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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.

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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!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

160 comments on “When a Corn Plant Blooms

  1. Carolle Lorainne Artiles

    Mine bloomed and I am beyond excited!

    • Cindy Engebretsen

      Congratulations, it is exciting!

    • I would be too. Congratulations!

      • Will they ever bloom again?

      • Maybe… but it just doesn’t happen frequently, as you now know.

      • Emmanuel Gregorio Casiano

        How about the fruit of this corn plant that looks similar to real corn but in small size, is different fromthe flower. Is this regular!

      • Patricia weijs

        Mine blooms too! It bloomed after 16 years in 2019, and now again! 3 buds, I am soo excited

    • Ours just bloomed after 35 yrs last week also! It’s so amazing!

    • Mine took 7 years to bloom. Live on southern coast and plant sits in natural light patio in humid heat.

  2. ELAINE MCBRIDE

    Mine bloomed 2 years ago what a gorgeous smell it gave off. I took pictures as I don’t know if it will ever happen again.

    • Congratulations. And no, it might never happen again. It’s very rare.

      • Terry McLarty

        After 30 years we saw the blooms. Totally surprised! Definitely fills the house every night with the strong aroma.

  3. Chrys Houston

    I have 2 Corn Plants & one of them has grown so tall, it’s now in my 10ft ceiling living room & quickly running out of space & I have no idea if it will ever stop!
    My question is about replanting. In my mind, as a plant gets bigger it should be replanted into larger pots which is what I’ve done over the years, but now I’m thinking that has only promoted further growth. So do they actually need to be replanted or could they actually sustain a healthy life in a smaller pot forever?

  4. Mine flowering for the second time after ten years. The greatest thing about this plant, it creates an amazing heavenly sweet fragrance at night and i love it so much! Looking forward that it will blossom again in the near future after this, as the blooming time is unpredictable.

  5. Patrick Sanders

    A renter poisoned my 26 year old Corn/Palm plant (I am guessing) because it was dying after I evicted her. I transplanted my plant with all new soil in January 2020 and she has lost all of her leafs. Do you know if there is anything else I can do? My email address is pkms1015@yahoo.com, my phone is 303-668-78006. Thank you for any help you can give me! ~Patrick

    • You can only water very, very modestly (only when the soil is dry) and wait. There’s nothing else to do! But plants are tough and some recover from pretty serious damage!

      • Just keep watering. Mine looked like a dead stick. My friends kept asking why I was watering a dead plant. But I kept at it. Months later a small green shoot. Now it is 13 feet tall and crowning the ceiling

  6. Missy hunt

    I started with one plant many years ago. Knew nothing about them. It is now HUGE!! Have made several plants from the original. One of the “babies” is a bloomer!!! Omg. It has bloomed 3 times now in 5 years and just WOW!!!! Amazing. I feel really blessed. ❤️

  7. We just discovered our plant blooming tonight. The scent just kept getting stronger and stronger. Quite a surprise!!

  8. I’ve had my corn plant for 16 years (don’t know how old it was when purchased at Home Depot) and noticed about a week ago there was a bloom. I’ll be taking photos of the flowers once they occur. Exciting stuff because I never knew this plant could bloom.

  9. Laurie Hogan

    So i read your post a few months back when i couldn’t figure out what the smell on on my lanai and patio was only to discover it was my corn plant. I love that smell and felt honored that my plant was so happy in its new location that it bloomed for me. Well… Here we are a few months later and new blooms!!! Thanks for the good info.

  10. J.R. Pierce

    Mine just bloomed, think it is about 15 years old and we have 5 other plants that were started from cuttings of the mother plant, I noticed that flowers also made a sticky nectar which was very sweet, I am thinking maybe in the wild they attracted ants or some night flying insect to pollinate.

  11. Merrill Varn

    We just noticed a bloomer (well a budder) in one of our office rooms that isnt used much. the buds are white with pink lines running vertically. All buds are still closed. The base of each flower cluster is dripping a sticky exudate. The flower stalk must have been here for a while bc it is about 18″ long with about 25 flower clusters. I cut open a bud but no smell yet. Anyone know how long before it will bloom? It is friday 430 pm and I want to know whether to wait around in hopes it will bloom tonight or comeback tomorrow or sunday or will it be still in bud til monday or later?

    • Hi Merrill,

      The bloom will last a few weeks, so wait until you see some open flowers before hanging around in the the evening. Test it out. It’s quite amazing!

  12. I’ve had my corn palm since 2003 and it’s starting to bloom for the first time, thanks so much for sharing this information!

  13. Amy Madonna

    Mine bloomed for the second time in 47 years!! Now the flower is dying. Is there a proper way to remove the dead flower?

  14. I know my cornplant is 40 to 50 years old. It bloomed first time this year. I have recently read that they hate flouride so I’m using filter to remove flouride before watering it. Hoping it will bloom again. I need to cut off a couple shoots to replant. Would be nice to give a baby plant to the college room-mate who blessed me with the 2-feet tall plant back then. It is now more than 8 feet tall (with a few turns/twists), and 2 shoots plus the blossoms. Scent is so wonderful!

  15. Sandra R Smith

    Two of mine has been in bloom for the past few days after 20 years, does any one know how long the blooms last. The smell is amazing a very strong. I was pleasantly surprised with the smell.
    I took close up photo’s of the blooms but no way to post a pic here. The blooms put out a very sticky sap that got in my hair when I was cutting them back to bring in the house for the winter since they can get so large. I cut them back often and either replant the cuttings or toss.

  16. Bootsie Bateman

    I received my corn plant 13 years ago on the death of my husband from a dear friend now deceased. I have nurtured this plant as well as some others n remembrance of my husband. Today I see some strange looking buds at the top of it. It is nearly 8 ft tall. I looked it up and discovered these r flowers which will have a heady perfume. Since My smell sense is not as good as it use to be can this effect my two precious furbabies who have a very keen sense of smell. So excited over my surprise of the buds.

    • The scent of a corn plant in bloom is not harmful to animals.

    • Sandra R Smith

      I wouldn’t think so unless they already have allergies. Mine bloomed at night and the smell is very strong. I would be thankful that my sense of smell wasn’t so good if I were in your shoes. Thanksgiving family didn’t want to sit in the room with my 2 blooming plants because the smell was so strong.

  17. Emmanuel Gregorio Casiano

    How about the fruit of this corn plant that looks similar to real corn but in small size, is different fromthe flower. Is this regular!

  18. misc-askimet-1@admiral.org

    I’ve had one of these plants since college when we found one doing just fine in our senior apartment, left over the summer, likely unattended for the duration. Not that I’ve tried to, but when other people here say “The plant is nearly impossible to kill!”, they’re pretty much right – it will tolerate a lot of neglect and still come back strong.

    I’m also not sure what I’m doing, but unlike some of the posters here, the plant WON’T STOP flowering – every three months or so a new bud appears and shortly thereafter the flowers develop and bloom. We have to put newspaper under it quite often so it won’t stain the carpet since often there is a sticky sap which drips off the stems.

    (The plant has always been indoors, and I guess has never been pollinated, so we never had the berries form, and for the few times that I tried to pollinate it – as if I knew precisely how – nothing ever came of it.)

    After 12 years of this, I’ve noticed interestingly that there seem to be two general types of flowering stems: one is as depicted in the article, with a long, branch-like growth from the crown of the plant, and many nodes of sappy flowers connected to it.

    Sometimes, however, maybe 25% of the time, the “branch” is very stubby, and the flowers appear to be constrained by small leaves which encase them. The flowers are less “full”, and seem plainer and less fragrant (if they smell at all), and the overall extent and breadth of the flowering seems significantly less than a normal flowering event.

    (I wish I had photos, but it never occurred to me to take them until I came across this site.)

    Is this just some weird vagary of my plant, or is this a known phenomenon with others?

    By the way, the plant faces west-northwest, is on an upper floor in the house in Virginia, with direct/semi-direct sun from maybe 3 in the afternoon on, and the room temperature is generally 75 all year round since all the heat from the house collects up there, so I guess it may think it’s in a greenhouse(?). It’s watered maybe once every 2 weeks – it doesn’t seem to want more, and I don’t think it’s every been given fertilizer or anything else but water.

    • You’re very lucky! Most people only have flowers after many years and it often never repeats. I too once had a single stubby flower stalk. I assumed something had “bothered” the plant as it was starting to bloom and caused it to not develop fully, but that was only a thought. Maybe other readers will know more. And I do suspect your excellent growing conditions are what allows your plant to flower so frequently. Most of us have ours in poor light, dry air and cooler conditions: nothing like a greenhouse!

  19. Deb Hinojosa

    Do the blooms/flowers of the Dracena fragrans have pollen that may cause allergies? There are many tall corn plants in the atrium office building and are blooming this spring. Beautiful but worried about sensitivities.

    • The pollen is heavy and doesn’t travel in the air. So, no allergy there. However, sensitivity to perfume i sa possible problem. Since that varies so much from one sensitive person to another, I’m not sure how you could check on that. Note the perfume will only be released in the evening, after normal office hours, if that helps.

  20. Deokie Persaud

    My corn is about 20 years old and I was surprised when it bloomed and even more pleasantly surprised when I discovered that beautiful scent was coming from that plant. I thought my son had bought a very expensive candle. I searched the entire house until I finally discovered it was that flower. What a joy it was.

  21. I know this is an old posting but I have a question. My 20 year old corn plant started blooming when I brought it in from outside in New York. I have a plant light bulb in the fixture about 3 feet above it which I keep on for about 10 hours a day. two stalks with loads of buds but they haven’t opened AND no scent AND I see the sap oozing already. What do you think is going on? I would love another opinion. Thanks.

  22. Sandra R Smith

    I agree about close to blooming, has it yet?

  23. I bought mine at Ikea 6 years ago and it blooms every year. It’s in my sunroom. It starts blooming every fall, end of October.

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