, and very glossy green. They look remarkably like the leaves on corn, which is how it gets its most widely used common name.
The original Corn Plant has solid green leaves. However, it is rarely seen in stores as most people prefer the variegated versions. All the cultivars feature some form of striping on the foliage.
- D. fragrans “massangeana” – This is the most common Corn Plant. Its foliage is deep green with a single solid yellow stripe down the center of each leaf.
- D. fragrans “lindenii” – The yellow striping on this Corn Plant is at the edges of the leaves instead of the center.
- D. fragrans “victoria” – This Corn Plant has a single yellow stripe down the center of each leaf. The yellow coloring is bolder than D. “massangeana,” and the leaf shape is different. Victoria’s leaves are more triangular or stubby compared to the long and lance-shaped foliage of other cultivars. This is the most sought-after Corn Plant, and of course, it can be challenging to find.
- D. fragrans “lemon-lime” – A very stunning Corn Plant with lemon-lime green leaf edges.
- D. fragrans “warneckii” – This beautiful Corn Plant has deep green leaves with a white central stripe.
Corn Plant Care
In this section we cover important Dracaena Fragrans care topics such as watering, lighting, fertilization, and more.
Corn Plants grow from canes. When the plant is young, it is quite compact and doesn’t look like it has the potential to reach 6-feet or more. It’s also a very slow grower, so it will take some time to get there. As it matures, it develops a long stem with a crown of foliage at the top. It looks a lot like a palm tree at full height.
The woody stalks (canes) may get top-heavy as the plant matures because the foliage only grows at the top. The entire plant can fall over or tip a little, so if you see this potentially happening, employ some stakes to keep it upright. Or prune or propagate the plant.
It is rare for the Corn Plant to flower indoors. A well-cared-for mature plant may produce flowers. If your Dracaena fragrans flowers, you know it likes living with you!
Bright, indirect light is the best, but the Corn Plant is adaptable. It likes the light to be filtered or to be in partial shade since direct sunlight will burn the foliage. On the other hand, not enough light inhibits leaf growth and reduces the yellow striping.
Corn plants will survive fine in lower light conditions; it’s just not preferable. An east-facing window is best. But, as long as it’s not total darkness, it will be okay. It just won’t grow as quickly, and the leaf coloring won’t be as pronounced. Plants with all green foliage do better with low light than variegated ones.
This houseplant also grows very well in offices with only artificial light.
It’s best to err on the side of dry soil with the Corn Plant. They don’t like overly moist or soggy dirt but don’t want to be starved of water, either. The best thing to do is check the soil every time before watering.
Stick your finger in the soil, and if the top inch is dry, it’s time to water again. However, wait a few more days if the soil is still moist.
In winter, reduce the watering as the plant rests and rejuvenates.
Temperature and Humidity
Average household temperatures between 60-75F are great. Light frosts or temperatures below 50F will harm the foliage, possibly even killing it. Humidity should be a bit higher than the average home humidity levels. A humidity level between 40-50% is ideal. A humidifier or humidity tray helps a lot with this.
Keep the Corn Plant away from air conditioners, cold or hot drafts, wood stoves, and heating registers as these will harm the foliage.
Soil and Potting
Use an all-purpose potting soil with good draining capabilities. Drainage is especially important because the canes are susceptible to rotting if the soil remains overly soggy. Adding a couple of handfuls of perlite and coco coir into the potting mix helps a lot. Always pot up the Corn Plant in a container with drainage holes, as well.
Corn Plants don’t need much fertilizing. They’re slow growers, and nothing you do will speed it up that much. Apply fertilizer twice a year, once in the spring and then another later at the beginning of summer. Do not add fertilizer in winter when the plant is resting.
A Corn Plant doesn’t need regular pruning, but it is easily pruned if desired. You may need to prune it if it gets too tall or if the growth is getting ragged-looking. Cut off the top 6-10 inches; the plant will grow back just fine.
Remove any dead or dying leaves when you see them. As the plant produces new growth at the top, the growth below will yellow and fall off. This is all normal.
Because the Corn Plant is a slow grower, it only needs repotting every 2-3 years. Repot it to a container 1-2 sizes bigger. Don’t move it to a much larger container suddenly as this impacts watering, causes soggy soil, and may lead to cane rot. Let the Corn Plant slowly fill up its new pot before moving it to the next.
Dracaena fragrans is not deadly toxic, but the sap it produces is an irritant. It is best to keep this plant away from small children and pets.
Dracaena Fragrans Propagation
Cane cuttings are the easiest propagation method for the Corn Plant. There are several ways to do this. Remember, this plant is a slow grower, so any propagation requires some patience. And not just a few weeks of patience – sometimes, it takes months. As long as the stems look healthy, just keep caring for and tending them, and you should see new growth.
It’s best to do any propagation in early spring or summer when the plant is strongest. Also, it will grow faster during this time. It’s fine to do propagation at the same time as repotting.
Top Cutting (one new plant)
- Cut off the top of the plant just below the leaf line. Ensure there is at least one node on the cutting.
- Plant the stem cane in the soil and care for it as usual.
- The mature plant you cut the top off of will produce new growth and be back to its original glory in a little bit. It won’t be “headless” forever!
Stem Cuttings (2+ new plants)
- Cut off the top of the mature plant, making sure there is at least one node in the cutting.
- Plant the top section in the soil – that’s one new plant.
- Cut as many 8″ stem specimens from the original plant as you like – each one should include at least one node for new leaf growth.
- Plant all the stem sections in the soil, and they will all become new Corn Plants.
Common Pests and Disease
Here are a few of the most common pests & diseases to look out for when keeping Dracaena fragrans:
Mealybugs, Thrips, Whiteflies, Spider Mites, and Aphids
The key to dealing with these common houseplant pests is to catch the situation as early as possible through frequent, systematic investigation of the plant, including looking under the leaves. Corn Plant leaves are large, and many pesty insects would love to live there.
If you see any sign of pests, act quickly to prevent a full-blown infestation. Use a neem oil spray every 5-7 days on the foliage and soil to catch the bugs and any eggs or larvae in the dirt. Mix two teaspoons of neem oil with one teaspoon of dish soap in a quart spray bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with water and shake well. Spray the entire plant in the morning so the leaves have time to dry.
This disease caused by overwatering usually means death for a plant. The signs of root rot include yellow or dull leaves and halted growth. If you notice this happening, carefully pull up the Corn Plant stem to check the roots. Rotted roots are mushy and black. The Corn Plant may be saved if you cut off the black, mushy bits, and there is still enough healthy root left for the plant to survive.
At this point, you may want to cut parts of the healthy upper stem off and try propagating a new plant instead of saving the entirety of the original one.
Here are a few of the most common questions that we get about Dracaena fragrans care:
Should I clean the leaves of my Corn Plant when they get dusty?
Yes! The leaves are massive and get very dusty. They can’t photosynthesize effectively when they’re covered in dust, which reduces their brilliant coloring and growth. Use a damp cloth to lightly wipe down the foliage as needed.
If I cut down my Corn Plant, will it grow again?
Yes, a Corn Plant will continue growing if you cut the stem. See the pruning and propagation sections to learn how to cut and prune your plant.
Why are the leaves of my Corn Plant turning yellow and dropping off?
It is normal for old growth to turn yellow and fall off. It allows the plant to focus energy on producing new growth. The leaves at the bottom of the crown fall off regularly, and as long as new leaves are coming out, it’s all normal.
What is causing brown patches on the leaves of my Dracaena fragrans?
Splotchy brown patches on the leaf margins signify too much direct sunlight – the leaves are getting scorched. Move the plant to a lower light location.
Why are the leaf tips brown on my Corn Plant?
Brown leaf tips are caused by a lack of humidity or underwatering. Either way, the plant is not receiving enough moisture. If the soil is still moist and the watering is regular, you probably need to increase the humidity.
Corn Plants have been popular for centuries for a good reason – no-fuss, brilliant coloring and a long life make them the perfect houseplant. They’re also so adaptable and simple to propagate that you can easily fill your home with them. Dracaena fragrans in all its variegated varieties would look amazing as a “home jungle.”