How To Save A Dying Corn Plant: 8 Causes & Prevention Tips

As a long-time Corn Plant keeper (specifically Dracaena Fragrans), I’ve learned a trick or two about how to save a dying Corn Plant quickly and effectively.

The process involves first identifying what is causing your Corn Plant to show symptoms of dying, and how severe the problem actually is. After that, I follow a process of repotting, dealing with pests, pruning, and ensuring the growing conditions are optimal.

This may sound overwhelming at first – but don’t worry – I’ll break everything down into simple steps so you can get your Corn Plant on the fix asap.

How To Know If Your Corn Plant Is Dying

Let’s start with the key signs that indicate your Corn Plant is actually dying and not just struggling with certain aspects of care.

Excessive Wilting

Excessive wilting is one of the first signs that a Corn Plant might be dying.

The leaves may start to droop, and the overall appearance of the plant becomes less vibrant. This can happen due to reasons like inadequate watering, extreme temperatures, or poor soil quality.

New leaf growth on a corn plant
New leaf growth on my Dracaena Fragrans (what healthy leaves should look like)

Some wilting is common, but if all the leaves are wilting then it’s very likely something to do with the soil, i.e. overwatering or root rot.

Yellow/Brown Leaves

Another sign that your corn plant is in trouble is the presence of yellow or brown leaves.

This can be caused by several factors, including overwatering, underwatering, and nutrient deficiency.

It’s pretty normal to have one or two leaves that are turning yellow or brown at any given time, but again if lots of leaves are showing the same pattern then something more serious is at play.

Signs Of Disease Or Pests

Diseases like leaf spot or stem rot or pests like mealybugs and soft scale can be signs that your Corn Plant is dying, especially if they are not dealt with quickly and allowed to spread.

Look for white masses underneath leaves, as these are common symptoms of pests.

Check the top side of the leaves for uneven spots and squeeze the stem of the plant to make sure it is firm and not soft to the touch.

Lack Of Growth

Sometimes an obvious sign that your Corn Plant is dying is if it stops growing much at all, especially if this is during the summer when you would expect the most growth.

Do Brown Tips Mean Your Corn Plant Is Dying?

Brown tips can affect Corn Plants for a variety of reasons, but it usually isn’t a sign that your plant is dying.

A brown tip on a Dracaena Marginata
A brown tip on my Dracaena Fragrans

It’s usually due to low humidity or underwatering, so if your Corn Plant is showing brown tips I recommend increasing the humidity around it and making sure you are watering it enough.

It can also be due to physical contact, which is what happened in my case as I found myself touching the leaves while watching TV without thinking about it!

8 Causes Of A Dying Corn Plant

Now that you know the signs to look out for, let’s look at 8 reasons why your Corn Plant is dying.

1. Underwatering

One common cause of a dying Corn Plant is underwatering.

Corn Plants can survive well without much water as they store a lot of it in their leaves and stem, but this does mean that they often get underwatered.

I’ve found that when the soil around my corn plant becomes too dry, its leaves start turning brown and wilting.

To avoid this, water the plant whenever the top inch of the soil feels dry.

I’ve followed this rule for years now and I’ve never had any issues with underwatering. If you want more information on watering your Dracaena, check out this article.

2. Overwatering

Overwatering can also be an issue, and is arguably much worse than underwatering for several reasons:

  • Overwatering suffocates the roots, meaning less water and nutrients are absorbed through the plant to the leaves.
  • Overwatering can quickly lead to root rot as the roots starve and die. It can also happen due to dormant fungi that are favored in overwatered conditions.

To avoid overwatering, keep the one-inch rule in mind and make sure your soil mix drains well.

3. Temperature Issues

Corn Plants prefer a moderate temperature range.

In my experience, exposing them to temperatures below 50°F (10°C) or above 95°F (35°C) may cause stress and damage.

Extended periods of time at these temperatures can lead to death, especially if your Corn Plant becomes frozen.

4. Disease

Corn Plants are susceptible to diseases like stem rot or leaf spot.

If these are not treated it will lead to death, so it’s important to watch out for signs of these diseases and put measures in place to prevent them from happening.

Stem rot usually occurs as a result of root rot, which happens due to overwatering.

Leaf spot spreads due to high humidity and moisture around or on the leaves, so it’s important to make sure you have good circulation around your plant and avoid misting it.

5. Pests

Pests such as spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects can damage a Corn Plant.

These pests can cause yellowing or wilting leaves and slow the plant’s overall growth.

Over time, infestations can grow and ultimately lead to death, as well as spread to other plants nearby.

Make it part of your routine to check your Corn Plant for signs of pest infestations, making sure to focus on the surface of the soil and the underside of leaves.

6. Old Age

As a Corn Plant ages, it may start to show signs of decline, such as yellowing leaves or overall reduced growth.

Dracaenas typically live 10 years in a pot, but they can live for decades if planted outside, so this isn’t one of the most common reasons for a dying Corn Plant but it’s something to be aware of.

7. Nutrient Deficiency

Corn plants require a balanced supply of nutrients for healthy growth.

I’ve noticed that a lack of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium found in complete fertilizers (NPK) can lead to poor growth or even death.

8. Soil Compaction

Lastly, soil compaction can be a problem for corn plants. Compacted soil restricts root growth and can cause poor water and nutrient uptake.

Adding perlite to your Dracaena soil mix is a good idea because it reduces soil compaction.

Reviving Your Corn Plant Through Proper Care (Step By Step)

It’s great knowing the proper care conditions for a Corn Plant, but it can be hard to know where to start if there is already an issue like root rot or overwatered soil that needs to be addressed first.

These are the exact steps that I used when I suspected that my Corn Plant was dying.

Deal With Pests

Pests like aphids, mites, thrips, and mealybugs can cause serious damage to any Corn Plant, especially if the infestation is allowed to grow.

If pests are affecting your Corn Plant, they need to be dealt with right away.

Small infestations can be dealt with by spraying with water several times a day over a period of a week or so, but larger infestations require insecticides.


The next step is to repot your Corn Plant.

This gives you the perfect opportunity to refresh the soil and check the quality of the roots to check for signs of root rot.

When repotting, choose a new container around 1 to 2 inches wider than the current one and make sure the soil mix is well draining.

For soil, I like to use a simple mix of regular potting soil with perlite added to improve drainage, as well as peat moss to hold on to some moisture and create a suitable, slightly acidic pH.

Address Root Rot

During repotting, gently examine the roots.

If they are discolored, mushy, and smell bad then they have rotten.

This is root rot, and any affected roots need to be pruned right away using a pair of sterilized trimmers.

At this point you’ll also be able to tell if your Corn Plant has gone past the point of recovery – that is, if all of the roots have rotten there is little to no chance of reversal.

If there are still healthy roots left after pruning, I would treat these with a fungicide designed for root rot before continuing with repotting.


After repotting, prune away any damaged or discolored leaves.

This is a great strategy for focusing the plant’s energy during recovery onto healthy leaves, which promotes not only these leaves to grow but also new leaves to develop.

If there are any other damaged parts of the plant these should be removed as well.

Water Properly

After repotting and pruning, water the soil generously until water starts to come out of the drainage holes (yep, you need to be using drainage holes as well).

Watering generously like this after repotting is crucial because the soil mix won’t have the existing moisture that it will usually have once it settles in. It also helps to promote new root growth in the new soil.

Meet The Other Care Requirements (Choose A Suitable Location)

Once you’ve watered your Dracaena is pretty much ready to be placed in an area with suitable conditions and left alone for a period of time while it settles in.

Here’s a quick summary of the conditions you need to meet:

  • Sunlight – Bright, indirect sunlight is best. Some varieties of Dracaena can withstand direct sunlight, but keep it to minimal hours each day otherwise the leaves can scorch.
  • Temperature – Keep the temperature between 65 and 75º F where possible, and avoid big temperature fluctuations.
  • Humidity – Aim for a humidity of 60% for ideal growing conditions. If the humidity is lower you may notice browning tips and slower overall growth.

Fertilize After A Few Weeks

After a few weeks have passed you’ll be able to monitor the health of your Corn Plant in its new soil and environment.

It can take a while for a Corn Plant to get over the shock of being transplanted, so hopefully after this time, it has settled into its new environment.

After this time I like to fertilize with a complete fertilizer to boost growth further and make sure that the nutrient requirement is met.

Some people like to use homemade fertilizers like coffee grounds, but in my experience, it’s best to just use a commercial option.

Preventing Future Problems

It’s much easier to stop your Corn Plant from dying in the first place than to deal with the consequences.

Here’s a quick list of things you need to keep in mind to keep your Corn Plant as happy as possible.

Optimal Growing Conditions

It should go without saying at this point that you need to get the growing conditions right.

Make sure the temperature and humidity are within the correct ranges, and opt for bright indirect sunlight rather than direct sunlight.

Use a well-draining soil mix (read my guide here for more information) and make sure your pot has drainage holes as well.

If you get the basics right you’ll be rewarded with a happy Corn Plant that will live for a long time.

Routine Maintenance

Aside from growing conditions, regular maintenance is also a crucial part of keeping your Corn Plant happy.

Watering is an essential part of this routine.

I water my plants when the top inch of soil feels dry, being careful not to overwater, as that can invite root rot or other diseases.

Regularly cleaning the leaves with a damp cloth helps remove dust, allowing the plant to better absorb light.

And I never neglect the importance of fertilization – applying a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer every two to three weeks in the summer and once per month in the winter supports the well-being of my Dracaenas.

Monitoring Plant Health

I frequently check my corn plants for signs of potential issues. I inspect the leaves and stems for any pests or unusual spots, which can indicate the presence of pests or diseases.

When detecting a problem early, I can reduce the likelihood of it affecting the overall health of my plant.

By taking preventative measures, ensuring optimal growing conditions, performing routine maintenance, and monitoring plant health, I give my corn plants the best chance to thrive and avoid any future issues.

In Summary

Hopefully, this guide has given you all the information you need to save your dying Corn Plant, and how to determine if it’s actually dying or not.

Even if your Corn Plant isn’t dying, it is actually a good idea to repot it and optimize the conditions for growth every few years regardless to help it continue growing and thriving.

If you want to learn more about Dracaenas, you can check out some of my other articles below:

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About Me

Hi, I'm Joe! I'm the head of SEO and content management at Bloom and Bumble. I'm a huge plant lover and over the years my home has become more like an indoor rainforest. It has taken a lot of trial and error to keep my plants healthy and so I'm here to share my knowledge to the rest of the world.

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