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How to Save a Dying Corn Plant (Dracaena)

How to Save a Dying Corn Plant (Dracaena)

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After the excitement of bringing home your corn plant, expecting it to bring you years of luscious foliage, disappointment can set in when your plant’s leaves turn brown, yellow, grow inwards, or when any number of problems begin to ravish your once beautiful corn plant.

Fortunately, being the resilient house plant that any dracaena variety is, you don’t need to buy a new plant and start afresh, with your fingers crossed that it’ll work out better next time around.

You can learn how to save a dying corn plant, and surprisingly, the solution could be super simple.

The corn plant is a true specimen of a versatile plant suited to almost any growing conditions.

Suited to gardeners of all ages and with limited experience with plants, the corn plant is often the house plant of choice because it can tolerate a ridiculous amount of neglect.

Described by many as the houseplant that’s almost un-killable, there can come a point when you’re ready to throw in the towel and start over.

It’s unlikely you’ll need to though, because there are a number of rescue techniques you can deploy to save a dying corn plant. You’ll be able to enjoy it for years or even decades to come.

Plant profile for Dracaena Family

Healthy Dracaena

The corn plant goes by many names, and all them are part of the Dracaena family of plants – all typical with the same growing and care requirements.

While these plants can be grown inside or outdoors, the majority of them are grown indoors.

The care information here are for plants grown indoors, as that’s the preferred environment for best growth.

What the Corn Plant Needs:

  • Temperatures: Between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Humidity: 40% to 50%
  • Potting Soil: A well-draining potting mix
  • Watering frequency: Weekly, plus occasional misting in the winter when indoor air is drier. It’s also important to make sure the water you use is dechlorinated so leave your plant water at least 24 hours before feeding your plant.
  • Lighting: Indirect sunlight, although it is tolerant of shade

Common Corn Plant Problems and Survival Tips to Treat Them

Droopy, Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing and drooping leaf on dracaena plant

If your corn plant’s leaves are yellow and starting to sag, that’s a symptom of dehydration and can also be a sign of root rot, which is caused by leaving the plant in standing water.

The correct watering technique for corn plants, as with most house plants, is to use a plant pot with plenty of drainage, a well-draining soil mixture (peat-based works well) and only watering the plant until the water pours through the drainage holes.

Water should never be allowed to sit at the base of a plant pot as that’s what leads to root rot.

Another tip is to use luke warm water rather than cold water to prevent the lower temperature shocking the plant.

Brown Scorch Marks on Leaves

Dracaena with Brown Leaves

If you’re noticing brown spots, often accompanied by a yellow outer ring around the brown spot, it’s a symptom of sunburn, which is caused by too much direct sunlight.

An easy fix is to move the plant away from the window exposing the leaves to direct sunlight, or filter sunlight by using a curtain or UV filtering window film.

A related symptom of overexposure to direct sunlight is the leaves of the corn plant growing inward. When a corn plant is overexposed to direct sunlight, it will try to guard against it by curling its leaves in towards the trunk.

If you’re unsure if you’re plant is receiving too much direct sunlight, pay attention to the growth pattern of the leaves.

If they grow inwards, as in begin to curl rather than extend outwards, it’s best to take action early to prevent leaf burn occurring.

Brown Tips on the Leaves

The tips on the leaves on a corn plant turning brown is a symptom of a humidity problem and could be related to watering, but it’s also possible for too much direct sunlight to be negatively effecting the corn plant.

Asides from those, it is possible that there’s indoor appliances, such as dehumidifiers, or drafts close to the plant that’s drying out the indoor air, causing the plants usual growing conditions to change.

Any change to a corn plant’s growing conditions will usually result in the plant growing differently. If this has happened, think of what’s changed recently.

Did you move the plant to a new area with less light? Perhaps near a heater or an entrance close to a door with frequent drafts?

Those types of changes generally alter the humidity the plant is used to and can result in the plant growing differently.

Low Humidity

Watered Dracaena

Corn plants grow best indoors when the relative humidity is kept between 40% and 50%. Higher or lower can cause growth problems similar to those resulting from inadequate watering.

In the winter months, humidity levels indoors tend to be drier, causing the plant to need more watering.

Two possible solutions would be to move the plant to a more suitable location, such as away from a drafty area like near a door or window, or away from heating appliances.

A humidifier can help control room humidity, or you could use an indoor humidity gauge to monitor humidity levels.

Also, rather than watering the plant more often, lightly mist the leaves frequently instead.

Fertilizer Use

Like most plants, corn plants grow better when they get sufficient nutrients and as often is the case, water isn’t all that’s needed.

A fertilizer should be used once monthly throughout the growing season – April to October – but not over the winter when they are semi dormant.

Fertilizing over the winter has no benefit.

Soil and Potting Requirements

The plant pots used for indoor corn plants should have at least one drainage hole to prevent the plant becoming waterlogged, which will ultimately lead to root rot.

A saucer or drip tray placed under the plant pot will catch any water droplets.

A peat-based potting mix is suitable for most indoor plants as it has sufficient water retention but still drains well enough to prevent the soil from becoming soggy or the base of the plant from becoming water-logged.

Generally, corn plants are slow growers and won’t need repotting often and should only be repotted when the plants are root bound and even then, when repotting, only repot into a plant pot one size larger than the previous as the plant does well with compacted roots.

Before you go: Now is the perfect time to start tracking your gardening progress, and I created a garden journal to do exactly that. Click the image below to see it in action and to get your own copy.

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Thursday 4th of August 2022

My corn plants turned brown and the stem became soft. I cut the stem back them lifted the plant out of the pot cut the dead roots off and replanted it. Will it survive?


Saturday 26th of March 2022

What is the likely hood of my plant surviving if I only have the main trunk/stem left? The leaves have died off slowly over the past few months thru the winter. I'm not sure if this was a watering issue or from the problem with gnats that occurred.


Tuesday 29th of March 2022

Have all of the leaves fallen off or do you still have some healthy leaves at the top? Dracaena leaves shed off of the trunk as the plant matures, so if that's what is happening then you shouldn't have anything to worry about. If not, it could be a watering or humidity issue, it could possibly be in a drafty spot or getting hit by the furnace and drying out. It's also possible that it's not getting enough light during the winter. If any of these sound like they might be it, try adjusting those conditions and continue to care for it. The leaves grow very slowly, so it might take a while to see progress. Best of luck!


Carolyn Seymour

Saturday 26th of March 2022

I repotted my corn plant and the bottom stalk seems kinda solf root rot maybe. Can it be saved?


Tuesday 29th of March 2022

It definitely could be root rot/stem rot. Please see step by step instructions in this article: Its ability to survive really depends on how far along the rot is. Best of luck!



Thursday 3rd of March 2022

I got one of these plants at Walmart on clearance and I tried to get it out of the store safely in -20 weather, with a blanket, but now my leaves are all brown. SHould I remove all the leaves?!


Thursday 3rd of March 2022

Lindy, I would remove (or trim if not completely brown) the leaves and try to slowly acclimate the plant into its new environment. Corn plant leaves grow slowly, so it might take some time for them to grow back, but with some care it has a chance of recovery.



Thursday 9th of December 2021

My poor plant is dying and I have no idea what to do. He was doing so well for the first couple of years and getting huge- so healthy! Then, I replanted into a bigger container and that's when the problems started. Now the plant has many leaves that are 3/4 brown yet the two main stalks are still healthy and green with little sprouts poking through! My guess is that the root ball is not opening to take in all of the new space. Ive already cut entire dead leaves off of the plant and Im not sure if I should continue to cut off the dead brown leaves- hes is starting to look more like a stalk than a plant! I dont want to give up on him but not sure how to save him either. Suggestions?

Donie Young

Saturday 29th of January 2022

@Yolanda, Received corn plant when my mother passed away in 2015, and it was beautiful for about 5 years. It started sickening a couple of years ago, after moving it and putting it under a grow light. It's almost nothing but stalk now. I received a second corn plant in 2016 when a son-in-law passed, and it became sickly within about 6 months and died within 3 years. others tell me they are very difficult to maintain. Wish you would get an answer. Mine is sentimental, and my daughter blames me for losing her husbands plant. She was unable to keep it.


Wednesday 12th of January 2022

@kim, did you get an answer to your question? status of your corn plant now? mine is struggling bad.