Dracaena Corn Plant – Meet My Oldest Houseplant “Corny”

By Teo Spengler | January 8, 2021
Image by Photology1971
by Teo Spengler
January 8, 2021

When I first returned to San Francisco for graduate school, I had no houseplants. I had lived for over a decade in France’s Basque Country where I had an entire mountain of trees and bushes to enjoy as well as a big garden. It felt odd and lonely to be without plants to take care of. As you may imagine, this circumstance did not last very long.

Hello Dracaena Corn Plant

The very first plant I acquired in San Francisco was a corn plant (Dracaena fragrans). I had actually grown some corn in France accidentally, when corn I put out for the birds and field mice germinated. So, when I saw a plant sitting on the corner of Anza and 42nd Avenue, I thought of my corn at home in France.

I walked over and found a man – Jared – with a lot of stuff on the sidewalk. Jared had rented an apartment in the corner building for some 20 years, but he and the other tenants had been bought out by a new owner who wanted to use the entire building as their family home. Cash changed hands and Jared was taking off to live in Hong Kong and was giving things away. One of those things was a 4-foot corn plant.

Bringing Home the Corn Plant

I immediately proposed taking the corn plant off his hands.  I explained that I had just moved into the area and had no plants, but Jared quizzed me for half an hour. He wanted to know my plant experience and how I intended to care for “Corny.” I finally was allowed to take it when I mentioned that I was a Taurus, born on Earth Day. Somehow that convinced him.

Although Jared didn’t live that far from my new place, getting the corn plant home wasn’t an easy matter. The pot he had it in was large, heavy ceramic and my house was up a steep hill. We finally flagged down a passing pickup truck and got them to drive the plant two blocks to my place and help me carry it in. Since this is San Francisco, it worked out just fine.

Corn Plant Care – Learning about Corny

Although I went on at length about my houseplant experience, the truth was that I didn’t know much about the care and feeding of corn plants. They are actually not related to corn, but in the Dracaena genus. Their long, narrow leaves grow on upright canes and look like corn leaves.

I did my research by reading a Gardening Know How article on corn plant care and launched my effort: indirect sun, humidity and tip-top drainage. These evergreen plants hail from Africa and have been considered easy-care houseplants for centuries, so how could I go wrong. 

I am happy to report that Corny is doing well, has put on three additional feet of growth and sprouted two new canes over the years. I place my Dracaena houseplant outside in shade during the warm San Francisco summers and bring it in in winter. There it is, my oldest houseplant.

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