Dracaena Fragrans Growing Guide: Corn Plant Care, Health Benefits & Dangers

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | March 14, 2024

An image showing a lush arrangement of Dracaena Fragrans plants, with their distinctive long, thin, striped green leaves emerging from the tops of woody stems.

Th Dracaena fragrans, also known as the Corn Plant, is a popular indoor plant for more than gardeners.

In fact, the plant has wonderful ‘cleansing’ properties, able to remove toxins from the air, increase humidity and levels of cognitive function!

It’s beautifully variegated leaves and compact size make it a favorite in many office parks and homes, but before planting or growing a Dracena fragrans, there are some things to consider and dangers to avoid

This complete guide explains how to grow corn plants indoors from cuttings and seeds, as well as how to avoid the dangers to your pets, so that you can reap the benefits this lovely and graceful plant provides.

Growing Zones for Dracaena fragrans: Where To Grow Corn Plant

The Corn Plant doesn’t enjoy the cold and grows best in hardiness zones 10 – 11 with temperatures of 60°-75° F as experienced in its native environment.

So, if you live in zones where it won’t survive outdoors during certain seasons, consider choosing a sunny indoor location and mobile planting.

Maintaining it above 55° will be sufficient for the plant to do well and stay healthy. Anything less for a significant amount of time will see the long, bushy leaves losing color and vitality.

Corn Plant

(Dracaena fragrans)

Image of Dracaena Fragrans in an oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Genus: Dracaena
  • Leaf: Between 20–150 cm and shiny green with a yellow or white stripe
  • Bark: Light gray, smooth
  • Seed: Small and golden yellow to black in color
  • Blossoms: Late spring to early summer
  • Fruit: A round, orange-red berry
  • Native Habitat: Africa
  • Height: 6 feet
  • Canopy: 3 feet
  • Type: Evergreen
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 10 - 11

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Least Concern


Adequate exposure to lighting is also crucial to the plant’s survival. An indoor Dracaena fragrans abhors direct sunlight as broad leaves can become singed,3 yet conversely too little light will cause the leaves to become narrower in an effort to conserve energy.

Therefore a medium level of radiance and indirect sunlight would be required where the light is filtered and not too bright, preferably in a hanging basket or a high shelf for safety reasons to keep leaves out of the reach of curious cats.

Best Growing Conditions for Dracaena fragrans (Dracaena fragrans Growing Zone)

If the humidity and the intensity of sunlight exposure have been perfected, the next requirement is for the soil composition.

When growing it outside in a shaded area, the soil has to be able to drain away excess water as the roots will not do well resting in very sodden dirt.

Graphic of Dracaena fragrans identification chart with leaf flowers seed pod and bark in circle frames on green background.

For indoor planting, as long as a potting soil is used and there a sufficient draining holes in the base of the container,6 there will be no threat of root rotting problems arising. A watering regime to keep the soil moist during the early stages of the growing season should be employed along with the application of a liquid fertilizer, and then a reduced frequency of both in the fall.

The Dracaena fragrans are drought tolerant but still need a little TLC.

Growing Dracaena fragrans From a Seed (Planting Tips for Dracaena fragrans or Corn Plant)

The germination process for Dracaena fragrans starts with a handful of seeds and a bowl of water at room temperature. The reason for immersing the seeds in water for up to 5 days is to mimic the harshness of their native habitat where nature naturally breaks down the defenses of the seed so that it will germinate faster.

Water immersion tricks the seeds into believing that there is more than enough moisture for them to begin their growth cycle. This also overcomes an inbuilt inhibitor mechanism that prevents germination when the seeds are exposed to small amounts of moisture, like when it is inside a fruit.

After 5 days it’s time to take the next steps

  • Fill a small pot with a starting soil mixture and gently push the seeds below the surface
  • Moisten the soil but avoid overwatering by ensuring that the pot has drainage holes
  • Place a plastic cover over the pot to simulate a tropical environment
  • But if the ambient temperature is below 60° place the pot on a germination mat or under grow lights
  • Position in indirect sunlight
  • Water so the soil becomes moist, and poke a few holes in the plastic to prevent the excess build-up of too much moisture
  • As soon as the seeds germinate the plastic can be removed
  • Separate the seedlings when two ‘true leaves’ have appeared then individually place them into larger pots with normal potting soil. These two leaves are able to perform photosynthesis, while seed leaves, ‘cotyledons’, are not so it’s important to wait for them to appear
  • Apply a water-soluble fertilizer every now and then to ensure sufficient nutrient availability

Top Tips for Growing a Dracaena fragrans From a Cutting (Air Layering and Rooting in Water)

Implementing just a few of these tips when learning how to propagate Dracaena fragrans Plants will simplify the steps needed to grow these houseplants from cuttings or seedlings.8

Dracaena fragrans in red flower pots showing of the cuts on their barks.

(Image: Mokkie10)

From a cutting

  • Sterilize the scissors or shears about to be used in alcohol
  • Choose a suitable rooting hormone. But don’t apply too much as this can cause harm to the plant so follow the instructions closely
  • Air layering is where the underside of a branch is partially cut, smeared with sphagnum moss, and wrapped in plastic while still attached. Maintain moisture in the area and within 1-3 months roots will sprout from this open wound
  • Sever the branch below this area and then place your cutting root down in a container with some potting mix

Rooting in water is another method of Corn Plant propagation that is preferred by some as the roots can easily be seen as they sprout into existence

  • Completely snip off a branch below the leaf node, leaving at least two leaves still attached
  • Smear the cut end with a rooting hormone
  • Remove any lower leaves and submerge those now exposed nodes in a jar of water
  • Place in a location bathed in indirect sunlight
  • It can take between 2-8 weeks for the roots to develop but the good point with this propagation technique is that you can see everything
  • Once they are ready, transplant them into a pot filled with a porous potting soil

Top Tips for Growing a Dracaena fragrans From a Seedling (Corn Plant)

Transplanting a seedling from one container to another is a delicate process and needs to be undertaken carefully to avoid stressing the Dracaena fragrans Plant. This phenomenon is called transplant shock and can lead to health issues or even to the plant dying.

Whenever repotting one of these low-maintenance evergreen shrubs,5 follow these steps so as not to cause undue stress

  • Before transplanting, ensure the plant is sufficiently watered
  • Be careful not to cause any bruising to the roots when extracting from the smaller pot
  • Conduct the extraction either in the morning or the evening when it is cooler than during the middle of the day
  • Mix organic fertilizer or compost into the new soil which needs to be aerated
  • Do not bury the seedlings too deep but allow enough side room for lateral growth
  • If transplanting outside, remove all weeds and scatter mulch around the base
  • Water thoroughly

Watering Needs for Dracaena fragrans Plants & How Much Sunlight Does Dracaena fragrans Need Each Day?

Dracaena fragrans are hardy plants and only require between 2-4 hours of bright but indirect sunlight a day. Their watering needs are equally not very demanding.

As long as the soil is moist there are no problems. Generally, a once-a-week watering regime is fine, or just watering when the topsoil is dry to a depth of 2-3 cm.

Photo of the leaves of Dracaena fragrans on top of each other under the heat of the sun.

(Image: Forest & Kim Starr11)

In the winter months, less watering will be required as more moisture will be retained in the soil.

Types of Dracaena Plants – How To Identify Dracaena fragrans (Corn Plant)

Many of the different types of Dracaena fragrans. Plants are easily discernible from one another by the yellow markings and the shapes of the leaves. Some of them, like the Dracaena marginata ‘Colorama’ is actually reddish.

Despite the similarities and slight variations, they all make wonderful indoor plants.

Types of Dracaena PlantsDescription
Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’A long yellow stripe down the center of the deep green leaves
Dracaena fragrans ‘Lindenii’The yellow stripes are found along the edges of the leaves
Dracaena fragrans ‘Lemon Lime’Very attractive with swirling sword-shaped leaves edged with yellow and lighter markings along the deep green center
Dracaena fragrans ‘Limelight’As they mature, the shading of these leaves turns a paler lime green
Dracaena fragrans ‘Victoria’The yellow stripe tends to be thicker down the middle and brighter
Dracaena reflexa ‘Variegata’ (Song of India)Smaller, sword-shaped leaves with distinctive yellow markings along the edges
Dracaena marginata9Very thin, yellow-edged leaves with a lighter green center
Dracaena marginata ‘Colorama’In this plant, the green coloring is replaced by a reddish color, with the same yellow stripe running down the thin leaves
Dracaena sanderianaThese plants are absent of any yellow markings along their long tapering leaves

Dracaena fragrans Flower – Dracaena fragrans Seeds – Dracaena fragrans Leaves (Corn Plant)

Despite the fact that there millions of leaves in the world, the Dracaena fragrant Plants are instantly recognizable from theirs, whether they are thin, wide, with a thick yellow stripe running down the center, or if the outer edges are lined with gold.

When grown indoors they rarely bear fruits or bloom with flowers. In an outdoor setting, the fruits burst forth in colors of orange and red, small and round, and temptingly tasty.

Dracena frgrans with its long dark leaves and flowers.

(Image: Assianir12)

Just like with consuming the leaves, the fruits are poisonous for most animals so are avoided. Each fruit has between 1-4 seeds and, even though the Corn Plant can perform self-pollination, insects also assist in the pollination process.

It is this lack of insect pollination that restricts the fruits from emerging indoors, but flowers can be coaxed to bloom on demand, but it may not be a good idea.

With the correct lighting, constant temperatures, and nutrients, attractive and fragrant white flowers can be convinced to emerge. The problems become noticeable almost immediately.

First, the plant produces sticky nectar that actually drips onto furniture and is hard to remove.

Second, that sweet fragrance that is enjoyable outside can quickly become very overpowering as it wafts throughout the house. Anyone suffering from allergies will have to move the entire plant outside or suffer in miserable silence until the flowers die off in 7 days.

Dracaena fragrans Benefits

It has been clinically proven that being around nature can calm the mind. In Japan, forest therapy is undertaken by enthusiasts as they practice breathing and relaxation techniques to improve their overall health, both mentally and physically.

Growing Dracaena fragrans indoors is a form of forest therapy, called Shinrin-Yoku in Japanese, and here are 6 benefits of having a Corn Plant in your home.

  • Humidity is increased in the home
  • They purify the air and clean out airborne pollutants like carbon dioxide
  • Increases levels of concentration and cognitive function according to a UK study conducted by The Royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester
  • Very low-maintenance compared to other indoor plants
  • Absorbs harmful lead particles carried through the air from outside
  • Can help to alleviate allergic respiratory problems for asthma sufferers

Apart from being excellent indoor ornamental houseplants,4 Dracaena fragrans can help to soothe your mind, body, and soul.

Common Pests of the Dracaena fragrans (Natural Pest Control for Dracaena fragrans)

As far as pests go, the two most problematic for the Dracaena fragrans Plant are scale insects and mites.

Spider Mites

These miniature menaces congregate out of the line of sight underneath the leaves and suck the juice right out of your healthy plant. Look for very fine webbing, yellowing, pale blotches, or the leaves drying out.

To eliminate them, cut away severely damaged leaves. Mix alcohol and dish soap in a water-filled spray bottle and apply liberally.

Soft Scale

Similar to mites but slighter bigger at 2-6mm, these tiny assailants target the sap directly running through the veins of the leaf.

Look for drooping leaves that are yellowing or have developed black mold, or a sticky honeydew substance.

To eliminate them, give them a sharp dose from a spray bottle filled with horticultural oil.

How To Stop Dracaena fragrans Disease (Dracaena fragrans Disease Prevention)

Having a disease infecting your plant is the last thing anyone wants, and the best method to stop that from happening is to prevent the occurrence in the first place.

Fusarium leaf spot and soft rot are some of the common diseases.

Small version of Dracaena fragrans planted in a small white flower pot.

(Image: Jerzy Opioła13)

Their presence is characterized by spots with a surrounding halo and in more severe cases the death of lower-hanging leaves and, worse still, a pervading rotting smell. Overwatering is generally the cause of these maladies.

To prevent these two fungicidal invaders, avoid watering directly over the Dracaena fragrans Plant and, of course, do not overwater.

Unfortunately, if you do get to the stage where the plant is emitting that overpowering rotting stench, it’ll definitely be time for a new plant.

How To Save a Dying Corn Plant

Is there any hope for your Dracaena fragrans if it’s looking like it’s fading away before your very eyes?

Before rushing and trying 10 remedies at the same time, take the time to evaluate what the symptoms mean. Some of the signs will be the presence of dry patches on the leaves or brown tips, as well as dropping leaves.

The problems could be arising from watering issues, either underwatering or overwatering the plants,7 lack of nutrients, temperature too low, or a fungus rotting the roots.

The treatment should consist of cutting away dead parts of the leaf, inspecting the soil to ascertain if it’s sodden or dry, and then taking the appropriate action.

Check for any pests and signs of disease. If any are found treat them with the correct fungicide or horticultural spray.

If the problem is root rot, it is possible to remove the plant completely from the soil, rinse the roots clean of dirt clean, allow them time to dry, and then replant in a sterilized pot with fresh soil.

The key to successfully having a Corn Plant blossoming in the corner of your home is vigilance. Every now and then conduct a spot check to evaluate its health and to find any unforeseen small problems, before they become big ones.

Companion Plants for Growing Dracaena fragrans

Even when the Dracaena fragrans is grown solely as an indoor plant it can benefit from having companion plants. These can be planted in the same pot as a filler, to add color, or to introduce different textures.

As a rule, no more than 3 different plants should be rooted in the same pot, but if the pot is large enough it is possible to add more.

Impatiens grow well in containers and will add the color portion of companion plants and, more importantly, they appreciate the same temperatures as the Corn Plant so will not wilt under the heat.

There are quite a few colors to choose from – blue, orange, red, white, pink, purple, and even yellow, and each has its own distinctive scent that is not in the least bit overpowering.

Incorporating the ornamental Sweet Potato Plant will add texture and contrast with its dark purple foliage. Similar to the impatiens flowers, it is hardy to USDA hardiness zones 8 -11.

Photo of Creeping Jenny with its dark green leaves and bright yellow flowers.

(Image: Denis Otkydach14)

There are other plants such as creeping jenny, coral bells, petunias, and more that are suitable for companion planting.2 With a little research, it’s possible to find more options that will enhance the presence of the Dracaena fragrans in your home.

Is Dracaena fragrans Toxic?

Yes, the corn plant is dangerous to pets.

It is important to recognize from the very beginning before even attempting to grow a Dracaena fragrans, that this plant is not pet friendly.

There is a particular compound in the leaves called saponin that is highly toxic to cats and dogs.

If any of the leaves have been chewed and swallowed, their symptoms will range from:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Eventual Dehydration

A veterinarian can quickly alleviate the symptoms and get your pet’s tail wagging again with no lasting damage in no time. If you suspect that your moggy or Fido has been nibbling the leaves, whatever you do, don’t wait.

To do so will endanger their lives and could prove fatal.

Dracaena fragrans Facts (Corn Plant)

The reason why the Dracaena fragrans is called the Corn Plant is because of the resemblance of the unbranched part of the plant that looks like a corn stalk.

Here are a few more interesting facts that are worth unearthing about this very popular houseplant:

  • The Dracaena plant was named in the 1700s after a spirit dragon from Greek mythology, called Drakaina
  • A dye is made from a resin found in some of the Dracaena varieties and has been called “dragon’s blood
  • The tree has also been used to make incense, varnish, and for medicinal purposes
  • A similar plant called Cordyline is often mistaken for the Corn Plant. The only way to tell the difference is that the Dracaena has orange roots and the imposter has white ones

For centuries, native tribes have utilized all aspects of the plant to cure dysentery and rheumatoid arthritis, and even to make toothpaste.

Nowadays, the Dracaena fragrans are primarily used as indoor ornamental plants.

Understanding how the Dracaena fragrans grows (corn plant) can help enure that your plants flourish for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Corn Plant Dracaena fragrans

Can You Grow Dracaena fragrans Indoors?

Yes, Dracaena fragrans are ornamental plants and grow equally well indoors and outdoors, as long as 68° – 75ºF temperatures are maintained.

When To Plant Dracaena fragrans for the Best Yield?

Dracaena fragrans are low-maintenance evergreen shrubs and need to be planted in spring or summer to grow to their best self.

How Long It Takes To Grow Dracaena fragrans (Corn Plant)?

Being a slow-growing plant, it can take up to 10 years for the Corn Plant to reach full maturity.

How Far Apart To Plant Dracaena fragrans?

When planting outdoors it is prudent to leave about 4-6 feet between plantings to allow room for the leaves to stretch outwards with encumbrances.

Are There Other Dangerous Plants and Trees?

In North America alone there are 700 species of toxic plants and dangerous trees that are poisonous to humans.1

Read More About Dracaena fragrans


1Budd, A. (2022, September 5). These 25+ plants are toxic to pets. CAES Newswire. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from <https://newswire.caes.uga.edu/story/9031/toxic-plants.html>

2Harris, N., & Streets, J. (2022, March). Companion Planting. WVU Extension. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from <https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/gardening/garden-management/companion-plantin>

3NC State University. (2023). Dracaena fragrans. NC State Extension. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/dracaena-fragrans/>

4RECORDS, E. (2020, November 6). Reduce stress with these easy houseplants. OSU EXTENSION MASTER GARDENER LINN & BENTON COUNTY. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from <https://blogs.oregonstate.edu/linnbentonmg/2020/11/06/reduce-stress-with-these-easy-houseplants/>

5Shaughnessy, D., & Pertuit, A. (1999, September 21). INDOOR PLANTS – TRANSPLANTING & REPOTTING. Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from <https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/indoor-plants-transplanting-repotting/>

6University of Illinois. (2023). Succesesful Container Gardens How to Select Plant and Maintain. University of Illinois Extension. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from <https://web.extension.illinois.edu/containergardening/soil.cfm>

7University of Maryland. (2023, March 13). Overwatered Indoor Plants. University of Maryland Extension. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from <https://extension.umd.edu/resource/overwatered-indoor-plants>

8The University of Vermont. (2023). Plant Magic: How to Propagate Plants from Cuttings. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from <https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/Extension-Community-Horticulture/How_to_propogate_with_cuttings.pdf>

9NC State University. (2023). Dracaena marginata. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Retrieved April 21, 2023, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/dracaena-marginata/>

10Dracaena fragrans 2 Photo by Mokkie / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) . Resized. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dracaena_fragrans_2.jpg>

11Starr 071024-0143 Dracaena fragrans Photo by Forest & Kim Starr / Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) . Resized. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starr_071024-0143_Dracaena_fragrans.jpg>

12Dracaena fragrans 20140415 111719 Photo by Assianir / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) . Resized. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dracaena_fragrans_20140415_111719.jpg>

13Dracaena fragrans a1 Photo by Jerzy Opioła / Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) . Resized. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dracaena_fragrans_a1.jpg>

14Lysimachia nummularia 138484656 Photo by Denis Otkydach / Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) . Resized. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lysimachia_nummularia_138484656.jpg>

15Species Information Image: Dracaena fragrans massangeana Photo by Jkrup4. (2008, January 2) / Public domain. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 17, 2024, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dracaena_fragrans_massangeana.jpg>