Botanical name: Dracaena fragrans
Corn Palm is an easy to grow houseplant whose glossy, large, yellow-striped leaves will brighten up any space. It is also a good air cleaner which gets rids of common VOCs like xylene, toulene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloethylene. Corn palm has its origins in Tropical East Africa. It is a slow grower but it can reach a height of 6 ft. The leaves may die if exposed to excessive sunlight. Protect the plant from draughts as they may lead to dry, brown scorch marks on the leaves. As it grows, Corn Plam sheds the lower leaves, leaving a bare stem with a cluster of leaves at the top. A new plant may drop a few leaves as it adjusts to its new home.
Several varieties of Corn Palm are available. Dracaena fragrans massangeana with its corn-color central band outsells all the others. Other common varieties are Dracaena fragrans lindenii and Dracaena fragrans victoria among others.
Corn Palm prefers light shade, an east- or west-facing window is ideal. It can also grow in shade but the growth will be much slower. Avoid direct sunlight as it can burn the leaves causing the plant to wilt. Learn more on how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.
Keep soil moist at all times for Corn Palm but reduce watering in the cold months. Avoid overwatering as it may lead to root-rot. Use water at room temperature that is free of chlorine, flourides and other chemicals to prevent brown leaf tips. Learn more on how to water houseplants.
Average warmth with a minumum of 120C is ideal for Corn Palm. Find out more on temperature for houseplants.
Average room humidity is ideal for Corn Palm. Mist the leaves occasionally and clean them by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust. If the air is too dry especially where temperature is high raise humidity by more frequent misting or set the pot on a wet pebble tray.
Feed Corn Palm monthly during the growing period with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. Withhold feeding in the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn. Regularly flush out accumulated salts in the soil by running a stream of water through the soil until the water comes out through the drainage hole. Allow it to run for a few minutes and repeat several times. Find out more on feeding houseplants.
Repot Corn Palm at the beginning of the growing season when roots begin to grow through the drainage holes; the plant prefers to be slightly root-bound. Use a pot 1 size larger and one that has drainage holes. The soil should be free-draining and rich in organic matter. Never allow the roots to sit in waterlogged soil as it may lead to root-rot.
Pruning Corn Palm involves removal of dead and yellow leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy. To encourage bushy growth (branching), the stem can be cut at the desired height and new stems will sprout below the cut. This will result in the plant producing several stems instead of having just one stem. When the plant becomes too tall, the stem can be cut at the desired height to encourage new growth to sprout just below the cut. The foliage emanating from the pruning, can be used to propagate new plants. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.
Propagation of Corn Palm can be done by air layering, from stem cuttings or by use of the crown from old leggy canes.
Corn Palm propagation by Air Layering
Air layering in Corn Palm consists of notching the stem of a healthy plant, coating the notch with a rooting hormone, surrounding the area with damp moss and then covering it with a polythene film or clear plastic wrap. After the roots have formed sever the stem just below the covered part, remove the polythene and carefully pot the rooted cutting. New shoots will sprout from the shortened stem of the old plant.
Corn Palm propagation from the top crown of leaves
Remove the top crown of Corn Palm leaves bearing about 3 in. of stem, apply a rooting hormone and stick it in moist free draining rooting soil. Place the set in a warm shaded place. Rooting will occur in 3-6 weeks. When new growth is observed, the plant can be transplanted.
Corn Palm propagation from stem cuttings
Take 2-3 in. long stem cuttings of Corn Palm cane, dip the lower cut-end of the cutting in a rooting hormone and stick it in moist free draining rooting soil. Place the set up in a warm medium lit place. Roots will develop in about 3-6 weeks. Once there is new growth, the plant can be transplanted.
There are four reasons for these in Corn Palm. One is dry air; raise humidity, by more frequent misting or set the pot on a wet pebble tray. Two is underwatering; maintain the soil moist at all times and do not let the soil to dry out. Three is chemical accumulation in the soil; use chemical free water and regularly flush out salts from the soil. Four is cold draughts; place the plant away from draughts.
This is a natural process in Corn Palm, as the plant matures it sheds the lower leaves. Each lower leaf turns yellow and dries leaving a crown of leaves on top of the cane-like stem.
If the temperature is too low Corn Palm leaves become soft and curled and the edges turn brown. Maintain an average room temperature and protect the plant from cold draughts.
Corn Palm will form brown leaf spots if it is underwatered. Maintain the soil moist at all times and never allow the soil ball to dry out.
Direct sunlight will cause bleached dry patches on the leaves of Corn Palm. Move the plant to a shadier spot or protect it from direct sunlight.
Corn Palm is prone to root-rot which is promoted by waterlogging. Ensure there is free drainage of both the soil and the pot and also reduce watering in the cold season. Keeping Corn Palm too cold will also kill it; maintain average room temperature and protect it from cold draughts. Another reason for the death of Corn Palm is accumulation of salts in the soil; regularly flush out salts from the soil.
Corn Palm (Dracaena fragrans) is toxic to both humans and pets. The leaves contain alkyds. If ingested they may cause vomiting and excessive salivation.