Dracaena fragrans or corn plant, a plant species indigenous to the tropics and islands of Africa and growing at elevations between 2,000–8,000 feet, is a popular indoor ornamental that has been grown since the 1800s because it does well in most indoor settings.
It is a multi-stemmed slow grower, with varieties reaching 50 feet or more high when mature, with a thin crown of slim branches. It can grow as tall as 6 feet indoors.
Stems can reach 12 inches in width on mature plants, growing horizontally in forests with straight lateral branches. Young plants usually start with a straight stem and a rosette of leaves until it blooms or gets damaged, producing 2 or 3 new branches that increase with successive flowering periods.
The leaves are lance-shaped and shiny green, 8–60 inches in length and 1–5 inches wide, with smaller leaves straight up and spreading and bigger leaves drooping with their weight. The very fragrant white flowers have fine purple or red lines produced in clusters of 6–63 inches long, with individual flowers about an inch in diameter, producing orange-red berries with several seeds. The corn plant does flower quite often indoors, but conditions have to be ideal for the flowers to bloom.
There are several different cultivars, with a few variegated varieties, and is usually cultivated as a hedge in Africa. It is mainly popularly cultivated by gardeners elsewhere as an indoor plant and is treasured for tolerating a wide spectrum of conditions, from low light to full light and even neglect, with most people appreciating the plant for its leaves rather than the flowers.
Light influences the plant, with lots of indirect bright light encouraging the best growth, so the best location to grow the plant indoors is a bright shaded spot.
While many varieties enjoy low-light conditions, variegated varieties need more indirect bright light. Rooms and offices with only artificial light are good enough for dark-green cultivars, although the already slow-growing plant will slow down even further when it is in total shade.
The foliage might become discolored and start wilting if the plant is exposed too long to direct sun.
Generally, water the plant when the topsoil dries out, as this prevents most issues regarding soil moisture. Drenching the soil comprehensively and letting surplus water drain away is the ideal method of watering the plant. Tap water must sit in a basin for one day before watering to encourage contaminants to evaporate.
Set a watering schedule and always follow it to avoid over or under watering mistakes and water the plant less frequently in winter.
It grows best in humidity levels of between 40 – 50%. Low humidity is indicated by leaf tips turning brown, a sign that humidity levels need to be increased. Close attention must be kept on humidity levels during winter as the air becomes drier.
Some approaches that can be followed to keep humidity high are spraying the plant indirectly with water, building up a nice mist around the leaves—this should be done once weekly for healthy growth. Or use a humidity tray or humidifier if levels are not high enough.
It prefers an average temperature of between 60- 75°F. Plants will be stressed by sudden temperature changes and being exposed to cold or hot breezes. It can grow outdoors in temperatures above 60°F.
Prefer loose, well-drained, and aerated soil with organic matter to grow well. While this is a tolerant plant, it does not like water-logged soil.
Should be relocated to a larger container every two years. It doesn’t mind being slightly root-bound, but growth will be stifled if roots fill the pot.
Lift the plant from the pot by pulling on the stem. Shake off old soil and spray the roots with water to further remove soil. Inspect the roots for root rot or decayed roots and trim them as needed. Fill the new container about halfway with the appropriate soil mix and position the plant inside the container and fill the empty spaces with soil. Water the plant comprehensively and place it in a shaded area, in indirect light.
Is propagated by cutting several lengths (4-8 inches long) from the stem, letting them dry for at least 1-2 days, and then pushing them into moistened soil until they are rooted. 2 or 3 shots will sprout from the stem.
Does not require much feeding because of the slow growth rate. Just growing it in rich organic soil will provide it with sufficient nutrients. However, it can get a boost when it’s growing by feeding it with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer every month. Don’t feed it in winter.
Some care is needed to prevent over-fertilization by reducing the recommended dose as it might make the leaves yellow or leaf tips becoming brown – similar to those from water issues.
Pruning is essential to stimulate growth or to shape the plant or reduce the height of the plant.
Lower leaves slowly become yellow and dry up as the plant matures. Trim these when they appear.
Overwatering is the cause of most of the problems or diseases that affect this plant. Fungus or bacteria can spread and infect plant roots in waterlogged soil, causing mushy roots, turning leaves brown, ultimately killing the plant—follow the recommended watering schedule and don’t under or over water the plant.
Overwatering will also make the leaves fade to yellow along with making them become soft and limp and also making the stem flat and mushy.
Under-watering can make brown tips appear on the leaves. Make sure to stick to the recommended watering schedule.