Dracaena fragrans – That’s How It Got Its Name

Dracaena fragrans

Dracaena fragrans – Did you know it flowers? We get emails regularly asking about the flowering of Dracaena fragrans. The emails go something like this:

I have a Dracaena fragrans – “Corn plant” and have had the plant for 5 years – in some cases more. It is blooming for the first time. I did not know it even bloomed.

  • How long will the flowers last?
  • Will the plant die?
  • Can I cut off the flower stalk?

I must go on record and let you know that I am writing only from experience and cannot give you the full details on the the Dracaena fragrans flowering indoors – it’s not the most common event!

Hopefully some of our interiorscapers will write and give us their hints and tips.

As I write this I have a dracaena fragrans massangeana planted outside in the ground and flowering. It is approximately 180 feet from my house and I can smell the intoxicating fragrance every evening.

Background on Dracaena Fragrans

Most of the time you find Dracaena fragrans flowering it will be on very mature plants. Plants usually 6 feet and up.

The flower stalks emerge out of the center of the leaf whorl and will grow to sometimes 3 feet in length arching to the ground.

close up Dracaena fragrans in flower

In the evening the plant gives off a sweet fragrance that is noticeable for hundreds of feet. The fragrance is very strong as some of you have experienced. One person even said that they had to open the office doors to air out the place!!!

Now to the questions:

Will the Plant Die?

No – The plant will continue to grow. The plant will begin by putting out a new head of foliage. The center of the plant – the growing tip – is no longer active after flowering.

A new “head” will emerge out of the center of the foliage next to where the flower stalk was. This is similar to pruning a plant and new growth starts below the cut.

It is also possible that more then one head may emerge. Specimens with branched trunks occur when two heads develop where the old flower stalk was and has matured.

How Long Will the Flower Last?

The fragrance last each evening for approximately 3 to 7 days. It may last longer indoors because it is protected from the elements. After a period of time the flower stalk will eventually wither away.

Can I cut off the Dracaena flower stalk?

Yes, you can cut off the flower stalk. Remember, while the plant is flowering it is putting its energy into the flowers and not into other parts of the plant.

I’d like to hear from the interior people but I think they would recommend cutting off the flower stalks for a couple of reasons.

  • The potency of the fragrance indoors can be very strong (especially in commercial settings)
  • Pollen may get on the leaves and give a dirty look.

How about you – ever had your Dracaena fragans flower?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy Fediw, LEED AP,CLP, CLT June 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

I’m an interiorscape consultant and can shed a little more light on flowering Dracaeanas. They usually flower because they’ve been exposed to temperatures below 50-55 F for prolonged periods of time. We usually do recommend cutting off the flowers. They can drip nectar which can stain or ruin whatever carpeting or furniture is underneath. And the nectar can attract ants or other insects since it’s very sweet.

We also usually recommend cutting the head of foliage back down to the cane once it’s flowered with a pair of sharp pruners. Otherwise the new growth will grow crooked and ruin the overall look of the plant. You can score the cane above one of the bumps near the top, there’s a bud underneath, and it will sprout out into a new head within a couple of months.

Hope this helps. For more information on caring for indoor plants you may want to check out my book, “Green Plant Care Tips for Techs” sold on Amazon.com.

Lora June 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Thank you for this information. I am so excited about both my corn plants flowering at the same time. Nope, I have never seen this before. Have owned many corn plants over the years. These are both very mature, have both @ least 5 years.
Thanx again.

Leo Horishny March 18, 2012 at 1:02 am

Thank you for the information. Our dracaena has been blooming and it was completely unexpected. We may have had it for 5 years, but it’s now only 18″ tall and it still has a stalk of blooms on it a good 8″ long and maybe 3/8″ thick.

It’s embarrassing that we smelled the flowers days before we noticed what was making the smell! It is in a cooler part of the house at night and near a window. So far, it has not dropped pollen or nectar, but we’ll trim it soon to keep the plant, as small as it is from growing cockeyed.

deniseg November 22, 2012 at 2:47 am

After 20 years, my Dracaena plant bloomed and it freaked me out. This was a plant from my mother’s funeral so I was a little uneasy. When it began to give off the sent, I didn’t know what it was. I then walked into my living room and noticed the smell was stronger the closer I got to the plant. Thank God I found this website as I was about to throw the plant out. I thought something was wrong with it. I have cut off the bloom now as it was very pungent and had begun to die. My plant is well over 6 feet tall. Thanks for the information you saved my “Mama”!

cmz0418 November 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm

My father brought back a one foot stalk from Brazil 25 years ago. I rooted it in water and it turned out to be a corn plant. It sits in my foyer and it 20 feet tall. Now, for the first time EVER, it grew flowers and they have bloomed! After 25 years, this plant grew flowers. The scent is really strong. Nice, but strong. Combination of honey suckle & lilac. It is common for these to bloom for the first time after 25 years???