Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fortune Plant (Dracaena fragrans)

Dracaena fragrans 'Masagaena' in bloom.

Dracaena fragrans is one of the most important houseplants in the United States because of its ability to tolerate low-light environments and low maintenance.  In the Philippines, it is grown both as an indoor or outdoor plant.

This plant is known by so many names and for different reasons. With its broad and elongated leaves that resemble that of corn (Zea maize), Dracaena fragrans is nick-named corn plant or cornstalk plant in this part of the world.  On the other hand, its botanical name indicates a significant olfactory characteristic - "fragrans".  This plant's ability to exude sweet odor outweighs all other characteristics that it is used to universally describe the species of the plant.  With such names we could say that this type of dracaena is a fragrant corn-looking plant.  However, in some countries it is called 'Fortune Plant'. There is a superstition that revolves not just in the Philippines but in the rest of Asia.  If the plant blooms in your care, then good fortunes will abound in the home.  The blooming time seems to be unpredictable that people associate it with the elusive incidence of good luck. :)

Dracaena fragrans is sometimes called Corn Plant.

For me, it is not uncommon to see this plant bloom. My mother had one that bloomed outside her front door year after year.  Everyone who came to our house after dusk knew it was in bloom even if they didn't see the flowers.  Here in my house (in California), there are three potted Dracaena fragrans - one of them is about eight feet tall and the other two are about six feet tall - all of which I've had for years now.  I purchased these plants at different sizes.  It has been my observation that only the mature plants - with a minimum trunk diameter of one inch- showed flowers.  However, not all plants with the same size of trunk bloomed.  One of my plants did not bloom this year even if it has larger trunk than the other two that bloomed.  Therefore, I have to come up with another theory -- that the plant has to be exposed to not one but a combination of critical factors prior to flower initiation. I think the plant blooms when they reach a certain age and accumulated experience.  How to quantify such variables remain unknown to me.  I'm sure there are scientific literature out there that explain this mystery.  But before I find them, I will enjoy the secret belief that my Dracaena fragrans is signaling the arrival of good fortune into my house.  :).

Dracaena fragrans line a village road in Cagayan,  Philippines.

Traditions, superstitions and beliefs determine the way cultures look at plants.  


Unknown said...

After the plant blooms and the bloom stem dies and turns brownish./black. Do we cut that off?

Helen Lewis said...

@Jesse Dumadaug -- Yes, you can cut off the spent flower stalks. You will notice that a new leaves will appear right at next to where the flower was. It is also good to fertilize your plant after blooming to give it an extra boost of nutrients. Thank you for visiting my blog. :)

Unknown said...

Can you cut the flower before it dies??

Helen Lewis said...

Hi Trish Brown --
Yes, of course. You can always cut it off. In fact it will save you from having to worry about dripping sticky nectar if the plant is being grown indoors.
Thanks for stopping by. :)

Unknown said...

How long does the bloom last? My brother doesn't like the smell?

Anonymous said...

our fortune plant bloomed today! this is the first time i saw a fortune plant bloomed.. the smell is relly nice.. smells like sampaguita.. and it smells all over the house.. 28 years of existence but this is the very first time.. even my grndmother have a fortune plant in our old house but i never or i can say they never seen it bloomed like what we have here.. almost 13years since we bought this place.. is it really true that this fortune plant brings us fortune??

Anonymous said...

Hi my fortune plant I noticed have also flowered but every time my kids passed the flowers quite annoying and sticky so I decided to cut it off. I hope I haven't curtailed my fortune.��

Helen Lewis said...

The last two comments really made me laugh. The fortune that comes with the flowering of the plant is only a superstition. It may seem true depending on your definition of fortune but there is no way to prove that it is in fact triggered by the flowering of the plant. My friends, I just wish that you all feel fortunate by the fact that you have seen and smelled the flower of your dracaena plant. I hope that the Giver of good gifts will bring you fortunes regardless of the behavior of your plants. :)

Thank you for your comments!

Jero Pili said...

Hi Ms Helen Lewis, thanks for your blog regarding fortune plant or dracaena fragrans. My name is lito Penamante Sr. from Alfonso Cavite, Philippines. I have three pieces of Fortune Plant in front of our house which is about 3 years old now. Their height approximately 7, 6, 15 feet. Just this 6:10 pm, Friday, January 26, 2018, I and my wife were wondering why we smelled like sampaguita, then we found out that our 6 feet fortune plant which is in the middle have two flowers. In fact I don't expect that this plant will bloom, and this is my first time to see this kind of flowers, yes, it is very fragrant. Right now the two flowers are inside my room with watered flower base.. Hoping that this will bring us good luck..Thanks and God bless!

Rolando Villanueva said...

My fortune plant in Taal Batangas finally bloomed after more than 30 years. After the flowers, fruits came out. What is the use of its fruit?

Helen Lewis said...

Rolando Villanueva --That's a good question. Other than the fruit bearing the seeds, I am not so sure about other uses of the fruit. Because of its seemingly unpredictable flowering pattern, the plant is not cultivated for the fruits. If they are growing outdoors or in the wild, I am sure the animals and birds would know what to do with them. But as a domesticated indoor plant, it will only be valued for its foliage. :)

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