How to Grow Corn Plants (Dracaena Deremensis)

Dracaena deremensis on a side table

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

In This Article

Corn plants (Dracaena deremensis) are quite popular as houseplants thanks to their attractive foliage and hardy nature. They’re easy to grow in containers or in the garden in the right climate. These plants can grow quite tall in the wild, but they stay at a manageable size when kept indoors. They feature rosettes of sword-shaped green leaves that can grow to around 2 feet long. Tiny yellow flowers will bloom periodically, but flowers on indoor plants are rather rare. Spring is the best time for planting, though you can typically pot a nursery plant indoors at any time of year. These plants are fairly slow growers and will naturally lose their lower leaves over time while they send up new ones on top.

Botanical Name Dracaena deremensis
Common Names Corn plant, dracaena, striped dracaena
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 15–50 ft. tall, 3–10 ft. wide (outdoors), 4–6 ft. tall, 1–3 ft. wide (indoors)
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type  Loamy, moist, well-drained
Soil pH  Neutral
Bloom Time Seasonal
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 10–12 (USDA)
Native Area Africa
Toxicity Toxic to pets
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Watch Now: How to Grow Dracaena Deremensis at Home

Corn Plant Care

Overall, caring for Dracaena deremensis is simple, and even beginner gardeners should have success. Regular watering will be your main task for these low-maintenance plants, along with feeding for half of the year. 

Corn plants generally don’t have many problems with pests or diseases. You also won’t have to do much in the way of pruning, though you can prune off any foliage that becomes discolored or damaged for aesthetic purposes. You also can prune off the top of your plant if it becomes too tall for your preference. This will encourage bushier growth. If you’re growing your plant in a container, make sure the pot has ample drainage holes. Once the roots have grown to fill the space of the pot, replant your corn plant into the next pot size up using fresh potting mix.

closeup of dracaena deremensis leaves
The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

Light

Outdoors, these plants like filtered sunlight. Direct sun, especially hot afternoon sun, can burn the leaves and cause the plant to wilt. Indoors, place your plant near a window where it can get bright, indirect light. While these plants can tolerate somewhat shady conditions, too little light can cause the leaves to lose their bright colors and not grow in size to their fullest potential.

Soil

An organically rich, loose soil is ideal for corn plants. The soil must have good drainage, as the roots are prone to rotting in soggy soil. A quality commercial potting mix is generally fine for container plants.

Water

Water regularly throughout the growing season (spring to fall) to keep the soil evenly moist. In the winter you can back off on watering a little bit. But don’t ever allow the soil to dry out completely. If you stick your finger in the soil and feel it’s dry, then it’s time to water. Brown and dry leaf tips are a telltale sign that you’ve allowed the soil to dry out too much. It’s best to use non-fluorinated water, such as distilled water or rainwater, on corn plants because they’re sensitive to fluoride. Too much can cause the leaves to turn yellow or brown. 

Temperature and Humidity

These tropical plants like a warm, humid climate. They grow best in temperatures that are between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t allow your plant to have prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, as this can damage or kill it. Humidity above 40% is ideal. Air that’s too dry can cause brown, dry leaf tips. If you notice this, you can occasionally mist the plant to raise humidity or put a potted plant on a tray of pebbles filled with water, making sure the bottom of the pot isn’t touching the water (as this can rot the roots).

Fertilizer

These plants aren't heavy feeders. Use a liquid houseplant fertilizer monthly during the spring and summer, following label instructions. No fertilization is necessary in the fall and winter. 

Is the Corn Plant Toxic?

Plants of the Dracaena genus are safe for humans unless you have a specific allergy to the plant. However, all parts of the plant are toxic to pets when ingested.  

Symptoms of Poisoning

Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting (sometimes with blood), drooling, diarrhea, loss of appetite, depression, weakness, a lack of coordination, and dilated pupils (especially in cats). The plant does have a bitter taste, which might prevent some animals from eating a large quantity and causing severe symptoms. But it is still important to contact a veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect poisoning.

Corn Plant Varieties

Here are some popular varieties within this species:

  • Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’: This plant features stiff leaves with green and white stripes.
  • Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’: This plant has solid dark green leaves and also comes in a compact variety (‘Janet Craig Compacta’) whose leaves are only up to 8 inches long.
  • Dracaena deremensis ‘Lemon Lime’: Leaves that are a mix of cream, yellow-green, and lime green stripes are indicative of this variety.
  • Dracaena deremensis ‘Limelight’: Leaves start out yellow-green but then mature to a light lime green.