How to Save a Dying Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans)


Worried about a dying corn plant? Fortunately, the overall strategy of how to save a dying corn plant isn’t hard to implement. This and more is what we’d discuss in this article.

The sword-like green leaves of a corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) are some of the first things to notice at the height of its bloom. For many, it is usually at the top of the list when considering suitable house plants to grow. This is because it is tolerant of nature, strong, and versatile.

Usually, the expectation when growing a corn plant is to have the luscious foliage decorating your living space for years. This makes it shocking when the plant’s simple beauty becomes distorted by progressive leaves’ discoloration and other diseases. These are some of the obvious indicators that the corn plant is dying.

But this doesn’t have to mean the end of the corn plant though. The situation can be fixed and the plant saved in most cases.

How to Save a Dying Corn Plant (Dracaena)

The corn plant, also known as ‘false palms’, goes by several other names including the Chinese money tree, cornstalk Dracaena, and happy plant. It is a tropical plant native to Africa and is typically grown in plant hardiness zones 10 – 12.

Grown either indoors and outdoors,  they can survive weeks of neglect. Sometimes though, a combination of adverse conditions can cause them to start failing and ultimately die if nothing is done to arrest the decline.

Before looking at how you can save your dying corn plant, let’s kick off with the best ways of caring for them. This should shed some light on what you are doing wrong if your corn plant(s) start declining or dying.

How to Care for Corn Plant

Light 

Though they are tropical plants, corn plants don’t thrive badly when exposed to direct sunlight. Sunburn to the leaves is the direct effect of this exposure. The plants would also wilt as a result.

Exposing the plants to indirect sunlight is the best light requirement for ultimate growth. For instance, keeping them near a window that allows only filtered sunlight. Outdoors, a shady spot would be perfect.

On the other hand, too little exposure to sunlight can be detrimental to their growth. If the leaves are starting to lose their color variegation, that is a sign of underexposure to light. The net effect is stunted growth.

Pot and soil

The pot should have adequate drainage via drilled holes to prevent roots from being submerged in too much water that can cause root rot.

In terms of the soil, the best soil for growth is loamy potting soil that is loose. The looseness of the soil is necessary for drainage and airflow.

Fertilizer

Corn plants, like most plants, thrive best when exposed to adequate soil nutrients. They would respond with healthy foliage, stems, and roots when fed with balanced liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season. But, additional soil nutrients might be unneeded if high-quality potting soil is used

In winter, applying fertilizer is not necessary.

Water

The soil should be kept evenly moist through spring and fall (the typical growing season). You can reduce watering frequency towards the end of fall and in winter. Basically, the plan should be to never allow the soil to become completely dry or too wet to prevent health issues.

Humidity and temperature

The best temperature range for corn plants is between 60 – 75°F. Temperatures outside this range would be detrimental to their growth.

When it comes to humidity, it’s all about mimicking the native environment of the plant. The best humidity range for growth is between 40 – 50%. Anything outside this range would lead to declining plant health.

You can elevate the humidity of the room (for indoor plants) using a humidifier. Another option is to sit the pot or planter on a tray containing water and pebbles. The pot should rest on the pebbles and not touch the water.

These are all the conditions necessary for a corn plant to grow and thrive into a healthy house plant. To put it in the context of this article, your corn plant is dying due to the absence of one or more of the plant care routine listed above.

4 Ways to Save a Dying Corn Plant

Correctly diagnose the cause

Several factors, either singly or in combination, are responsible for corn plants dying. This makes it crucial to investigate and find out the cause so that applying the needed fix isn’t a hit or mix exercise.

The starting point is to consider if all the necessary conditions for healthy corn plant growth are in place. Check out the care routine above for guidance.

Trim off dying parts

The parts of the corn plant that are declining are very noticeable. For instance, the stalk and leaves would turn an unhealthy brown color.

Simply use gardening shears to cut off the dead parts starting with the dying leaves. Cut off the stem next. When cutting the stem, do it in bits and stop when there are signs of green budding from the cut areas.

Since this article is about saving your corn plant, you don’t have to remove the stumps completely from the soil especially if the problem is not root rot.

Leave about 5cm of the healthy stump above the soil. And with the right growth conditions, it can help into a new plant.

Watering issues

Beyond the twin issues of over/under-watering which can be resolve by providing adequate drainage and ensuring consistently even moist soil, high levels of fluoride in the water might also be a problem.

It is not advisable to irrigate the plant with water that contains excess fluoride. Instead of using tap water directly, leach the water of fluoride or (or even chloride) by allowing it to sit in a bucket for 24 hours.

If you’ve been using fluorinated water, you can flush out accumulated fluoride salts in the soil with distilled water. Simply drench the soil slowly with the distilled water. The amount of distilled water to use should be twice the volume of the pot. Repeat the process about two or three times to ensure the fluoride is completely removed. Do this periodically.

Eliminate insects and pests

Different types of diseases caused by pests/insects affect corn plants. If the diagnosed problem points to a disease, use the appropriate method to get rid of it asap.

Some common infections are caused by fungus. If the pant already has a fungal disorder, the best fix is to prune the damaged leaves and stems and then repot the plant using a high-quality potting mix.

Insect pests like spider mites can become a problem especially if the indoor air is dry. The mites produce fine webs covering the growing rips and foliage. Corn plants can die as a result of this.

The best solution is to spray the plant with an insecticidal soap solution made by mixing 6 tablespoons in 4 liters of water. Keep spraying until the plant is dripping wet. Repeat the problem until the problem is eliminated.

How to Save a Dying Dracaena Plant

 

Common Symptoms & Causes of a Dying Corn Plant

Dropping yellow leaves  If your dracaena leaves turning yellow and brown this symptom is generally caused by over-watering. The best fix is to stop watering immediately and allow the soil to dry before you resume watering.

If the yellow leaves are only at the bottom of the corn plant. there is no need to panic because it is normal in a growing corn plant.

Yellow, crispy leaves – Though corn plants are very resilient, they would start to decline after a while without water. The first sign of this is when the leaves become dry and yellowish.

You can revive the plant by simply cutting off the dead leaves. Then slowly re-introduce the plant to water. This gives it time to get used to the idea of watering again.

Over-fertilization can also lead to crispy, yellow leaves. Remember, fertilizer is not really vital to the growth of corn plants when using a good potting mix. You could skip it or do it sparingly if you have to.

Brown tips & white stripes on the side – This is usually caused by the presence of excess fluoride in the water. Use the method described earlier to remove it from the water or flush it out of the soil.

Dark, moist spots on leaves – This problem is usually caused by a fungal infection.

Dark, raised patches on stems and leaves – The corn plant is likely infected by scaled insects with hard bodies. They can be eliminated by dabbing each patch with cotton soaked in rubbing alcohol. Repeat this process 24 hours later if the patches persist.

Brown spots with yellowing outer rim – This is caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight. This is basically an indication of sunburn and the leaves might also curl inwards as a protective response.

Move the plant to a shaded area or use a curtain to filter the light if the plant is close to the window.

Brown leaves – This can be due to a lack of water in the soil or low humidity. You can use a humidifier to raise the humidity levels, especially in winter. To monitor humidity levels, it would be awesome to get a humidity gauge.

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Wrapping up

Generally, corn plants, like most plants die due to a combination of factors. Fortunately, the process of how to save a dying corn plant is pretty straightforward largely involving some routine gardening practices and plant care.

You’d be surprised that sometimes, all the plant needs to perk up is relocating it to a shadier part of the house. Only in rare cases involving root rot and serious plant diseases would it be necessary to dispose of the plant.