How to Repot a Corn Plant

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The corn plant (​Dracaena fragrans​) is one of the best big house plants for moderate and low light conditions. The stem and leaves resemble the stalks and leaves of sweet corn (​Zea mays​). Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12, corn plants thrive in the warm temperatures of the average home. Repot in spring, before new growth begins.

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Types of Dragon Trees

The dracaenas are a family of tropical foliage plants. Native to Madagascar and tropical Africa, Asia, Australia and Central America, these relatively slow-growing, tree-like shrubs feature showy leaves and the occasional flowers. They tolerate low light and benign neglect, but are intolerant of fluoridated water; use distilled water for watering if possible.

The corn plant's erect single or multi-stem trunks feature glossy green, 1 1/2- to 3-foot-long and 1- to 3-inch-wide leaves that may have white or yellow stripes, depending on the cultivar. A corn plant can grow up to 12 feet tall under ideal conditions, but usually remains smaller when grown as a houseplant.

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Other types of dracaenas, also known as dragon trees, include the 10-foot-tall dragon tree (​Dracaena cincta)​, which features narrow green leaves with purple margins or cream and red stripes, the 2 1/2-foot-tall gold dust dracaena (​Dracaena godseffiana​) and the short and dense pleomele or Song of India (​Dracaena reflexa​). The green dracaena (​Dracaena deremensis​) is less common than its cultivars 'Bausei,' 'Janet Craig' and 'Warneckii.' While all dracaenas tolerate low light conditions, generally variegated cultivars need more light. The 4-foot-tall 'Warneckii' is the exception, making its green- and white-striped leaves a focal point in a dim corner.

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Select a Flowerpot

Before you begin, put on safety goggles, gloves and a dust mask. Cover your work surface with a plastic tablecloth or newspapers. Sterilize all your tools by dipping the blades in rubbing alcohol, Lysol or Pine-Sol.

Select a new flowerpot the next size up from the current pot. If you're recycling a flowerpot, sterilize it by scrubbing clean, then soaking it for 10 to 15 minutes in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Rinse well and allow to air dry.

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Prepare the Potting Mix

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Fill the new flowerpot up to one-third full with a standard, well-drained houseplant mix. Alternately, mix your own by combining 1 part each of compost, peat moss or coconut coir and perlite. Moisten the potting mix thoroughly.

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Repot the Corn Plant

Lay the plant and pot on its side. Slip the plant out of the pot. Examine the root ball and trim any damaged, dead or rotting roots. Loosen the edges of the root ball.

Place the corn plant upright in the new flowerpot. Adjust the potting mix in the bottom of the flowerpot to keep the top of the root ball 1 to 2 inches below the rim of the pot. Fill in around the root ball with more potting mix and tamp lightly. Water thoroughly and add more mix if necessary.

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Care for Corn Plants

Water when the potting mix is dry to a depth of 1 to 2 inches, but don't allow the mix to dry out completely. Add a layer of pebbles to raise the bottom of the pot above the excess water in the tray and mist regularly to keep the humidity around the plant higher. Fertilize from spring through fall, monthly with a liquid houseplant fertilizer or biweekly with a 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer diluted to one-half strength.

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Place the corn plant in bright filtered light. While it tolerates lower light conditions, the leaves will become narrower over time. Keep out of drafts from any air-conditioning and heating vents. You can also put your corn plant outside in summer, but keep it in bright or dappled shade, as direct sunlight will burn the leaves.

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Keep your corn plant and other dracaenas out of reach of children and pets. All parts of the plant contain saponins, which are bitter tasting, toxic compounds. If the plant is ingested, it can cause drooling, vomiting, depression and dilated pupils.

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