How to Grow Dracaena Fragrans Corn Plants

Dracaena reflexa
Jerzy Opiola/Wikimedia Commons

The corn plant is an oldie but goodie in the houseplant industry. Europeans have been using them as indoor plants since the mid-1800s and they’ve been popular in the United States since the early twentieth century. Corn plants are grown as thick canes that sprout from buds along the cane, achieving a “false palm” effect (they’re sometimes called false palms). They make good houseplants because they are tall and narrow, with controlled growth, and can withstand a fairly significant amount of abuse from casual indoor gardeners.

Growing Conditions

Light: Try to locate them near a window with filtered sun. Too little light will result in leaves losing their stripes.
Water: Keep evenly moist, but if you have to err, do so on the dry side. Keeping it too dry, however, will result in brown leaf tips. They prefer about 40% humidity. Use non-fluoridated water as they are sensitive to fluoride.
Temperature: Keep above 55ºF if possible. They do best in the mid-70ºs.
Soil: Loose, well-drained potting mix.
Fertilizer: Fertilize lightly since the plants store nutrients in their canes. Use calcium supplements (chelated calcium or even gypsum) to prevent leaf-tip burn.

Propagation

Corn plants root readily from cuttings. Push tip cuttings into warm soil and keep moist. You can also root cane pieces directly by pushing into growing medium. Make sure the dirt is strong enough to support the cane upright. Rooting hormone can help increase rooting.

Don't be discouraged if it takes some time for new cuttings to root -- propagating corn plants is an inexact science and even experienced gardeners can have trouble with it sometimes.

Repotting

Repot annually into larger pots with fresh, free-draining potting soil. To repot this plant, remove the soil around it, lift the plant as a whole, and replace it in a larger container, making sure not to damage its roots in the process.

Then backfill the area around it with potting soil, and try not to pack too tight to ensure that the plant maintains good drainage.

Varieties

The true Dracaena fragrans has solid green leaves, but most people prefer the D. fragrans ‘Massangeana,’ which features a central, broad lime-green stripe down the middle of the leaf. Another variety, D. fragrans ‘Lindenii,’ has a dark green stripe down the middle and yellowish leaves. A final variety, D. frangrans ‘Victoria,’ has white and cream stripes, but is rarely seen in garden centers.

Grower's Tips

Corn plants are often sold in groups of three canes in larger pots—perfect for a spot on the floor by the window. Like other dracaena, these are sensitive to fluoride and boron, which can cause leaf tip burn. Water with nonfluoridated water. Other causes of brown leaf tips are temperature fluctuations, water stress, and calcium deficiency. If your plant is happy, the biggest problem is likely to be dust on its leaves. Clean the leaves with a damp cloth every so often to keep it looking its best. If the plant grows too tall, you can cut the canes, and new leaf buds will break out near the cut. As is typical of houseplants, growing these plants is largely a matter of maintaining an essential balance between their factors...try not to expose them to extreme conditions in any form, whether that means bright light, overly cold or warm temperatures, or strong wind.