When a Corn Plant Blooms


Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’). Photo: Costa Farms

The corn plant (Dracaena fragrans), also called corn palm. cornstalk plant and false palm, is a popular houseplant, cultivated for its beautiful growth habit – an erect trunk with arching lanceolate leaves, each a with broad yellow to pale green band in center in the case of the most popular cultivar, D. fragrans ‘Massangeana’ – and its surprising ability to resist almost any combination of indoor growing conditions, from full sun to shade.

The corn plant is a “survivor”, able to tolerate the worst kind of neglect. It is, in fact, nearly unkillable! That’s why it’s not unusual to see specimens that are 10, 20 or even 40 years old: a very rare situation indeed for a houseplant!

On the other hand, the corn plant is universally considered a foliage plant, cultivated solely for its attractive leaves. But sometimes it offers you a surprise.

20170111BStéphanieVincent .jpg

Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’) in bud. The flowers actually open at night.

Yes, from time to time, perhaps only after decades of cultivation, it flowers, producing arching  terminal panicle of pinkish buds that open into masses of white flowers. They only open in the evening and at night, but then, what a perfume they give off! Intense, heady, sweet, the fragrance invades the whole house. It is so intense that it sometimes becomes intolerable and the owner feels obliged to cut the flower stem off or to stick the plant in a spare bedroom and close the door at night.

A Personal Anecdote

Back in 1984, I was working in a 5-story office building in the Old Port. One evening I stayed on a bit later than usual, then, shortly after 6 pm, an extraordinary perfume began wafting into my office. What was it? I set off in search of the source of the incredible fragrance, finally to find discover it 3 floors below, in the building’s lobby: a corn plant in full bloom. Imagine, blooms so intensely fragrant that they can fill an entire 5-story building with their scent!

Patience Will Be Rewarded

If you want to experience the corn plant’s extraordinary fragrance, buy one… and wait patiently! No one knows what causes this plant to bloom and it can take place in any season, but almost inevitably it occurs only after several to many years. The chances yours will bloom are much, much better, though, if you place it in good light rather than the “dark corner” to which this plant is usually relegated.

Best of luck!


12 thoughts on “When a Corn Plant Blooms

  1. Babs

    I would like to thank you for this article on corn plants. I have owned my corn plant for 18 years and it is blooming!
    We didn’t even know what was going on with the plant until I read your article.
    After 18 years a plant is blooming? Doesn’t seem like a good survival strategy to us…
    It is still in the bud stage with clear dripping sticky stuff coming out.
    I will take pictures,, there are 6 bloom stalks!
    Thank you again and you can contact me at mossholder@optonline.net.
    Best regards,

      • Micki Cole

        Glad to hear that it is not unusual! I’ve had my corn plant for 21 years and it just started blooming!

    • B. Ertel

      We have had this Draecena for less than a year. It was repotted when webpurchased it. It has been indoors and three feet from an eastern window in middle Georgia. It is healthy, beautiful plant, but the one stalk of blooms (in early December) are giving off a fragrance that is too strong to keep it in the house. If we remove the blooming stalk, will the fragrance stop? Please HELP!

  2. Babs

    Hoo Boy! My plant, although fantastic, makes me worry about the fragrance. It is still in the bud stage but I am particularly sensitive to floral fragrance. Most times it makes me nauseous. I do hope I will not react to my corn plant.
    Will send pix when I can figure out how to download them from my camera.

  3. Matt

    My corn plant has started to bloom only after 2 years of owning it! I had no idea they wouldn’t even bloom until this happened and someone pointed me to your article.

  4. Brenda Anderson

    My corn plant bloom about two three years ago and the flower was blue and they look and smell like a lilac so is it didn’t look like I’m the pictures Are there different kine of corn plants

  5. CLH

    FINALLY, my mystery is solved all thanks to this website! About 5 days ago we started to notice a very strong fragrance when walking thru the family room & kitchen but we wrote it off to the new perfume spray my husband had just got for our dog. The smell was gone by the morning, but then returned with a vengeance that evening making the kids & I think that their Dad was really overdoing it with the dog spray. But as they continued to watch TV while I was washing dishes, I just happened to look out toward the window & noticed a partial flower on the backside of the palm tree which immediately drew my curiosity. So I went over, turned it around & let out a very loud WTF?! as I was in absolute shock over what I saw. I’ve had this palm for 15 years & had NEVER seen anything like this. It quite literally just popped out of nowhere & I couldn’t believe how long it was, having about 15 individual flowers on a long stem…how did I not notice this & how long has it been growing? My kids immediately thought it was something poisonous & that the strong smell was it’s way of infecting us (kids, lol). But I must say it was alarming so I immediately got on the internet to search for answers but for the life of me I couldn’t recall the type of palm tree it was so without that I couldn’t find anything that looked even close to the flowers on my palm. But then today, 5 days later for some unknown reason, the name just popped into my head….CORN PALM!!! And with that I went back to my computer & here I am, soooooooo relieved to know this is normal & it’s not some creepy parasite that’s invaded my beautiful palm!
    So I say all of that to ask….
    1. Do the flowers eventually die & then you just cut off the stem?
    2. What is the clear, gooey, sticky stuff coming out of the flowers?
    3. Once it blooms, will it continue to do this on a regular basis or is it a once in a 10yr kind of occurrence?
    Thank you so much for creating the site!!

    • 1. Yes. It’s very unlikely they’ll produce seeds, so they’ll die and dry up, then you can cut off the stem.
      2. The gooey stuff is nectar. It’s sugary sweet and, in the wild, would feed the type of moth that does the pollinating.
      3. Blooming is never regular with this plant, but yours is now mature and will likely bloom again within a few years, not necessarily after a decade.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the text… enjoy your corn plant!

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