Corn Plant Perpetrator

Highly fragrant flowers

The stockings were laid by the chimney with care, which is to say we’d hauled out the old familiar Christmas decorations and placed them around the home, when I noticed a smell. A heavy cloying scent permeated the house, especially the office. I sniffed around to discover the source. The perfect pumpkin I can’t bear to throw away was not rotting. The light cord on the ancient ceramic tree had not begun to melt. Did someone mail a Christmas card saturated in scent? Nope. So the mystery continued. Until one afternoon I was sitting in my office thinking, and my eye fell on the flowers. Two long stalks (panicles) draped from the corn plant right next to my desk, each decorated with gaudy white starbursts positively dripping with nectar. On a houseplant!
The corn plant was a housewarming gift fifteen years ago, and truthfully I’ve never been too fond of it. A woman friend of my husband’s gave it to him, and over the years I have showered it with neglect and watered it grudgingly. A few months ago I bought a fig plant that I like much better. When it gets big enough maybe I’ll move the corn plant to a bedroom upstairs (along with the pumpkin).
Can you believe I didn’t notice these flowers? Me, who tries so hard to find overlooked nature was completely oblivious to what is indeed quite a miracle. According to Sunset’s Western Garden book, corn plants or Dracaena fragrans “almost never bloom as houseplants”. These natives of Africa thrive in frost free environments. In the neotropics the sweet smelling blooms attract hummingbirds and pollinating insects. Here in the U.S. Dracaenas are useful houseplants that tolerate infrequent watering and both low and high levels of light. The NASA Clean Air Study cites the corn plant as helpful in removing indoor pollutants such as formaldahyde, xylene, and toluene….who knew? The author of the award winning blog Plants are the Strangest People claims that very mature corn plants will bloom indoors under the proper conditions.
There’s a lesson here somewhere.

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19 responses to “Corn Plant Perpetrator

  1. Why this plant is full of oil?

  2. I received my corn plant 38 years ago an for the first time it is blooming! I thought oh no it’s giving me it’s last who rah. But looking it up it’s just doing It’s thing blooming. It smells wonderful but I found out the flowers only open at night! During the day there closed but still very pretty to look at. I hope it will continue to give me flowers in the future.

  3. Our 30yr+ corn plant is loaded with bloom this year. Has bloomed before, but never this heavily

  4. I, too am here because of my corn plant flowering indoors. I noticed the first time last year and wondered what in the world was going on with this beautiful smell and odd looking star flower. Never thought more about it until this year, when my Mom said that her corn flower of 15+ years never had flowers. She and I both went to google and found that this is RARE for a houseplant and common in the wild. I was so happy about it I have been walking to the plant multiple times a day enjoying this beauty. Everything happens for a reason and at this time/point in my life, I have to look at this as a joy and embrace the natural nature of mother nature!

  5. Mine took off and grew 10 ft in 4 yrs after being 4ft tall for years..

  6. Unlike the author of this article, I love my corn plant and the way it sprouts at every bend. I have had mine for about 20 years and one day I noticed that it flowered and was baffled by the flowering because it never had flowers before. I asked my brother about (who is a plant lover too) and he told me that only the older corn plants will flower. Than the other day I walked in the house after being away most of the day and the house smelled just wonderful. I went in search of the smell and when I was walking past my corn plant, I stopped in my tracks because the smell was so intense right at that moment and that’s when I discovered that it not only smelled delicious but the flowers had these little prickly things on the end. The next morning I was disappointed that the smell was no longer there but when I came home tonight….the house was filled with the delicious smell again.

  7. I have a3.5 year old cornplant that is just a outbout to bloom it is beautiful. I t repotted the plant about 2 months agol and found it to be pot bound. I belieive this is what triggered it to bloom.

  8. I have one exactly like that one in the pic. it blossoms once every 7 years , it seems . This year (2014) is the second . I got it as a tiny plant back in 1999. It is now about four feet tall not counting the big pot it is planted in. Slow grower. The fragrance of the blossom is glue like like fiberglass resin or chemicals like that. I felt threatened by the strange fragrance but love it , anyway. I suspect that it has to do with the timing of its sun exposure as I placed the plant to get late afternoon to sunset only. I replace the soil every couple years simply by hosing off the old soil and repack it with fresh potting soil from any local store. The root is woody and sturdy as well as stiff. All I need to do is place the exposed root back in the cleaned pot and patiently sprinkle fresh potting soil through the root mangle and watering jus enough to encourage the soil down past the root mangle as I keep on until it is filled . Then I drain any excess water . it is all set for regular watering throughout the year except during wintertime as it requires less frequent watering.

  9. Daryl-Ann Lee

    My corn plant bloomed after taking care of it for 10years I am in awe of how it smells so nice

  10. I have been smelling something & only tonight that i found-out the so-called corn plant as the result of my research. I was afraid so I looked the source ‘coz it smells like the various flowers displayed when there is a dead in the coffin…

  11. I did not know corn plants flowered, I have one that is huge and have had it for like 23 years, it never flowerd, wow, I do like my corn plant tho, kept it because I liked it, my hubby does too.

  12. This made me laugh outloud…should I be feeling sorry for the lonely pumpkin upstairs? I have a corn plant that has never bloomed and it is ancient….I must not abuse it enough. I could do without the cloying smell, however…
    Loved the humor in the article. Most good.

  13. How very interesting! Be sure to take a picture of it. Will the flowers attract insects that might be lurking? I love plants that thrive on abuse…

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