Mass Cane Plant (Dracaena Massangeana) Plant Care

Dracaena Massangeana is also known as Dracaena fragrans massangeana. Additionally, the goes by even more common names the most popular of which is corn plant. Other names for this plant include the false palm, happy plant and fragrant dracaena to name a few.

In any case, this plant is a very popular evergreen shrub that’s grown indoors because of its beautiful foliage.

Indoors, Dracaena Massangeana look like small trees. They come with thick main stems and long, narrow foliage. This feature makes them somewhat look like palm trees. And, one of the reasons people call them “fake palms”.

That said, their leaves are their main attraction. In addition to being lengthy, their dark green color is complemented by yellow green stripes, making them bright to look at.

When grown as houseplants in pots, they are somewhat slow growers. Although, the plant still gets to between 3 to 6 feet tall. This makes it great as plant display in corners or as an eye catcher in large rooms. However, in its native environment planted in the ground, the tree can grow up to 15 to 50 feet tall and 3 to 10 feet wide.

Hailing from the tropical regions of Africa, they can take a lot of neglect and abuse. Two other reasons why homeowners like them.

Dracaena Massangeana Plant Care

Dracaena Massangeana Light

The Dracaena Massangeana does best when it receives moderate natural lighting that is indirect or filtered. It prefers partial shade to being in the direct path of the sun which will cause its lovely leaves to wilt. Thus, if you want to grow it outside, it is important to put it somewhere there is shade.

In contrast, the Dracaena Massangeana can tolerate low light conditions. Although, if the amount of light is too low for its liking you’ll start seeing it lose its stipes. Additionally, it growth will slow down or become stunted. This is the main reason why you’ll see many corn plants that have been growing indoors for a long time with faded striping.

Thus, the best places to put your corn plant indoors is in an east facing window because it gets a lot of light that isn’t too harsh. Keeping the plant a distance from the window or placing a sheer curtain to the light also helps. But because the morning sunlight is quite gentle you don’t run the risk of getting too much light.

Similarly, the Dracaena Massangeana does well in north facing windows. Not a lot of houseplants are able to withstand the low light conditions from the north because more are tropical in nature.

If you decide on the west or south facing windows, make sure you distance the plant about 6-8 feet from the opening. You can likewise place drapes or curtains that will filter the sunlight. The summer sun is especially harsh so you want to monitor your plant and move it if needed. Otherwise, its leaves can experience sunburn and become bleached.

 

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Dracaena Massangeana Temperature & Humidity

If you live in USDA zones 10 to 12, then you can choose between growing your Dracaena Massangeana indoors or outside. However, if you live elsewhere, you’re better off growing them in containers or as houseplants.

The former lets you bring them outside during summertime provided you find a spot for it that’s under the shade of a tree or a canopy in your patio. If left under too much sun exposure, it will get leaf burn. You’ll also see their leaves “twist” to kind of keep themselves from the sunlight, much like you would turn your head away when bright lights are shined in front of your eyes. The good news is once you move them somewhere cooler, the leaves return to normal.

When fall and winter arrive, or when the temperature drops under 60 degrees, it is time to bring it indoors.

As a houseplant, you have more control over the environmental conditions all year round because you can adjust the thermostat.

The reason being that corn plants like moderate to slightly warm temperatures. Its sweet spot is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. More importantly, you don not want the temps below 50 degrees.

Once the mercury hits the 40s, your Dracaena Massangeana will start experiencing cold damage. Cool winds and drafts also add to the injury. Here, you’ll see its leaves turn brown or light gray fairly quickly.

When this happens, you have 2 options.

  • Move it to somewhere cooler and give it time to recover first
  • Wait for all the damage show themselves. This usually takes about 2 weeks or so. Then, trim all the injured foliage to allow for new growth.

In addition to moderate to warm conditions, your corn plant doesn’t like winds or drafts. Thus, it’s a good idea to keep it away from vents and air conditioning.

Last but not least, it does best in mid to high humidity. So, keeping relative humidity between 40% and 50% keeps tis happy because it closely mimics its native environment.

 

Watering Dracaena Massangeana

In most cases, growing the Dracaena Massangeana as a houseplant will mean watering about once a week. But because so many factors affect how quickly soil dries, it’s a good idea to test the soil yourself.

The goal here is to let the soil get slightly dry before watering again. You don’t want to overwater it because it is susceptible to root rot. But, because you can’t see the roots, it is often too late by the times the symptoms reach the stem.

So, once you see leaves yellowing or start to droop, it’s a sign to scale back on water. When this happens, check to see if you are watering too much or if the soil/pot isn’t draining properly. One or both are happening.

Just as you shouldn’t let the plant sit in water (which can cause root rot), it’s not a good idea to let it completely dry out. Allowing this to happen will result in brown leaf tips.

So, during the spring and summer, which is the plant’s growing season, you want to keep the soil slightly moist but not soggy. Come fall and winter, you can scale back on watering.

When watering your plant, you want to give it a thorough dousing. This means watering the soil until the moisture starts to leak from the bottom holes of the pot. Then stop. After that, allow the excess moisture to drain via the holes. Both steps are important when caring for your Dracaena Massangeana.

Just as importantly, don’t use tap water. Most municipalities add chemicals to their tap water. Among the most popular ones are fluoride and boron (more of the former usually). Unfortunately, the corn plant, as with other dracaena plants, is sensitive to both elements.

As a result, if you use tap water with these chemicals in them, you’ll see your corn plant’s growth get stunted. After a while its leaf tips will change color. And, in time it will slowly degrade and die.

Thus, the best water to use is distilled or purified water. But, both can get costly since you either have to get bottled water or use a filter. So, a natural way of eliminating the chemicals from your tap is to let tap water sit at room temperature for 24 hours. This allows the chemicals to evaporate. Then you can use it to water your plant safely.

Another, even better option, is rainwater. Just leave a rain barrel or pain (with a screen on top to filter leaves and debris) and collect water as it rains. This is even better than tap because you’re not paying for rain like you do your water bill.

 

Soil

Like many other houseplants, you can expect your Dracaena Massangeana to look very different when grown outside in the soil and indoors in a pot.

In fact, when grown in the ground, they can get up to 15 to 50 feet tall spanning 3 to 10 feet wide. Indoors, their size is much more contained. This keeps them to a more manageable 3-6 feet depending on the pot size you leave it in and how much you prune it. The latter makes them a much better fit for homes as well.

One of the many reasons for this is the soil. Outside, their roots are free to keep extending as far as they can. The stronger the roots the farther down and out they reach. In a pot, you’ll be using potting soil.

Potting soil isn’t actually soil. Instead it is just a medium that allows you to hold the plant as well as maintain or drain moisture (and fertilizer with it). Thus, you’ll need to supply all the nutrients yourself.

In terns of soil, your corn plant needs (and likes) rich, well draining soil that’s moist but not waterlogged. Additionally, it grows best when soil pH is neutral to slightly acidic.

Thus, the best potting soil for it is something that’s loose to allow water to drain well, and loamy to provide it with enough organic matter.

 

Fertilizing

As with water, your corn plant doesn’t need a lot of fertilizing. All you need to feed is once every month during its growing season (March to September). Then stop when winter arrives. I’ve found that using a balanced liquid fertilizer works really well.

That said, I also know a lot of home growers who don’t use any fertilizer on their corn plant when growing them indoors.

Thus, I do believe trying it out is a worthwhile experiment. If your plant grows and doesn’t show any deficiencies without fertilizer, then let it continue to do so. If it does slow down in growth and look a bit lackluster, then start adding a little at a time until it gets to the right condition.

This way you can save on fertilizer. And potentially save your plant from the burns than the fertilizer salts can cause as well.

 

Pruning Dracaena Massangeana

Dracaena massangeanas can grow tall and wide. Indoors, this can be a problem if you have a low ceiling or you don’t want it to take up too much space. To limit its size, you can trim it on top as well as on the sides.

However, if you have enough space, pruning your corn plant is more about removing discolored, diseased and old leaves. This gets rid of the unsightly parts. More importantly, it keeps the plant from expending nutrients and energy in on these decaying sections.

By trimming them away, you’re able to encourage fresh growth where the plant can focus its energy.

It is also worth noting that after about 2 to 3 years, your plant will start to get older. As such, some of its lower leaves will start turning yellow. While natural, (just like people growing gray hair), you can prune these off to keep your plant looking green.

 

Dracaena Massangeana Propagation

The best ways to propagate Dracaena massangeana is by stem cuttings. The process is quite straightforward which make it easy to do at home.

Here’s how to propagate Dracaena massangeana:

  • Pick a stem that has at least 2 to 3 leaves growing from it
  • You want to take a cutting that’s at least a few inches long. This allows you stick the stem end onto the soil and still have the top section above the soil.
  • Place the stem end into fresh potting soil. You can dip the end in rooting hormone before doing so to speed up the growing process.
  • Once the cutting is in place, cover the rest of the pot with soil.
  • Now, it is time to wait. With corn plants, it takes a while for the cutting to root. So you need to be patient.

 

Dracaena Massangeana Transplanting & Repotting

Dracaena massangeana are slow growers. Thus, you won’t need to worry about repotting it often. This is a good thing because as it grows, it gets wieldy and heavy. Thus, to carefully take it out of its container, you may want to have a second person to help you.

The best time is spring before or early in its growing season. This allows the plant to quickly grow after being moved to a larger pot. That said, because you’re indoors under controlled temperature, you can technically repot any time of the year.

Here’s how to repot Dracaena massangeana.

  • Gently take out the root ball from the pot
  • Wipe way loose soil, dust and dirt around it
  • Untangle any roots. The more root bound your plant is, the more tangling you’ll see
  • Add fresh potting soil to your new pot. The goal here is to add enough so that when you put the plant in it will stand up (and out of the pot) around the same height it was from the old pot. This gives it the same/similar environment which helps reduce the shock and having to re-adapt to a new environment.
  • Insert the plant onto the pot
  • Fill the rest of the pot with soil and pack it in. Be careful not to pack the soil in too tightly. You want it to support the plant but be loose enough to allow excess moisture to drain.

 

Toxicity

The Dracaena massangeana is not toxic to humans. But, it has been shown to be poisonous to dogs and cats especially pups and kittens which are smaller. Thus, have lower tolerate for toxicity.

So, if you have pets at home, it’s a good idea to place your corn plant somewhere these curious furballs won’t be able to play or chomp on them. That said, if they happen to do so, you’ll likely see them vomit, lose appetite or drool a lot.

 

Pests and Diseases

Above, I’ve already mentioned that too high or low temperature and humidity can cause leaf discoloration. Additionally, lack of or too much water can likewise do the same. And, the dangers of tap water as well.

Now, add to that pests.

The good news is dracaena plants in general are more resilient to pests, especially when properly cared for and grown indoors. If they do encounter pests, the most common enemies are scale, mealybugs, thrips and spider mites.

Thus, it’s a good idea to dust the leaves often. This lets you see if anything odd is growing there. And, it helps keep pests away as well.

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