Dracaena fragrans: corn plant care & propagation

Anika
Anika
Anika
Anika

I studied agricultural sciences and have always preferred spending my free time outdoors. Apart for my enthusiasm for gardening and agriculture, I love taking photos and rarely leave home without my camera. Whether it is landscapes, blossoms or wildlife, I can usually find a perfect shot that captures the beauty of nature.

Favourite fruit: strawberries, blueberries, plums
Favourite vegetables: radishes, tomatoes, pumpkin

Dracaena fragrans is an air-purifying plant with a palm-like growth. Learn all about this exotic houseplant and discover some of the different types of corn plants.

Corn plant in a pot
Corn plant are popular houseplants [Photo: Jedsada Naeprai/ Shutterstock.com]

Dracaena fragrans, commonly known as the corn plant, gets its Latin name from its wonderfully fragrant flowers. In the UK, this tropical plant can be grown as a large or small houseplant. Read on to find out more about the different varieties and how to grow your own corn plant.

Dracaena fragrans: origin and characteristics

Botanically, corn plants belong to the Dracaena genus in the asparagus family known as Asparagaceae. These trees originated in tropical Africa, where they grow up to 6m tall. However, as a houseplant, their height is limited to 1.5 to 2m. The evergreen Dracaena fragrans looks very much like a palm tree. Atop its upright, bare trunk is a leafy head of narrow, lanceolate, downward-hanging leaves. The leaves grow up to 50cm long and are dark green and glossy. Depending on the variety, the leaves can also have white or yellow variegation. Corn plants flower between March and May. The flower clusters are inconspicuous but give the plant its hallmark fragrance, which is even used in the perfume industry.

Tip: corn plants look very similar to cordyline plants (Cordyline spec.). Find more information about cordylines in the article linked here.

A corn plant in bloom
Dracaena fragrans flowers exude a wonderful fragrance [Photo: Mari Nelson/ Shutterstock.com]

The most beautiful varieties

The Dracaena genus contains over 100 Dracaena species. So, is it any surprise that Dracaena fragrans has over 50 varieties that differ in shape, size and colour? Here are some of our favourite varieties:

  • Dracaena x fragrans ‘Victoria’: this is a hybrid variety whose leaves have broad yellow stripes. Over time, this makes for a colourful head of leaves atop the bare trunk.
  • Dracaena fragrans ‘Lindenii’: this variety is distinguished by its glossy green leaves with cream white stripes along the leaf margins.
  • Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’: the leaves of this variety have a broad yellow stripe down the middle.
Corn plants in a nursery
Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’ leaves have two stripe colours [Photo: sharohyip/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting corn plants

Dracaena fragrans are low-maintenance plants that can be grown in almost any home. Here’s what to bear in mind when planting them:

  • Location: choose a bright, semi-shady to sunny spot with consistently warm temperatures above 15 °C. Keep in mind that corn plants are sensitive to strong midday sun, as too much light can easily damage the leaves.
  • Substrate: a pH value of 5.5 to 6.3 is ideal. Use well-aerated and well-structured substrate to prevent the soil from becoming compacted or waterlogged. That said, the soil also needs to be able to store water. Our peat-free Plantura Organic Flower Compost is ideal for growing corn plants, as it contains coconut and wood fibres that give it a stable structure. Our soil also contains added organic fertiliser to provide your plants with all the necessary nutrients.
Organic Flower Compost, 40L
Organic Flower Compost, 40L
star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder
star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
(5/5)
  • Perfect for all flowering plants in garden beds & pots
  • For beautiful blossoms & healthy plant growth
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
£16.99
  • Soon after purchasing a Dracaena fragrans, transplant it into a pot with fresh substrate, preferably during spring.
  • Ensure the new pot has drainage holes, and place a drainage layer of gravel or clay shards in the bottom.
  • Partially fill the pot with soil.
  • Carefully loosen the corn plant’s root ball by gently pulling it apart slightly or lightly scoring it with secateurs.
  • Place the plant’s root ball in the pot, and fill the rest of the pot with soil.
  • Lightly press the soil down and water your corn plant well. After half an hour, pour any excess water out of the plant’s saucer.
A very tall corn plant
In their natural habitat, corn plants grow up to 6m tall [Photo: Sarida Bernadetha Munthe/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Dracaena fragrans grow towards the light. To encourage straight, upright growth, turn your plant slightly every fortnight.

Dracaena fragrans care

Dracaena fragrans are low-maintenance plants. Other than the right location and a proper watering schedule, these plants need very little attention. Still, we recommend taking the following care measures into account for a happy and healthy corn plant.

Watering

Corn plants require a moderate amount of water. Do not allow the root ball to dry out entirely; always keep it slightly moist. If the soil’s surface is dry, it is likely time to water again. Keep in mind, corn plants are sensitive to waterlogging, so remember to pour off any excess water afterwards — never leave standing water in the planter. Corn plants are typically dormant between November and March. While dormant, these plants need far less water.

Dracaena leaves with brown tips
Corn plant leaf tips turn brown if the air indoors is too dry [Photo: Omkoi/ Shutterstock.com]

Humidity: prevent brown leaf tips by ensuring a high humidity of 50 to 65%. Either mist your plant regularly with soft water, or place the plant’s pot on top of a saucer filled with stones and water.

Fertilising

During its growing season, fertilise your Dracaena fragrans every 2 weeks with a liquid fertiliser. Our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food is great for indoor corn plants as it provides them a potassium-rich nutrient supplement. It is also easy to apply — simply dilute some into the water you use to water your plants.

Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder
star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
(5/5)
  • Perfect for a wide variety of houseplants & foliage plants
  • Liquid fertiliser for robust plants & healthy growth
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly
£10.99

Corn plants are dormant from November to March. Do not fertilise during this period.

Large potted corn plant indoors
With the right care, a Dracaena fragrans makes a great statement plant [Photo: Jus_Ol/ Shutterstock.com]

Repotting

Large Dracaena fragrans varieties require repotting into larger containers with fresh soil annually. However, for small varieties, it is only necessary to repot them every 2 to 3 years. When your corn plant becomes root bound, or its substrate loses structure and starts to sink, it is time to repot.

A corn plant root ball
It is best to repot freshly bought Dracaena fragrans into fresh substrate [Photo: mashanmn/ Shutterstock.com]

Overwintering

An indoor corn plant can usually stay put during the winter months. Just ensure the temperature remains around 19 to 25°C. Water less and do not fertilise your plant during this time.

Pruning

If a corn plant outgrows its space, it may be time to prune it. The best time to prune is in spring. Use clean, sharp secateurs to cut off shoots and/or a section of the trunk. This keeps the plant’s size in check and simultaneously encourages branching. Seal large cuts with tree wax. Visit our article on pruning corn plants for more detailed instructions. Keep reading to find out how you can use both trunk and shoot cuttings to propagate new corn plants.

A corn plant cutting
You can prune back your corn plant at any time if it becomes too tall [Photo: aleorozcocortes/ Shutterstock.com]

Corn plant propagation

Spring is also the right time for propagating Dracaena fragrans. Simply use the plant parts removed during pruning as cuttings. Head cuttings, i.e. the soft young shoot tips, should be 8 to 15cm long. You can also use woody trunk pieces that are 4 to 6cm long, provided they have at least one bud, which looks like a slight swelling under the bark.

Corn plant new growth
Healthy young plants can be obtained from top cuttings [Photo: KPhrom/ Shutterstock.com]

Before placing a corn plant head cutting in soil, remove the bottom leaves from the shoot. Put the bare part of the shoot into moist sand or a growing soil mixture with 30% sand. Our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost is ideal for propagating corn plant cuttings, as it supports the root growth of young plants with its loose structure and low-nutrient content. At around 25°C, the cuttings will root within 8 to 12 weeks.

A Dracaena fragrans cutting in water
You can root Dracaena plants in water, but it works better in soil [Photo: Young Swee Ming/ Shutterstock.com]

Are Dracaena fragrans poisonous?

Yes, Dracaena fragrans are poisonous, especially to cats. The plants’ high concentration of saponins causes convulsions, circulatory problems, increased salivation, vomiting and diarrhoea when eaten by cats. Corn plants are also slightly poisonous to children and other pets.

With their palm-like growth, corn plants also look like yuccas (Yucca spec.). Find out more about yuccas in the article linked here.

Subscribe to the Plantura newsletter