An old-fashioned houseplant, the corn tree houseplant (Dracaena fragrans) is a member of the family Agavaceae. The corn tree houseplant or corn plant as is it more commonly known is native to Africa, where it grows in the ground to soaring heights of 20 feet, producing 3-foot leaves. While the corn tree plant grows widely in wide-open spaces, it also functions well as a houseplant because it reacts positively to confinement--growing no larger than its container will allow.
The slow-growing corn tree grows to heights of approximately 6 feet when potted. The plant produces green and yellow variegated leaves, resembling those of the maize plant (corn vegetable). As the corn tree plant grows, it loses its leaves on the lower end of its erect stem, giving it a tree like appearance. Despite its name and foliage similarities, the corn tree does not produce corn.
Consider light, temperature and water when displaying a corn tree houseplant. Corn plants prefer bright, indirect light. Placed in direct sunlight, the foliage of the plant often burns. A temperature of 68 degrees F or above is appropriate for indoor corn plants. If indirect sunlight is not available, corn tree plants will appreciate a grow light. A plant heating pad placed under the pot and set to the required temperature will keep the corn plant warm. Corn plants prefer deep waterings each time the top layer of soil dries out.
The corn tree houseplant produces highly fragrant, white flowers that grow in clusters and bloom in the late spring. Pinching-off the spent blooms with your fingertips can encourage more blooms. Tiny, spherical fruits develop immediately after flowering ends. These bright, red-orange fruits are fairly inconspicuous, measuring only ¼ inch in diameter. Fruits remain on the corn tree for several weeks after they appear.
Corn tree houseplants are sensitive to fluoride. Therefore, it is essential to water the corn tree plant using bottled water if you have city tap. Exposure to fluoride causes the foliage of the corn tree to develop a burnt appearance at the leaf tip. The corn plant does not develop a tolerance to fluoride like some houseplants. In fact, fluoride begins to build-up in the soil after each watering, slowly decreasing vigor and eventually killing the plant.
According to the University of Minnesota Extension, the corn tree plant plays a very important role in the indoor environment when grown as a houseplant. Corn plants have the amazing ability to cleanse the air indoors, freeing the atmosphere of off-gas pollutants excreted from carpet fibers, coated wallpapers and laminate floors and countertops. Benzene and formaldehyde are some of the biggest offenders of compromising indoor air quality and the corn tree plant can help remove both.
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