Q. What is a corn plant (Dracaena)?
Corn plant, also called cornstalk or mass plant (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana') is a flowering plant in the Asparagaceae family, originating from tropical Africa. Its common name comes from the resemblance of the main stalk to a corn plant.
It is a popular houseplant as it is easy to grow and is tolerant of neglect. It does not grow outdoors in the Northeast (although it can be placed outside in the summer when the temperatures do not fall below 60°F). In the wild, the corn plant can grow up to 50 feet in height, but houseplants are much smaller and usually have thick, cane-like, stalks with shoots sprouting from the top of the cut stem. They are rather slow-growing. Corn plants rarely flower indoors, but occasionally fragrant yellow flowers can appear.
Most of the cultivated varieties of corn plant have variegated leaves. ‘Massangeana”, with a bright yellow central stripe, is very commonly found. ‘Compacta’, is a smaller variety. ‘Janet Craig’, ‘Warneckii’, and ‘Lemon Lime’ are beautiful varieties and are often labeled Dracaena deremensis. These are sometimes referred to as Dracaena deremensi group. Some experts reserve the name “corn plant” for the ‘Massangeana’ variety.
Dracaena marginata (Madagascar dragon tail) is a similar-looking plant. It has narrower leaves and is, in fact, a more elegant-looking plant.
Corn plants enjoy low light, average humidity and average room temperature (not below 55°F). Any good potting soil that drains well is suitable. Fertilizer, at half strength, can be applied from spring to fall, but over-fertilizing should be avoided. Corn plants enjoy moderate watering. Water thoroughly once a week or when the soil is dry to the touch one inch below the soil surface. Droopy or yellowing leaves are signs of overwatering. Some yellowing leaves are not an issue and this, along with leaf loss, often happens when the plant is moved to a new location. Corn plants prefer to be slightly pot-bound and shouldn’t need to be repotted more than once every three years. They can be pruned to keep the plant a suitable size at any time by cutting off the “cane” at any height. A cluster of new leaves will grow from the cut site in a few weeks.
Corn plants are relatively disease-free. Spider mites (which like dry conditions) and scale insects (remove manually with wet cloth) can be a problem in winter. Mealy bugs can sometimes be a problem; remove them with a dilute soap solution. Notches in the leaves are caused by vine weevils. They are nocturnal, so pick them off at night!
Dracaena can be easily propagated by simply cutting off the green top, planting the piece in potting soil and watering well. The old plant will re-sprout.
For detailed information, visit this link: Caring for Draecena Mass Cane.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service