Corn plant, also known as Dracaena, is an easy-to-grow houseplant that can thrive for years with minimal care. It has colorful, strappy leaves and a tropical vibe. The most common types are Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’, Dracaena fragrans ‘Lindenii’, and Dracaena reflexa ‘Variegata’. They can tolerate low light and inconsistent watering, making them perfect for beginners. With the right care, a Corn plant can live for 10-15 years and reach up to 6 feet tall.
|Corn plant, Dragon tree
|Dracaena fragrans (most popular cultivars)
|Up to 6 feet tall
|Medium to low light
|Allow top inch or so of soil to dry out between waterings
|Average indoor temperatures, 65 to 80°F
|Balanced, all-purpose fertilizer once a month during growing season
|Well-draining potting mix with perlite or orchid bark
|Every 2-3 years, one size up
|Spider mites, mealybugs, scale
|Stem cuttings, air layering
Corn plants do well in medium to low light. They can tolerate some direct sunlight but do best in bright, indirect light. An east- or west-facing window is ideal. Avoid southern exposure, especially in hot climates. Corn plants can adapt to a range of temperatures, from 55 to 80 F. They grow fastest in warm temperatures. During winter, reduce watering and fertilizer.
Water Corn plants when the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry. In general, this means watering every 7-14 days. Water less in fall and winter when growth slows down. The soil should dry out slightly between waterings. Overwatering can cause root rot, the most common cause of death for Corn plants. Check if the plant needs water by sticking your finger 2 inches deep into the soil. Only water when it feels mostly dry.
Average room humidity is fine for Corn plants. Misting them with a spray bottle can help increase the humidity, especially in dry winter months. Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust. High humidity may lead to leaf spot disease, so avoid excess moisture.
During the growing season in spring and summer, fertilize Corn plants every few weeks. Use a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (such as 10-10-10). Follow the directions on the product packaging and dilute to 1/2 the recommended strength. Too much fertilizer can burn the roots, so err on the side of less. Stop feeding in fall and winter when growth slows down.
If the lower leaves start yellowing and dropping, this could indicate over-fertilization. Flush the soil with water to prevent fertilizer burn.
Watch for roots poking out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, which indicates it’s time to repot. Move up just one size and use a well-draining potting mix. Add perlite or orchid bark to improve drainage. For the average Corn plant, repotting every 2-3 years is typical. Bury the stems to the same level as before and water thoroughly after repotting. Allow the plant to recover in its usual spot before resuming regular watering and feeding.
Pruning a Corn plant improves its shape and fullness. Remove dead or dying leaves and stems at any time. To encourage new growth, cut the main trunk back by about one third in early spring before the growing season starts. Cut just above a leaf node, where a pair of leaves attach. New shoots will form below the cut.
Wipe pruning shears with rubbing alcohol after each cut to avoid disease. Never remove more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Pruning during winter when the plant is less active may stress it, so avoid heavy pruning outside of the growing season if possible .
Most Helpful Advice
The most common issues for Corn plants are overwatering, underwatering, and mealybugs. Overwatering causes root rot, identified by dark, droopy leaves and leaf drop. Improve drainage and allow the soil to dry out. Underwatering leads to dry, brown leaf tips. Increase watering frequency.
Mealybugs are cottony white insects that feed on leaves and stems. Remove them with alcohol-soaked cotton swabs or insecticidal soap according to directions. Scale, spider mites, and aphids can also infest Corn plants. Isolate the plant and treat with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
Here are a few more tips for healthy and happy Corn plants:
• Turn your plant regularly to promote even growth. Rotate the pot about 1/4 turn every few days. This will prevent it from becoming lopsided as it bends toward the light source.
• Wipe leaves with a damp cloth or dust with a soft brush to remove dust. Dusty leaves prevent photosynthesis and make the plant more prone to disease.
• Improve drainage if leaves develop brown spots. This usually means the roots are staying too wet for too long. Add perlite to the potting mix and be careful not to overwater.
• Mist with a spray bottle for humidity, especially in low-light winter conditions. The humidity will discourage spider mites and other pests. Never mist in direct light, which can damage the leaves.
• Repot if the plant becomes top heavy or starts falling over. Add fresh potting mix and move up one size. Make sure 3/4 of the roots are covered with soil to anchor the plant.
• Fertilize lightly in winter when growth slows. During this time, fertilizer needs are minimal. Never fertilize a dry plant. Always water before feeding your Corn plant.
• Prune to control size and shape. You can cut stems back by 1/3 without worry. Pruning also encourages new shoot production, making the plant fuller.
• Watch for common pests like spider mites, mealybugs, scale and aphids. Treat with insecticidal soap or spray according to directions. Severe infestations may require professional treatment.
• Consider propagating large plants to make smaller new ones. Air layering and stem cuttings are easy ways to propagate most varieties of Corn plants.
By following these helpful tips, you’ll have a thriving Corn plant that lives for many years. Their sculptural shape and minimal maintenance make them popular houseplants, ideal even for those with busy schedules or gardening inexperience. With consistent and proper care, you’ll have a verdant, tropical accent in your home. Enjoy your easy-to-love Corn plant!