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Caring for Mass Cane (Corn Plant, Dracaena Massangeana)

Updated on April 14, 2016

Mass Cane (Draceana fragrans Massaengea) grows on characteristic thick brown woody canes.
Mass Cane (Draceana fragrans Massaengea) grows on characteristic thick brown woody canes.

A Favorite Large House Plant

Mass cane (Dracaena fragrans Massangeana, or Dracaena massangeana), also called "corn plant," is a very widely used interior plant. It is one of several popular varieties of Dracaena, including Dracaena lisa, Dracaena marginata, and Dracaena compacta.

There are a number of reasons why mass cane is so popular.

  • Mass cane is tolerant of most indoor lighting conditions.
  • It is inexpensive. It's usually the cheapest Dracaena, and very inexpensive compared to other house plants.
  • Slow growth means mass cane will fit a particular space for a long time with little maintenance.
  • Long strap-like leaves make the plant easy to clean.
  • Watering is easy.
  • Mass cane has the height and look of a tree but can fit indoors and requires less maintenance than other tree house plants like Ficus, Rhapis, or mahogany.

All of these qualities make mass cane an ideal choice for a tall indoor floor plant.

Native Habitat: Upper Guinea

Choosing a Space

Mass cane tolerates a wide variety of indoor light conditions. Ideally, choose a space with moderate natural light or beneficial artificial lighting.

Moderate light will provide all this plant needs to support itself. Since it is a slow-growing plant, mass cane will maintain its height and shape for some time. It's a great choice for office spaces with fluorescent lighting.

In strong light, the plant's growth will speed up, and it will need fertilizer more regularly so as to avoid symptoms of chlorosis. There is also a greater chance of developing mealy bug in bright light. Beyond these side effects, there's no problem in putting the plant in a space with lots of light.

Low light is the least desirable lighting choice. Some mass canes can survive in low light. However, because low light slows the plant's process of photosynthesis, you will need to dramatically reduce the amount you water the plant. Otherwise, your plant will continually display symptoms of overwatering. Controlling the moisture level in this setting will become more difficult.

Watering

Watering is fairly simple. If placed in moderate light, the plant should be watered when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Water enough to moisten the soil throughout the pot. In most moderate conditions, there is no need to leave excess water in the plant's liner. Allow the soil surface to become dry to the touch before watering again.

  • In moderate light, the plant should be watered every week or two.
  • In areas with strong light, it may be necessary either to leave some water in the liner or water more frequently.
  • In low light, you will want to water less frequently. Be sure to allow canes in low light a period of drying.

Remember that mass cane is a slow-growing, slow-reacting plant. It may take weeks for the plant to show symptoms of either overwatering or underwatering; by then the damage will already have occurred. Don't let confusion from this delay cause over-correction.

What's Going on Under the Soil? Potting and Roots

Mass canes usually have multiple stalks. Canes in pots with diameters of 10" or larger are tapered in height above the pot and below the soil surface. The tallest stalk's roots will be deepest in the pot, and the shortest stalk's roots will be closest to the soil surface.

Keeping these depth differences in mind can help you troubleshoot any watering issues.

For example:

  • If the shortest cane shows symptoms of underwatering, but the tallest cane is fine, you may need to water more frequently as the shallow roots are likely drying out between waterings.
  • If the tallest cane shows symptoms of underwatering, but the shortest cane is fine, it is likely that you need to make sure that you're watering enough to moisten the bottom layer of soil.
  • If the tallest cane shows symptoms of overwatering, but the shorter ones seem fine, then it's likely that too much water is being left in the liner, thus overwhelming the deep roots in the pot.

Strappy leaves of the mass cane, showing the characteristic yellow stripe.
Strappy leaves of the mass cane, showing the characteristic yellow stripe.

Common Issues

As easy as caring for this plant is, there are some very typical issues associated with mass cane.

  • Mealy bug is the most common pest. The best treatment is to keep your plant healthy, wipe away any visible bugs from the leaves, and remove new leaf crowns if needed.
  • Brown spots along the leaves, especially on new growth, are common. There are a few possible causes for this. An older plant may have roots that have grown outside the pot, which need to be cut away. Also, salts from the water can build up in the soil; if that happens you need to add more soil. If new growth shows spots, you can cut the crowns to catalyze new, healthier growth. The video link below shows how to prune the foliage crowns.
  • Overgrown stalks can be found on older plants and can get spindly and out of control. The stalks should be cut back. Use the video below as a pruning guide.
  • Tilted, leaning, or crooked canes are usually the result of either the plant leaning toward a light source or uneven watering. It can also be a result of a plant being tipped over or forcibly moved. Straightening a cane is simple: just push the cane back into its upright position and pack soil as backfill for stability. Also be sure to rotate your plant regularly to provide balance and to water evenly across the soil surface.
  • Brown leaf tips are most commonly a result of overwatering or inconsistent watering. Even very experienced plant professionals create brown tips. The distinctive strappy leaves are very accommodating to being trimmed back, so prune in order to restore the look of healthy foliage.
  • Yellow leaves may be caused by acclimation, underwatering, or age. There is a trick to removing Corn Plant leaves. Starting at the tip, split the leaf in the middle and begin to tear right down the center all the way back. The two segments should then peel easily away.
  • Wrinkly stalks are due to severe under watering or root damage.
  • Rotten stalks, or mushy canes, are due to extreme overwatering or root damage.
  • Fungus gnats can be an issue for any indoor plant. They are most commonly caused by over-watering.

A little bit of understanding can go a long way in making mass cane a very easy and long-lasting house plant for just about anyone in any space.

Pruning Mass Cane

Questions and Comments Welcome!

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    • CorneliaMladenova profile image

      Korneliya Yonkova 2 years ago from Cork, Ireland

      Thank you very much for this awesome hub and detailed information. I like this plant and it's good that it is tolerant to lighting conditions. I have not much light in our current house so I should thing about buying the plant :)

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      Lynn 21 months ago

      What do you do about the brown tips on the mass cane plant?Do I cut the whole leaf off or just or not?

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 21 months ago from Utah

      Lynn, brown leaf tips are very common on Mass Cane, and other Draceana varieties. If the tipping is mild it is standard maintenance to trim the tip of the leaf back past the browning, mimicking the natural shape of the leaf. If the tipping is moderate to severe there may be an issue of over or inconsistent watering at play, in this case it is best to remove the entire leaf, and evaluate watering technique. When removing an entire Mass Cane leaf it is best to split the leaf from the tip all the way back to the stalk, this helps make the leaf simpler to remove at the base.

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      nc 20 months ago

      I see white spots at the leaf base of my massangaena. The full grown leaves also have a few white spots on them. What could be the cause? I usually water the plant once in two days- i am in singapore and the top inch of soil dries up in two days. Also noticed some base leaves turning dark brown and yellow.

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 20 months ago from Utah

      NC, from your description it almost sounds as if your plant may have Mealy bug. Mealy bug usually lives at the base of Draceana leaves, and on the new growth at the crown of the plant, the new growth will begin to emerge dried and brown due to the Mealies feeding, and living on the new growth. Mealy bug appear almost like white lint on plants. They will multiply and become more apparent, and can spread to surrounding plants. If this sounds like what you are experiencing you may want to read through the hub, "White Lint on Houseplants you may have Mealy Bug". That hub details Mealy Bug infestation and how to treat an infected houseplant.

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      nc 20 months ago

      Thanks..after your comment, I took a closer look and found v small bugs like brown/black specks moving on the stalk. Are these spider mites?

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      Rae 13 months ago

      my plant has sprouted a stem with spikes on them. I have never seen this on this type of plant. Should I cut it off and/or is this poisonous?

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 13 months ago from Utah

      Rae, I think that your Draceana has a bloom. Mass Cane blooms look a little like a cluster of spiked balls on the end of a small stem. It is best to cut these off. Mass Cane blooms take a great deal of energy from the plant, and in domestic settings serve little purpose. Mass Cane blooms are also quite messy, producing sticky drippy sap. As far as I know they are not poisonous. You may get a bit of the sticky sap on you when pruning the bloom, just wash up after.

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      robert 13 months ago

      I live in an apartment and my two corn plants love it in here. I use a simple 6 lamp bathroom fixture for all my plants with daylight cheap cfl bulbs they love it. Have phothos, corn plants, parlor palms rubber trees and spiderplants. yes it is a jungle but disabled folks need love and plants too.

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      Helen 12 months ago

      I have a mass cane plant that is about 12 years old. It has a tall stalk and a smaller one. For the first time ever, it is flowering. The flowers have a very sweet fragrance. Is this common? Why is it blooming after almost 12 years?

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 12 months ago from Utah

      Helen, it is not uncommon for a Draceana to bloom. It may seem odd after having had the plant for so long, but it is normal. There are a variety of things that can trigger blooms, most often with Houseplants something in its environment may have changed, even in a subtle way, like the amount of hours of light it is receiving each day, temperature, or even exposure to bloom pheremones from other plants can cause the plant to attempt reproduction. This is a natural process.

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      Mary 11 months ago

      I have this plant and it is beginning to get very tall. I transplanted it to a bigger container but it is leaning over way too much. It is in rocks instead of soil. The root has some orange showing up. Is my plant beginning to die? I know it was over watered for a time and I hope we didn't kill it.

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      Melani 11 months ago

      My plant is almost 15' tall, however I've accidentally bent the top 6". Can I get it to re-root? I've placed it in water, will that help?

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 11 months ago from Utah

      Mary, since you mentioned that you have recently transplanted, it makes me lean toward your issue being caused by root structure that has not yet developed. Root damage is however, a possibility, and would be most likely the cause if the foliage begins to show signs of damage.

      Draceana canes are prone to leaning over as you have described, because they are a limb cutting, which leaves them often lacking in a strong root foundation. Common maintenance for this issue is to stabilize your pot from tipping, and gently work the stalk back to upright. Pack the lava rock, or soil around the base of of the cane to keep it in place.

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 11 months ago from Utah

      Melani, it's worth a try. I must admit I am no expert at re rooting, or plant splicing, but I know Draceana canes are rooted Limbs to start. You may want to look up more info on rooting cuttings, but my guess would be that direct into the water may lead to rot, so moist but not saturated media like moss with some root stimulater might be a a better way to trigger healthy root growth. Good Luck!

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      Cara 10 months ago

      Are these plants poisonous to dogs?

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 10 months ago from Utah

      Cara, to my knowledge Draceana are not poisonous to dogs.

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      Tyler88 10 months ago

      Hi,

      My Mass Cane has three stalks; the mid-sized stalk seems to be disconnected from the root ball. If I do not have it tied up with the other stalks it falls right over. I recently moved and this happened in the moving process. Will this stalk recover and reroot itself?

      Also, many of the leaves have cracks and brown spots/lines through them. Is this from inconsistent watering?

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 10 months ago from Utah

      Tyler, if the mid sized stalk has become unstable from being moved the roots will likely regenerate over time. I would recommend packing the soil around that cane to add support.

      The blemishes that you describe on the leaves could be from inconsistent watering, however this issue is also commonly seen on consistently tended Dracaena. It is believed, and in my experience appears to be supported by evidence overtime, that the cause is a build up of soluble salts and minerals from the water, this can be a more or less likely cause depending on how mineral rich the water is in your area. If you suspect the mineral build up may be the cause, (I would guess it's highly likely based on your description) adding soil and using filtered water can sometimes help to diminish the mineral concentration, otherwise the mentioned blemishes, while unsightly, are normal.

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      Erika 9 months ago

      I was given a mass cane that looks to be dying but I am not sure I want to save it, help please.?

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 9 months ago from Utah

      Erika, I will do my best.

      If the look of dying is primarily in the area of foliage (brown leaf tips, spotty leaves, yellowing leaves) continue watering, and using maintenance tips as detailed in this article.

      If the look of dying is in the form of wrinkly stalks, root rot, or 100% dead brown foliage this plant may be a lost cause.

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      Allena 9 months ago

      Hello, I have a mass cane that is about 5 years old now. It had two stalks and one rotted and fell right out a couple years ago, the remaining stalk was sickly for a while and the leaves all fell off. However a brand new one sprouted out of where the first stalk rotted off. My question is, that stalk where the leaves all fell off never regrew anything and now it is just a big brown dried out stick next to my healthy new stalk. Is there a way to trim or remove that dead stalk? I gave it a bit of a wiggle and it appears to be connected to the root ball still.

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 9 months ago from Utah

      Allena, this sounds a little tricky. If I am understanding correctly what you have described it sounds like the new healthy growth is attached to a partially the necrotic cane. You can cut back the dead portion of the cane to the point where the new growth has emerged. Since canes can be very thick it may require a hack saw, along with some coordination, and probably a couple pair of hands to keep the stalk secure while avoiding damaging the healthy stuff in the process. It may be to the plants benefit to get rid of that dead piece so long as the healthy portion is not damaged in the process (dead plant material can often harbor pests, and does zap energy). If cut back to living material you may want to cover that wound with wax to prevent bacteria, and other nasties from attacking the remaining plant.

      Hopefully this helps, good luck!

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      Farah 8 months ago

      I bought my plant last week! I put water once as i feel the soil is dry from top! But today i saw tips of my plants are brown I have placed the plant in my loung away frm window! Ac is on all the day as i live in saudia!its very hot outside! Wat is the reason over watering or low light??? Wat should i do plzzz help!

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      Lemonlou 8 months ago

      My corn plant is 97 years old. Are the little balls that form on the flowers fedrtile for starting new plants

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      Marie 7 months ago

      Is the mass cane plant harmful to dogs???

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      Barbara 6 months ago

      Hello, I hope you can help me. I've had my mass cane for about two years and suddenly in that last week or so its leaves have turned yellow and then within days they go brown. I've been cutting those leaves but more keep turning yellow. The leaves that are still green are looking wilted now.

      Nothings changed in watering or its position in my living room. The only thing that has changed has been the weather...which was a little cold (60s) for a few days, but has warmed up again.

      I don't see any bugs, the roots don't appear to be rotten, and the stem feels strong.

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 6 months ago from Utah

      Farah,

      It is likely that your plant is adjusting to the conditions in its new home. Most homes have lower light, airflow, and heat than what would be in a nursery. I recommended allowing your plant some time to adjust and being very mindful of moderating your watering (not too wet, not too dry).

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 6 months ago from Utah

      Barbara,

      If it is the lowest leaves on the cane turning yellow/brown the plant may just be letting go of some old growth for some new. If the leaves in question are higher in the stalk there may be some root damage that has occurred, more likely from a period of dryness based on your description. Keep in mind that Draceana are slow to react, evidence of an issue showing up now may have occurred many several weeks ago.

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 6 months ago from Utah

      Lemonlou,

      Good question, I am actually not sure about those blooms. My observation of them would lead me to say that they are more in the direction of a flower only in an interior setting, I have not left one on a plant long enough to see if they turn ultimately produce something to seed.

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      Allen 6 months ago

      I want to replant in bigger lot. What soil do I. Use?

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 6 months ago from Utah

      Allen,

      I usually use packaged potting soil for cactus, for repotting a Draceana. Regular potting soil tends to have too much organic material, and or added fertilizer for Draceana. Lava rock can be hard to come by in my area, it may be more accessible in other places, it too would likely be a good choice.

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      Patti 3 months ago

      I didn't see anywhere about fertilizing the plant? Also any recommendations for bringing back a not-to-good-looking plant? My daughter-in-law put the plant out during the rain here in Lakeside, CA, and it gets very cold at night, and she forgot about it after the rain? I pulled off some brown dead leaves, and I saw that I probably should have used pruning shears? Help and thanks.

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 3 months ago from Utah

      Patti, for any plant that has been under undue stress the key is to bring it back into balance by keeping it in a controlled environment with conditions as close to ideal as possible. In your case I would be most concerned about moisture level in the soil, and any possible cold damage that may have occurred. Allow the soil to dry thouroughly to touch before watering again. Cold damage, if it has occurred is not reversible, but does not always affect a plant entirely. Cold damage on the body of the plant will likely show up with leaf discoloration, often a dark purplish color, just remove the affected leaves. If the roots have been damaged by cold whole areas of the plant, or even whole stalks will likely shrivel up, also remove the affected pieces or stalks as they die off.

      Fertilizer should be used sparingly with Draceana as they are slower to process water and nutrient. Also many are potted with potting media that contains quite a bit of time realease fertilizer. When fertilizer is needed I like Dr. Q's plant tonic for most of my indoor plants, it is a light growth stimulant that assists in both root, and foliage production. Add fertilizer at a time of year that sunlight hours and temperatures, are increasing. Fertilizer should be added with water when the soil is moderately moist, not very dry or very wet.

      I would not recommend using fertilizer on the plant that you inquired about until it has been stabilized, fertilizer may only add stress at this point for that one. Good luck with the rehabilitation!

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      Kate 2 months ago

      Thank you for this helpful info! I am wondering... I purchased a few mass cane planters that have ivy at the base. Are these two plants ok together or will the ivy effect the cane plants?

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 2 months ago from Utah

      Kate, the Ivy should be no issue for the Mass Cane. Issues to watch out for would be more on the part of the Ivy. Indoor Ivy is prone to contracting Spider Mite, especially if placed in a hot dry area (near a heat vent, hot window, or even an often open door/window). Mass Canes are not typically hot spots for Spider Mite, but can contract from the Ivy if conditions were to allow.

      Watering adjustments will be needed as the roots of the Ivy will be much more shallow than those of the Canes, which will create a need for more frequent moderated waterering than would be needed if the cane was potted alone.

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      specifiedtree123 2 months ago

      First,thanks for the info I was able to get plenty of info on the plant and how to take care of mine.Also my son,Josh has cut part of the tree when he was messing around with the tree what should I do?

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      Kim 2 months ago

      I have had my mass cane for a few years and it has done well until recently. The leaves have developed a discoloration that I have not seen before. On some of the leaves, there are blotches of lighter green with yellow around the edges almost like fabric gets when you accidentally spill bleach on it. Do you have any idea what could be causing this? It is occurring at varies heights on the leaf heads.

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 2 months ago from Utah

      Specifiedtree,

      Glad that information is of good use.

      If the damage to your cane is a cut, or gash the plant will likely heal itself. Continue to give it consistent care keeping it stable so the plant can focus it's efforts on repairing the wound. If it is a very deep cut at some point you may have to remove dead material that may develop as a result. For now allow the plant to do what it needs to.

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 2 months ago from Utah

      Kim,

      The issue you are describing sounds familiar, this type of blotchy spotting is believed to be caused by a build up of soluble salts and minerals in the soil. It is most common in older more established Canes. Adding soil can help to balance the PH in the soil, try to find a cactus soil or something similar that does not contain added fertilizer. If your cane is in a well draining pot I would also recommend watering it through allowing all water to drain off, set it in a tub or the like. This can help to clear out some of the mineral build up, as if rinsing the soil.

      Check liners for mineral build up, replace or wash liners out.

      Exposed roots protruding out the bottom of a pot are another thing to keep an eye out for. This can also cause some puzzling effects on foliage. Inspect drain holes on the bottom of your plants pot. If there are protruding roots cut them back. If there is an excessive amount of exposed roots repotting should be considered.

      Hopefully this can help prevent any further damage from showing up. Good Luck!

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      Ruby adams 4 weeks ago

      I think i overwatered my corn or cane plant the leaves turn extemely brown i pulled the brown leaves off and there are still some green leaves on it it shows sign of new growth will the leave i pulled off grow back what can i do to make it healthy

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 4 weeks ago from Utah

      Ruby,

      If the leaves were completely brown the plant more likely became overly dry at some point before being watered. It is common for us humans to over correct with too much water following a dry spell, which can really get things out of whack. If the soil seems to be excessively moist at this time, and the pot is able to drain, try to dump out any excess water from the liner. Avoid watering until the soil moisture has decreased.

      The leaves that have been removed will not grow back. The canes, if the root structure is still in good health, will continue to produce new leaves from the crown, or the top center of the leaf clusters. From your description it sounds like this is what is happening, that is a good sign that the root system is in good health and the canes are working toward recovery.

      Your focus, as previously mentioned, should be toward bringing the soil moisture back into balance, not too much not too little. The plant will work to correct the foliage loss and bring itself into balance in that respect. Do continue to remove any other dead leaves as they may appear. Remember that Canes have a delayed reaction time, so damage you are seeing today likely onset weeks ago.

    • thoughthole profile image
      Author

      thoughthole 3 weeks ago from Utah

      Renee,

      If the smaller cane appears to be well rooted then there is a possibility that it could sprout a crown at some point. How long this process can take is very dependant on the environment, and the condition of the plant, I really have no detailed answer for how long it would take.

      Very often the smallest cane in a potted Draceana group will die off because it has the most shallow, and least established root system. If this small cane no longer has a stable root structure it has no chance of sprouting, and should ultimately be removed from the pot. If the roots have died the cane will likely be, or become very easy to move around, you may even notice the bark to be loose, as if detached from the solid interior material, also visible shriveling of the cane may be present.

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