How to Save a Dying Corn Plant

Corn plants can face numerous challenges in the garden that may cause them stress and lead to decline. However, it’s often possible to save a corn plant that appears to be dying by taking timely action. With proper care and attention, you may be able to nurse your struggling corn back to health.

Here are the key steps and strategies of how to save a dying corn plant.

Identifying Signs of a Dying Corn Plant

The first step is to carefully examine the corn plant and try to determine what exactly is causing it stress. Some common issues include:

  1. Lack of Water: Corn is a heavy water user and wilts quickly if the soil dries out, especially during hot weather. Signs include drooping leaves and stalks.
  2. Pests: Corn earworms, corn borers, corn rootworms, and other pests can damage the stalks, ears, or roots, leading to weakness. Look for holes, frass, or insects themselves.
  3. Disease: Southern corn leaf blight, rust, smut, and other fungal or bacterial diseases cause discolored or dying leaves. Proper identification is key for using specific control methods.
  4. Nutrient deficiency: Nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium deficiencies can lead to stunted growth, yellowing, or other discolored leaves. The symptoms provide clues to which nutrients may be lacking.
  5. Herbicide damage: Drift from weed killers applied nearby, or misapplication to corn can damage leaves and slow growth.
  6. Weather/sunscald: Strong winds, hail, or sun exposure can physically harm stalks and weaken the plant.


Carefully inspect the corn stalk, leaves, ears, and roots for any obvious signs of the underlying problem. Look for wilting or yellowing leaves, spots or other discoloration, holes from insect feeding, mold growth, or other abnormalities.

The soil around the plant can also provide clues – check the moisture level, test the pH, and examine for evidence of grubs, larvae, or other root-dwelling problems. Properly diagnosing the issue is essential to choosing the right remedy.

Taking Immediate Action to Save a Dying Corn Plant

Action to Save a Dying Corn Plant

Taking immediate action is key – start by finding out why your corn plant is struggling or dying. Let’s start

1. Revive Roots and Provide Water

Once you identify the main stressor, taking steps to revive the roots and replenish lost water is a good start. Lightly water the base of the stalk if the soil is dry. You can also make a slit in the stalk and pour a small amount of water directly into the inner pith.

For root problems like rootworm damage, a compost or compost tea drench around the base can encourage new root growth. Use a diluted compost tea or diluted compost extract applied as a soil drench. This provides beneficial microbes, nutrients, and hormones to boost root health.

Adding a layer of mulch also helps maintain soil moisture levels during recovery. Be sure not to overwater if roots are compromised, as this can encourage root rot.

2. Address Nutrient Deficiencies

If you suspect a lack of nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium, supplementing these key nutrients may help the plant recover. You can use fertilizers specifically formulated for corn, following label rates and instructions.

For nitrogen deficiency, fish emulsion, blood meal, or urea can provide a quick nitrogen boost when side-dressed around the base. For phosphorus, bone meal is incorporated well. Potassium deficiencies respond to kelp or wood ash treatments.

Watch the plant’s response, and don’t over-fertilize a stressed plant, as excess salts can further harm it. Slow-release, organic fertilizers are gentler choices during recovery.

3. Control Pests and Diseases

Take action if pests like earworms, borers, or rootworms are spotted. Read labels carefully when selecting insecticides and follow all safety precautions when applying. Biological controls like BT can control earworms if sprayed into the ears according to directions.

For fungal diseases, use labeled fungicides or extract sprays promptly. Removing infected leaves and stalk debris in the fall prevents pathogen overwintering. Crop rotations and resistant hybrid selections also help reduce future pressures. Isolate and destroy severely infected plants to contain spread.

4. Support Stalks and Provide Staking

Winds or pest damage can weaken corn stalks, making them prone to lodging. To keep stalks upright during recovery:

  • Stake each plant individually using bamboo stakes secured with twine or tape.
  • Use cage systems that surround stalks for added wind protection.
  • Prune off excess leaf growth to reduce wind resistance until recovery.
  • Mulch at the base to protect from additional mechanical damage.
  • Top-dress with compost for organic matter and nutrients to speed healing.

5. Monitor Plant Growth

Check the plant regularly over the next few weeks to monitor its progress. New green growth at the stalk tips indicates recovery. Continue caring for the soil, watering, and supplemental feeding as needed until it fully rebounds.

Be patient, as full recovery from severe stress may take a month or longer, depending on the plant’s condition and the time of year. Preventative care helps corn plant health overall. Consider crop rotation next season to reduce disease pressures and improvements like compost application and natural enemies to boost soil fertility and biological pest control.

6. Know When to Cut Losses

Sadly, if a corn plant is totally brown and dried out with no green tissue remaining, it’s unlikely to recover even with intervention. In this case, it’s best to remove it to prevent taking up space and resources from healthier neighbors. However, if there is any green left at all, there remains hope with diligent care. Use your judgment on a case-by-case basis in making this decision.


Corn plants grow large, and profit from consistent care, but many dying corns can make surprising recoveries when given properly tailored TLC. With a bit of patience and effort following these guidelines, you have a good chance of bringing an ailing corn back to full health. Monitor progress, stay on top of any new problems, and be ready to adapt your approach as needed. With some extra help getting reestablished, your corn plant may yet reward you with a bountiful harvest.

Similar Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *