How to Grow and Care for Corn Palm (Dracaena fragrans)


Updated: 20 Oct, 2023

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The Dracaena fragrans, commonly known as the corn plant, is a lush evergreen tree native to tropical Africa. Since the mid-1800s in Europe and the early 20th century in the U.S., it has been a beloved choice for indoor greenery. Growing at a leisurely pace, these plants develop from sturdy canes or stems, yielding lengthy, slender leaves reminiscent of cornstalks, reaching for the sky.

This growth pattern often lends them the appearance of palm trees, earning them the moniker “false palms.” Standing tall and slender, they are superb options for indoor gardening, typically topping out at 4 to 6 feet when potted.

Once you establish the right growing conditions, these plants prove undemanding. While spring is the prime season for initiating new growth, nursery plants can generally be potted indoors at any time of the year. It’s worth noting, however, that if you share your space with cats or dogs, it’s best to steer clear of this plant, as dracaena is toxic to both.

Common NamesCorn plant, dracaena, false palm
Botanical NameDracaena fragrans
FamilyAsparagaceae
Plant TypeBroadleaf, evergreen, shrub/tree
Mature Size15–50 ft. tall, 3–10 ft. wide outdoors; container-grown plants can grow up to 6 ft. tall
Sun ExposurePartial
Soil TypeMoist, well-draining, loamy
Soil pH6.1 to 6.5 (Acidic)
Bloom TimeLate fall and then again in late spring; nighttime bloomer
Flower ColorWhite, yellow
Hardiness Zones10–12 (USDA)
Native AreaAfrica (tropics)
ToxicityToxic to dogs and cats

What is a Corn Palm?

The Corn Palm, scientifically known as Dracaena fragrans, is a tropical evergreen tree native to Africa. It has gained popularity as an indoor plant for its graceful appearance. Characterized by thick canes or stems that produce long, narrow leaves resembling cornstalks, it exudes an elegant charm. Its growth pattern, akin to palm trees, has earned it the nickname “false palms.” Corn Palms typically reach a height of 4 to 6 feet when potted, making them excellent choices for indoor greenery. While they thrive in bright, indirect light, they can adapt to lower light levels. However, caution is advised as they are toxic to pets.

Corn Plant Care

Corn plants are a favorite among home gardeners for indoor cultivation, thanks to their tropical nature which demands controlled climate conditions. Optimal growth for corn plants is achieved in well-lit indoor spaces shielded from direct sunlight, drafts, and exposure to air conditioning or heating vents. These plants also thrive in environments with elevated humidity levels.

During the summer, consider relocating corn plants outdoors to a sheltered, partially shaded spot. However, ensure they are safeguarded from strong winds. As temperatures begin to dip into the 60s Fahrenheit, it’s advisable to bring the plant back indoors for its continued well-being.

Light:
Position this plant in an indoor area adjacent to a window where sunlight is filtered. Inadequate light may cause the leaves to lose their variegation and potentially hinder the plant’s growth. Direct sun exposure can lead to leaf scorching and wilting. When outdoors, opt for a shadier location for optimal growth.

Soil:
For cultivating corn plants, opt for a loose, loamy potting mix. Ensure the soil provides proper drainage, as these plants are not well-suited to standing water.

Water:
Maintain consistent moisture in the soil, avoiding saturation, during the active growing season (spring through fall). Scale back on watering in late fall and winter, but never let the soil completely dry out. Both excessively wet and overly dry soil can lead to health issues for the plant.

Temperature and Humidity:
Corn plants thrive in temperatures ranging from 60-75°F. Steer clear of exposing them to temperatures in the 50s°F. If you’ve temporarily relocated your corn plants outdoors for the summer, be sure to bring them inside before temperatures drop to this range.

Maintain humidity levels between 40 to 50 percent, mirroring the plant’s natural habitat. To increase humidity, utilize a humidifier or position the pot on a tray filled with water and pebbles. Ensure the bottom of the pot doesn’t touch the water. Additionally, regular leaf misting can help bolster humidity levels.

Fertilizer:
Corn plants favor soil rich in organic matter. Administer a balanced liquid fertilizer every other month throughout the growing season, and use sparingly, if at all, during the winter months.

Types of Corn Pla

Here are the descriptions of different varieties of Dracaena fragrans:

Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’: This is the most prevalent variety, distinguished by a yellowish lime-green stripe running along the center of its leaves.

Dracaena fragrans ‘Lindenii’: This variety showcases leaves with yellow edges instead of a central stripe.

Dracaena fragrans ‘Victoria’: Similar to the ‘Massangeana’, this variety boasts a yellow stripe down the center of its leaves, but it possesses smaller, wider, and almost triangular-shaped leaves. It is a relatively rare find in garden centers.

Dracaena fragrans ‘Lemon Lime’: This variety is characterized by leaves adorned with white-yellow stripes surrounding gray-green centers.

Dracaena fragrans ‘Limelight’: This cultivar boasts glossy yellow-green leaves that gradually transition into a lighter lime-green shade as they mature.

Propagating Corn Plants

The ideal seasons for propagating corn plants are spring and summer. However, for plants housed in climate-controlled indoor environments, propagation can occur year-round. A prime opportunity to initiate propagation is when the plant surpasses the height of your room. One effective technique is to create a new plant by severing the top portion from the original parent plant. This method not only facilitates new plant growth but also rejuvenates leaf development. Known as top cutting or stem cutting, it stands out as the superior propagation approach. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to execute it:

Both propagation techniques require clean hand pruning shears, a jar of water, a pot, and moist peat moss.

If employing the top cutting method, trim the plant just below the leaf line, ensuring to include one node (the small, round white bumps on the stem). For stem cutting, snip an 8-inch segment of the stem.

Submerge the cut end in a clear jar of fresh, preferably filtered water, leaving the upper half of the stem exposed. Place the jar in a warm, partially sunny location. Monitor for root growth at the submerged leaf nodes and potential leaf growth at the top end.

Regularly replenish the water as it evaporates, and every other week, replace it entirely to prevent algae or bacterial buildup.

Once the stem produces roots extending over 1 inch in length, transplant the rooted end into moist peat moss. Position it in a warm, partially sunny spot.

As an alternative, you may directly plant a freshly cut stem segment into moist peat moss and observe for new leaf growth. Although it is likely to root, unlike the transparent water jar, root growth won’t be visible. Water-rooting tends to be more successful, but if opting for soil rooting, applying a rooting hormone to the cut end can increase the chances of success.

How to Grow Corn Plant From Seed

To optimize germination, immerse the seeds in room-temperature water for a span of three to five days. Sprinkle two to three seeds onto a small pot filled with moistened seed starting mix. Gently cover the seeds with a thin layer of the seed starting mix. Set the pot atop a warm germinating mat and enclose it with clear plastic wrap. Maintain a soil temperature within the range of 68-80°F, ensuring exposure to either a grow light or bright, indirect sunlight. Keep the soil consistently and slightly damp, avoiding excessive moisture which could lead to seed rot. Once you observe initial growth (which may take up to four to six weeks), remove the plastic covering. After the seedling develops two true leaves, transplant it into a 3-inch pot using potting soil.

Potting and Repotting Corn Plant

Potting and repotting a corn plant is an essential aspect of its care to ensure it continues to thrive and grow healthy. Here is a step-by-step guide for potting and repotting a corn plant:

Potting a Corn Plant:

Select the Right Pot: Choose a pot that is slightly larger than the current one, with drainage holes at the bottom. This will allow excess water to drain out, preventing waterlogging.

Prepare Potting Mix: Use a well-draining potting mix, preferably a loose, loamy blend. Ensure it has good drainage properties.

Check Drainage: Place a layer of small stones or broken pottery pieces at the bottom of the pot to enhance drainage.

Position the Plant: Gently remove the corn plant from its current pot, being careful not to damage the roots. Position it in the center of the new pot.

Add Potting Mix: Fill the pot around the sides of the plant with the prepared potting mix, ensuring the plant is at the same depth as it was in the previous pot.

Water Thoroughly: After potting, water the plant thoroughly. This will help settle the soil and ensure the roots make good contact with the new soil.

Repotting a Corn Plant:

Assess the Need: Corn plants generally need repotting every 2-3 years or when they outgrow their current container. Signs it’s time to repot include roots emerging from the drainage holes or a noticeable slowdown in growth.

Select a New Pot: Choose a pot that is 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current one. This provides enough room for root expansion.

Prepare Potting Mix: Use a well-draining, nutrient-rich potting mix.

Gently Remove the Plant: Carefully slide the corn plant out of its current pot. If the roots are tightly packed, you may need to loosen them slightly.

Trim Roots (Optional): If the roots are overly long or tangled, you can trim them slightly to encourage healthy growth.

Follow Potting Steps: Proceed with the potting steps outlined above.

Monitor After Repotting: Keep an eye on the plant for a few weeks after repotting to ensure it adjusts well to its new environment. Avoid overwatering during this period.

Remember to always use clean pots and fresh potting mix to prevent the introduction of pests or diseases to your plant. With proper potting and repotting, your corn plant will continue to thrive and beautify your indoor space.

Common Pests

Regularly inspect your plants for common pests like spider mites, thrips, and scale, which can afflict many indoor plants. These pests can result in damaged and unhealthy-looking leaves, and you might observe tiny insects in motion on the plant. To maintain its health and appearance, periodically wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to deter pests and keep your plant looking its best.

How to Get Corn Plant to Bloom

While Dracaena fragrans are not known for their consistent blooming, under optimal growing conditions and when the plant reaches maturity (typically over 5 years old), it can produce blooms one to three times annually. However, the likelihood of blooming decreases when it’s kept as an indoor plant. The flower stalks emerge from the center of the leaf whorl and can extend up to 3 feet in length. These blossoms resemble white spike balls and, true to its botanical name, emit a delightful fragrance when in bloom. The aroma is often described as a blend of jasmine, lilac, honey, and freshly cut grass. The flowering occurs at dusk, each evening for approximately a month. Every bloom fades with the arrival of daylight, prompting a new one to unfurl the following night.

How to use corn

Corn is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of culinary applications. Here are several ways to use corn:

Boiled or Steamed Corn on the Cob:
Remove the husks and silk from fresh corn cobs.
Boil or steam them until they are tender. This usually takes about 5-7 minutes.
Serve with butter, salt, and other seasonings of your choice.

Corn Kernels in Salads:
Fresh or cooked corn kernels can be added to salads for a sweet and crunchy element.

Corn Salsa:
Combine corn kernels with diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice, and salt to make a flavorful salsa.

Cornbread or Corn Muffins:
Use cornmeal to make delicious cornbread or corn muffins. It’s a staple in Southern cuisine.

Corn Chowder:
Make a creamy soup with corn, potatoes, onions, bacon, and broth. Add cream or milk for richness.

Corn Fritters:
Mix corn kernels with a batter made from flour, eggs, and seasonings. Fry spoonfuls of the mixture until golden brown.

Corn Pancakes or Fritters:
Combine corn kernels with pancake batter or a fritter mixture. Cook until golden and serve with syrup or a dipping sauce.

Corn Tortillas:
Ground cornmeal is used to make masa, which is then shaped into tortillas. These are a staple in Mexican cuisine.

Corn Pudding:
A creamy, custard-like dish made from corn, eggs, milk, sugar, and butter. It’s a popular side dish in some Southern cuisines.

Corn Soup:
Blend cooked corn with broth, cream, and seasonings to make a smooth and flavorful soup.

Corn Filling for Tacos or Burritos:
Sauté corn kernels with spices and vegetables to create a delicious filling for tacos or burritos.

Corn Casseroles:
Combine corn with other ingredients like cheese, eggs, and breadcrumbs to make a hearty casserole.

Corn Pops or Cornflakes Cereal:
Corn is used to make popular breakfast cereals like corn pops or cornflakes.

Cornstarch:
Cornstarch is often used as a thickening agent in soups, sauces, and desserts.

Common Problems With Corn Plant

Maintaining a corn plant indoors is straightforward once you establish the correct growing conditions, focusing on water, light, and humidity. It’s important to avoid exposing the plant to prolonged periods of cold temperatures, high heat, or drafty areas, as these can lead to health issues.

Dry Leaf Tips:
Insufficient water or low humidity can lead to dry leaf tips and edges. Increasing humidity through a humidifier or regular misting can help. Adjust watering, making sure the soil is consistently moist but not waterlogged.
Yellowing tips may also result from excessive plant food or fluoride in the water. Using distilled water can prevent leaf tip burn.

Sudden Leaf Loss:
Overwatering and poor drainage may cause sudden leaf loss or root rot. Ensure the soil has good drainage and the pot has ample drainage holes.

Dry Patches on Leaves:
Direct sunlight exposure can result in round dry patches and streaks on the leaves. Relocate the plant to an area with less direct sunlight.

Foul Aroma:
If you detect a foul smell or observe the bottom half of the plant blackening, it likely has soft rot, a bacterial infection with no cure. The plant will deteriorate both in appearance and scent. Unfortunately, it’s not salvageable and should be disposed of.

How do I choose the right location for my Corn Palm?

Corn Palms thrive in bright, indirect light but can tolerate lower light levels. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, as it can scorch their leaves.

What is the ideal temperature range for Corn Palms?

Corn Palms prefer temperatures between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C) during the day and slightly cooler at night.

How often should I water my Corn Palm?

Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering. When you do water, ensure it drains freely, and remove any excess water from the saucer.

Do Corn Palms require any special type of soil?

They thrive in well-draining potting mixtures with good aeration. A standard indoor plant potting mix works well.

Can I fertilize my Corn Palm, and if so, how often?

Yes, you can use a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). Avoid over-fertilizing as it can lead to damage.

How can I encourage new growth in my Corn Palm?

To promote new growth, prune back any leggy or overgrown stems. New shoots will emerge from the trimmed areas.

Is the Corn Palm safe for pets?

No, the Corn Palm is toxic to both cats and dogs. Keep it out of reach or choose a pet-friendly alternative.

Can I propagate my Corn Palm?

Yes, Corn Palms can be propagated through stem cuttings. Allow the cuttings to callus over before planting them in a well-draining potting mix.

What are common signs of stress or problems in Corn Palms?

Yellowing or browning of leaves, wilting, or drooping are common signs of stress. Adjust watering, lighting, or temperature conditions accordingly.

Conclusion

Cultivating and caring for a Corn Palm, scientifically known as Dracaena fragrans, can be a rewarding and enriching experience for any indoor plant enthusiast. With its elegant appearance and adaptability to various indoor environments, it has earned its popularity over the years.

Providing the right balance of light, temperature, and watering is crucial for the well-being of your Corn Palm. Remember to avoid direct sunlight, keep the temperature within the recommended range, and allow the soil to partially dry out before watering. Additionally, ensure that the potting mix is well-draining to prevent waterlogged roots.

Regular maintenance, including occasional pruning and fertilizing during the growing season, can encourage healthy growth and maintain the plant’s graceful appearance. If you encounter any signs of stress, such as yellowing or wilting leaves, promptly adjust the care routine to address the specific needs of your Corn Palm.


Mary Lloyster

Mary Lloyster

Mary, the ultimate oracle of indoor gardening! With years of experience and a flourishing indoor expo, Mary has become our go-to expert for all things related to house plants and indoor gardening. Despite her background in Political Science, Mary has discovered a delightful way to blend her full-time job with a touch of relaxation through indoor gardening. Now, she eagerly shares her wisdom and experiences with our readers on a daily basis. If you have any inquiries about house plants, indoor gardening techniques, or caring tips, don't hesitate to leave a comment for Mary in the designated section below!

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