Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans), also known as false palm, gets its scientific name from the Greek word for female dragon, an homage to the red sap contained in its stems. The plant derives its common name from its resemblance to the domesticated maize plant. Corn plants are among a group of houseplants capable of removing pollutants and cleaning indoor air.
Corn plants grow in tree or shrub form, generally reaching 4 to 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide when grown in containers. Outdoors, the plants can achieve heights of 20 feet. The low-maintenance plants prefer humid conditions and low light levels. Cultivars of Dracaena fragrans include Massangeana, which features strap-like foliage with a central yellow stripe; Lindenii, which has creamy white stripes along the leaf margins; and Rothiana, which has leathery leaves edged in white. Dracaena fragrans plants develop fragrant flower panicles in shades of white, pink or lilac.
Expose your plants to cool conditions indoors by placing them in an unheated room, in a basement or on an unheated porch to trigger flowering. Corn plants are frequently used as houseplants, as they are capable of withstanding outdoor conditions only in southern portions of Florida and California. Plant owners may fail to see their plants bloom because they flower under conditions that are unlikely to occur in indoor living areas or in very warm regions.
Move your plants outdoors when temperatures fall to the range necessary to trigger flowering. Give the plants protection to help them adapt temporarily to the differing conditions. Place the plants in the shade and offer them shelter from the wind and from freezing temperatures. Do not expose your plants to temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, warns the University of Florida Mid-Florida Research and Education Center.
Expose your plants to nighttime temperatures of 45 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly below for at least one to two weeks whether you choose to keep them indoors or outdoors. The plants are night-flowering and in some instances may require several weeks of exposure to trigger flowering. Flowering in corn plants grown outdoors usually takes place in the fall, early winter or late spring when these temperature ranges are more likely to occur.
Flowering temporarily harms a corn plant’s appearance as it results in the loss of the terminal meristem. The single main stem of a younger plant branches after flowering, and the plant stops growing until the side nodes emerge. These branches will then flower and branch as well, under the right conditions. For fuller plants without flowering, prune the stems to force them to branch.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Dracaena Fragrans 'Massangeana' Corn Plant, Fragrant Dracaena
- University of Florida Mid-Florida Research and Education Center: Dracaena Production Guide
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Dracaena
- Khizra Nursery: Indoor Plants: Dracaena
- Cal’s Plant of the Week: Dracaena Fragrans "Massangeana," Corn Plant Dracaena, Ruscaceae