Friday, February 15, 2008

Dracaena Propagation Continued

I read your blog and found the section on corn plants overtaking
apartments (posted August 3, 2007). I live in Seattle and my corn plant is about to bust a
hole in my 1910 apartment ceiling!

In any case, the one thing I'm not positive about is whether my plant
actually is a corn plant. I've attached some pictures, though they're
not so great.

If the plant is not a corn plant, will the stem cutting propogation
method still work? I would like to keep this plant, since I rescued
him from the dumpster about 3 years ago.

The plant that you saves is not a corn plant, but it is a close relative. The plant you have is still in the Dracaena genus, but a different species. Most people and retailers refer to your plant, with the long, entirely green leaves and green stems as a Janet Craig Dracaena, or Dracaena 'Janet Craig'. The plant looks slightly different than a corn plant, but their cultural requirements are very much the same. They thrive in bright light to part shade, can be kept moist during the summer and fertilized weakly with a foliage fertilizer (8-7-6 or equivelant), and allowed to go dry between watering in winter.

To answer your other question, you can still propagate it by stem cutting. The one factor, and thing I've been meaning to mention on the blog, is that this process can take a very long time. I admit that I can get just as impatient as the next guy and for a while I wasn't sure my cutting was going to take root. Yet I kept applying a small amount of water twice a week and didn't give up hope. I began the process in early August and just now I have found the Dracaena to have a fair amount of roots established (see pictures below). The plant first has to establish roots, and then it will put out new foliage so I have yet to see new leaves emerge from the center. If I look closely I see new growth, but I want to warn you that months later it is not looking all that different. I am confident the cutting has taken and will continue to do well, but just to warn you, it is a slow process. As I mentioned in the earlier post, air layering is an option also, and admittedly that too can take a little while and a good amount of patience.

(After sending the above information our email dialog continued...)


A final quick question for you - will it hurt the remaining plant and stalk underneath, if I lob the top off after I air layer it?


The hope for the remaining stalk you are left with is that dormant buds in the stem will break and push out new growth of foliage from the sides of the stem right under where you cut (and where the plant callused). Since the stem itself is green and may do a little photosynthesizing on its own, there is a possibility that the leftover stalk will produce a new flush of foliage, but again, this is more of a hope than a guarantee.

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