Flowering Indoor Corn Plant

Q. I have a common houseplant I believe called corn plant. It bloomed several months ago – photos enclosed. The flower had a deep lily-like fragrance that was very intense in the evening. It has now withered to a barely noticeable stalk. Do I leave it or cut it? Will it bloom again? Janine Carpenter – Enumclaw, WA
A. I watered many a Corn Plant (we called them Mass Cane) in my first job out of college as the “Gunga Din” of indoor landscaping. This houseplant is perhaps even more common in office buildings than it is in homes. From time to time I would see them flower. These were generally healthy large (older) specimens that were kept in moderate light conditions usually indirect natural light. The plants are popular in the indoor landscaping industry because they are tolerant of low light conditions. I say tolerant because in my experience the specimens at the bottom of a basement stairwell existing on the glimmer of a recessed incandescent bulb rarely thrived, rather they desperately clung to life. The fact that your corn plant has bloomed indicates that the plant has reached maturity and is in good health. The botanical name of the Corn Plant is appropriately Dracaena fragrans (Fragrant Dracaena). The name Mass Cane comes from the yellow striped cultivar named ‘massangeana’. Your description of the lily-like fragrance is spot on since they are lily relatives. They belong to the Agave family (Agavaceae), which was split off from the Lilly family (Liliaceae) many years ago. In its native Africa or in mild areas of the country (where temperatures rarely get below 55 degrees) these plants will flower in the summer. Since the fragrance is strongest in the evening I would guess that they are dependent on night moths for pollination. Since there were no insects to pollinate your flowers the orange berries did not form. You can simply remove the flower stalk at its base. You should see new growth from that area later on. Since your Corn Plant bloomed once it should bloom again around the same time next year if the growing conditions stay the same.

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