When my son was about five, he bought me two plants for Mothers Day–a corn plant (Dracaena Frangrans) and a spider plant. The spider plant populated offices and homes throughout the entire state, and then exhausted, died. Not so the corn plant.
The corn plant has survived eleven moves (one cross-country), has bloomed twice and has sturdily refused to branch. When a winter was too cold and dry (and i was too stubborn to turn up the heat in New England) it threw off leaves, but each spring, it flourished again.
I would cut off the top if it got too dry, and the stem would re-sprout. If the cane got dry and lanky, I’d cut off the top and replant it. The plant chugged along, older than any plant in my ever-changing collection. When I left D.C. I gave away all my plants except for the fig tree, an orchid and the corn plant. The big plants had no choice, they rode in the moving van. For five days in August, they stayed in the dark heat of the van.
Being relatives of mine (well, how could I not think of them that way?) they survived. The ficus, known for being delicate, didn’t lose more than five leaves. The corn plant drooped, but picked up again. I cheerfully topped it and planted the top while the cane died. Again, I had a new plant.
Last summer, four years into its stay here, the corn plant began to dry out. It didn’t like the air conditioning blowing on it nor the sun baking it. I trimmed the dying leaves and finally, there was just a four-inch top. I trimmed it and saw the cross-section of the cane was dry and brown. I hoped the top would root again.
The stem crinkled. and I had to admit it was over. I put the pot on the east side of the house, in days when it was still 110 degrees in the afternoon. The top was taken into the bathroom with a skylight, and after a few weeks of touch and go, it decided to live and pushed out two new leaves.
Yesterday, thinking it might rain, I went outside to connect the extensions to the gutter drain. I saw the plant and remembered I had to pull it out and put it in the trash. It had been outside for weeks, and it had rained only once.
There, on the plant, were two leafy sprouts. I have no idea how a plant that wasn’t doing well inside, at 84 degrees and regular watering would come back again. But there it was. I repotted it, watered it, and placed it under the orange tree where it will get dappled shade and great winter sun.
The corn plant lives on, thriving in any condition, dipping close to death, but coming back strong. It appreciates love, but will count on its own strength when it has to. And now I have two of them, generations away from their origin, still turning toward the sun.
–-Quinn McDonald has grown hundreds of plants in her life, but the corn plant and the ficus are the most amazingly resilient of them all.