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 unkillable, 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
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
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
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 plants 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.
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 a humidity gauge to monitor humidity levels. Also, rather than watering the plant more often, lightly mist the leaves frequently instead.
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.