How to Revive a Corn Plant with Yellow Leaves

Corn plants, also known as Dracaena fragrans, are beloved tropical house plants that are sought after for their exceptional air purification abilities, long lifespan, and stunning foliage. These resilient plants can reach impressive heights of up to 15 feet if provided with the right conditions and ample space.

However, when you notice your corn plant developing yellow leaves, it is crucial to identify the cause promptly to prevent further decline and potential demise. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind yellowing foliage in corn plants and provide effective strategies to revive your cherished plant.

Understanding the Yellowing of Corn Plant Leaves

The untimely yellowing of leaves, known as chlorosis, occurs when environmental factors disrupt the chloroplasts responsible for photosynthesis, resulting in a loss of the leaf’s natural green color. When the plant’s photosynthetic process is interrupted, it loses its pigmentation and turns pale or yellow.

Healthy Dracaena fragrans foliage
Healthy Dracaena fragrans foliage

Common Causes of Yellowing Leaves in Corn Plants

Several environmental factors can contribute to chlorosis in corn plants, including soil moisture issues, nutrient deficiencies, excessive sun exposure, pests, and diseases. Let’s take a closer look at some common symptoms:

Corn Plant Leaves Turning Yellow and Falling Off in Summer

During the summer months, nutrient deficiencies, such as nitrogen, can cause stunted growth, severe wilting, and yellowing of the entire leaf surface, beginning with the older, lower leaves. Consequently, this may lead to unfortunate leaf drop events.

Additionally, if temperatures frequently drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, corn plants may suffer significant damage, resulting in yellowing dead spots on the leaves and a subsequent massive leaf drop.

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It is important to note that the lower leaves of corn plants naturally senesce and turn yellow every 2 to 3 years as part of their natural regenerative process.

Corn Plant Leaves Yellowing with Brown Patches

When yellowing leaves exhibit brown edges, it usually indicates severe underwatering or extremely low relative humidity levels. Excessive direct sunlight or high light intensity can also cause corn plant leaves to yellow, curl, and develop brown edges.

Yellow leaves with brown edges may also signify over-fertilization of the soil or fertilizer burn on the leaves.

Corn Plant Leaves with Yellow Tips or Edges

Yellowing tips on corn plants often indicate damage from fluorinated and chlorinated water, while yellowing leaf edges may suggest a potassium deficiency in the soil.

Corn Plant Leaves with Yellow Veins

High soil pH, often caused by over-fertilization, can lead to deficiencies in nutrients like iron, resulting in interveinal chlorosis in corn plants’ youngest leaves. Furthermore, magnesium deficiency, another crucial nutrient missing from the soil, can cause yellow interveinal striping on the lowest leaves, eventually leading to round dead spots and reddish-purple leaf tips.

Corn Plant Leaves are Yellow and Drooping

Improper soil moisture management is the most likely cause of yellow and drooping leaves in corn plants. Both overwatering and underwatering can result in leaf chlorosis, wilting, root rot, and eventual plant death.

Leaves look soft and yellow, possibly root rot
Leaves look soft and yellow, possibly root rot

Corn Plant Leaves Turned Yellow with Brown Spots

Fungal diseases and pest infestations are often responsible for yellowing leaves with brown spots. For instance, Tip Blight Disease, or anthracnose, can cause yellowing leaves with brown edges and the formation of dark spots with yellow halos all over the foliage. If left untreated, this disease can lead to the death of the corn plant.

Corn Plant Leaves with Yellow Spots

Tiny yellow dots on corn plant foliage are usually indicative of a spider mite infestation. If left to proliferate, the entire plant will eventually be encased in fine webbing, leading to its demise.

Treating and Preventing Yellowing Corn Plant Leaves

Corn plant leaf chlorosis serves as an early warning sign of potential issues and should be addressed promptly to prevent further decline. Here are some effective strategies for treating and preventing yellowing leaves in corn plants:

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Watering Problems – Over and Underwatering

Ensure that your container has drainage holes, allowing the excess water to escape. Remove any water in the saucer to prevent osmosis from saturating the soil, which can create a toxic environment unsuitable for root growth.

Establish a regular watering schedule, providing water every 7 to 10 days during the growing season. Reduce watering frequency to once every 2 to 3 weeks during periods of winter dormancy to avoid keeping the soil consistently saturated when growth is minimal.

If you suspect the soil is frequently becoming saturated, consider transplanting your corn plant into a well-draining soil mix. A suitable mixture could consist of 1 part Coco Coir, 1 part Perlite, 1 part Vermiculite, and 1 part Worm Castings.

Using Unfiltered Tap Water

Corn plants are sensitive to chemicals and heavy metals present in tap water. Over time, chlorine, chloramine, fluoride, and other compounds accumulate in the soil, leading to brown and crispy leaf edges. This is often accompanied by a yellow halo around the dry brown sections of the leaf’s outer edge.

If symptoms of chemical buildup appear, flush your corn plant with rainwater or filtered water 3 to 4 times to remove the high concentration of chemicals in the soil. Supplement with a liquid fertilizer afterward.

Brown crisp edges from tap water mineral buildup
Brown crisp edges from tap water mineral buildup

Over-Fertilizing

In cases of over-fertilization, flush the soil with water until it floods, repeating this process several times over a week. Avoid using additional liquid fertilizer supplements and instead add a 1-inch top dress consisting of 50% organic potting soil and 50% worm castings every 6 months.

How to Fertilize a Corn Plant

Corn plants often lack nitrogen more than any other nutrient due to leaching and heavy watering. If chlorosis resulting from nitrogen deficiencies occurs, increase your supplemental top dress application to once per month.

Potassium deficiencies are likely to occur after periods of underwatering and can be resolved by using a liquid fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 3-1-2 or 3-1-3 while following a consistent watering schedule.

As corn plants are sensitive to salt, opt for a top dress of worm castings instead of Epsom salt regimens, typically used for magnesium deficiencies.

Soil pH

Corn plants thrive in soil with a pH of 6 to 6.5. Check the soil’s pH with a handheld pH meter and adjust it accordingly using specific pH up or down formulas available at your local grow store.

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Excessive Sunlight Exposure

Corn plants are tropical understory species that prefer filtered, bright sunlight. Leaving them in direct sunlight can result in severe sunburn. However, they will recover if promptly relocated to an area with 6 to 8 hours of filtered sunlight.

Relocate your corn plant to a spot that provides 63 to 73% shade, trim any brown leaves, and apply a supplemental fertilizer to aid in its recovery.

Rapid Temperature Fluctuations or Low Humidity

Dracaenas, including corn plants, prefer temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Place them in a warm, draft-free room and maintain a relative humidity level of 60 to 100% by using a heated humidifier.

Pest Infestations

Treat common houseplant pests, such as spider mites and scales, by applying all-natural essential oil sprays containing neem, lemongrass, and lavender. Regularly wipe the leaves and isolate new plants from greenhouses to prevent new infestations.

Diseases

For Tip Blight Disease, or anthracnose, consider using a blight-specific fungicide or all-natural essential oil sprays. Always follow the instructions provided.

Conclusion

Yellowing leaves in corn plants should not be ignored, as they can signify underlying issues that, if left unaddressed, may lead to the plant’s decline. By understanding the possible causes and implementing effective treatment and prevention strategies, you can revive your corn plant and help it thrive once again.

Remember to provide proper watering, avoid over-fertilization, ensure suitable soil pH, regulate sunlight exposure, maintain the right temperature and humidity, address pest infestations, and promptly treat any diseases.

For more gardening tips and information about corn plants and other houseplants, visit the Ames Farm Center.

FAQ: Corn Plant with Yellow Leaves

Will yellowing leaves turn green again?

Generally, yellowing leaves will not revert to their original green color. It is best to trim off any dying leaves before they attract pests that can introduce fungal infestations and bacterial diseases to your corn plant.

Citations

  • The University of Florida IFAS Extension Cultural Guidelines for Commercial Production of Interiorscape Dracaena
  • Department of Plant Pathology Tip blight disease of Dracaena fragrance caused by Lasiodiplodia the bromate (Botryosphaeriaceae), from India