Corn Plant Sitting....I'm In A Whole Lot Of Trouble!

Caribou, ME(Zone 3a)

For the 2 1/2 years I've been looking after a HUGE corn plant of a friend of mine who's gone into travel nursing. It's got the look of a big palm tree from floor to ceiling and has 2 trunks. LOVELY LOOKING THING! Until about 2-3 weeks ago. It grew like crazy when I got it and has always been putting out new leaves. But it REALLY looks like poop now! The leaves are extremely droopy, and has probably lost about 3/4 of it's leaves. I haven't moved it in the 2 1/2 years I've had it, it's not over or under watered, it's not over or under potted, and I don't see any pests or diseases. What's going on and how do I stop it? This once majestic thing used to be quite the conversation piece in my home, now it's just a MAJOR eye sore!

New York, NY(Zone 6a)

Are both canes losing leaves or just one? Describe the light that it gets. Describe how and when you decide to water. How tall are the canes and what is the diameter of the pot?

Caribou, ME(Zone 3a)

Ah! Will!
The ultimate expert! Yes, both canes are dropping leaves badly! It is about 5 ft away from a North facing window in which it's flourished for what I would assume, a long enough time to rule out adaptation as the problem. It's in a pot with an 18 inch diameter, and is 14 inches high. The same pot it's been in since it came to me. It was potted in the generic Miracle Grow potting mix I believe. The trunk's are 37 inches from soil to top of trunk in length each. There are 11 leaves still left on one stalk, and 16 left on the other. I decide to water by the water meter which I use with all my large plants and have dug into the soil of this one when I realized there was a problem and it was showing signs of over watering, which I found was not the case by my own hand.
I feel really bad about this plant because my friend really loved it. It was givin to her in Texas by a fiance who died in a motorcycle accident, and has traveled many states in the past 8-10 years she's had it without alot of problems. Let me know what you think. I'll try anything at this point!

New York, NY(Zone 6a)

Because both canes are showing the same symptoms, it is likely that your plant has a soil/root related problem. The pot is too large for the relatively small root system of a corn plant. That does not necessarily mean the plant is doomed, but it does mean that proper watering is much more difficult.

Plant root balls need to be watered thoroughly. However, with overpotted plants the excess soil tends to retain the water for too long a period of time. That leads to gradual root rot and plant decline. If you provide less water so that the soil will dry out more frequently, then you risk not providing water to the entire rootball, causing some root dehydration and dieback.

I am unclear about when you used the water meter and when you used your hand to determine soil moisture. However, you should know that moisture meters are notoriously inaccurate and I don't recommend them. (I will explain why in another post if anyone is curious.)

I am also unclear as to whether you have under or over watered. Perhaps both, at one time or another. In general, properly potted corn plants should be waterd thoroughly whenever the soil is dry about one-third of the way down from the top.

As long as the trunks or canes feel firm (cane bark has not started to separate from the under layers or stems do not look shriveled), then your plant is still viable as long as you get the watering under control. If the lower portions of the stems/canes have started to deteriorate, then the roots are gone and so is your plant. I hope this is not the case, but better you should find out now rather than later.

Good luck and let me know if any of this is unclear.

Will Creed, Horticulturist
Horticultural Help, NYC

(Zone 8a)

Is there any way you could cut the healthy trunks off and re-root them?

Just a thought! I have one about 8 ft tall outside now and don't know if it will go back into the house this winter and I thought about cutting it back...I'm sure there is a way but am unsure on how to do this!

Any help would be appreciated...


New York, NY(Zone 6a)

Ima - Yes, you can always cut off healthy corn plant stems and root them in moist soil. If yours is a cane type of corn plant, cut the green stem, not the thick bark-covered cane. Cuttings with short stems and not too many leaves root more readily than larger cuttings. Use a small pot and a roooting mix of damp peat moss and perlite for best results.

(Zone 8a)

Thanks, Will...I really dread doing this but it maybe a must! Let me know if the other trunks sprout out new shoots? That would be great if they will!

Hey Miller! How is yours coming along! Good I hope!


Petaluma, CA

Ima, you might consider air layering them. Those of us who are chicken (even if we know better) like the security of the whole plant looking intact. Here's a link:
It's also kind of cool to see the roots through the plastic covering...

Fall River, MA(Zone 6a)

wow perlite, your hyperlink is totally cool! i'm not sure when or if i'll ever have the opportunity to try it but it sure is a great tidbit of information to have floating in my mind just in case! the idea of propagating azaleas, for instance ... hmmm ... :)

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.