Dieffenbachia is a perennial flowering herbaceous tropical decorative garden plant with a wide variety of cultivars that bear different shades of yellow and green foliage, often dotted in several light colors. Their leaves are usually interspersed in 20cm to 30cm long oval evergreen outlines, borne on slender, well-built stems between 38 to 46 inches long.
Popularly called Leopard Lily, Dumb Cane, or Mother Inlaw’s Tongue, they were first domesticated in most of the West Indies, Mexico, and Southern Argentina, before later being naturalized in many other tropical regions. Dieffenbachia is mostly in-demand for its record adaptation to dimly lit environments.
Want to have a tropical feel and a touch of Nature in your toilet, bedroom, or office area? They’re perfect for any location.
All Dumb Cane cultivars are easy to propagate, and every newbie propagator will easily become an expert at handling them right from their first try. I mostly do my propagation starting in early spring, and my choice methods are stem cuttings and root division. I’ll explain how to get it done below.
Propagating Dieffenbachia by Stem Cuttings
Unlike similar garden plants, Dumb Cane plants can only be propagated by stem cuttings; leaf cuttings are generally useless in water or a potting mix. Please choose the best stems for the cuttings, usually those with more than three healthy leaves.
Cut the stems below where they’re attached to the main plant (the nodes) and pick off the residual leaves on each one. You can make as many cuttings as you desire, but I recommend going for three or four at a go.
Allow the cuttings to rest for a few hours, then dip the healed edges in a rooting hormone powder such as honey, hydrogen peroxide, or cinnamon. It’s alright if you don’t have any rooting hormone, your cuttings will root all the same.
Pour some of the potting mixes into the chosen pots.
Your pots should not be deeper than 6-8 inches for your Dumb Cane plants to grow properly. Make planting holes on the surface of the pots and insert the cuttings, then pour in more soil mix till they’re firmly in place.
You may water immediately or wait till the next day; generally, the potting should be moist inside throughout the rooting period. Place it on a window sill or a well-shaded patio with bright shiny indirect sunlight and they’ll begin to root in 2-3 weeks.
Propagating Dieffenbachia by Root Division
This, for me, is the easiest way to grow new Dumb Cane plants, and it’s also the perfect solution to an older pot that’s becoming unbearably leggy. The older plants have a habit of growing tender stems on their roots that look like rhizomes; we can grow new pots by dividing these root balls.
First, pull out the plant from its pot. You may need to water it lightly to make it softer and ready for the division. I usually plan this and water the pots I’m dividing thoroughly a day before dividing them. A simple trick to get them out easily is to tilt the pot sideways and rock it back and forth till the plant slides out gently.
Comb through the root hairs until the dividing sections become obvious; you may also need to shake the plant gently to get the soil off the roots. Pick several roots together to form clusters and make the whole plant into root clusters, each having its stems and leaves. Please use any garden-cutting tool to separate the clusters and plant them in new pots.
Giving your Dieffenbachia Plants the right Sunshine amounts
Your Dumb Cane plants will thrive brilliantly under brightly illuminated indirect lighting conditions. They can adapt to the full brightness of winter sunshine but must be kept under shade or behind a window sill to continue receiving the diffused sunlight for the remainder of the year.
They are not so picky about their needs; in the absence of indirect sunshine, they’ll do well with any bright Indoor lighting condition; even fluorescent light is good enough for them, although they’d rather be potted where there’s constant bright light. I usually bring them out for some hours of sunshine during summer to keep them rejuvenated and happy to bloom.
Dieffenbachia needs a minimum of 6-8 hours of indirect sunshine daily to bloom in their growing season, and their growth is usually diminished when the available lighting condition could be more favorable. As much as they love the sunshine, they also do well when the humidity is above average.
Misting them daily is great for the older plants, especially where the day’s sunshine can cause scorching of their leaves. It’s always preferable for them if the average humidity is below 60%.
The atmospheric temperatures should always be within 16°C to 26°C (62°F to 80°F) during the day, and night times shouldn’t go below 10°C (50°F).
Making the Right Potting Soil Mix for Dieffenbachia
Your Dumb Cane plants will always grow best in potting soil that doesn’t retain water for too long; they prefer the soil mix to be always hydrated and moistened at all times but not outrightly damp and soggy.
I always make holes around the pot’s sides and bottom to give it more draining capacity. Choosing the right potting soil mix for your Dieffenbachia isn’t rocket science; they’re easily adaptable to any blend of your regular potting mix with perlite, sharp sand, and some organic compounds. Including some lime and vermiculite helps to improve the aeration and pH acidity.
A perfect homemade potting mix to grow your Dumb Cane plants will have one part loamy soil, one part garden soil, one part perlite or sea sand, and a handful of lime. The preferable pH levels should be between 6.0 and 6.5, so the lime helps kick it up. African violet potting soil mix and other similar commercial soil mixes will be great too.
Watering the Dieffenbachia Pots
Dumb Cane plants generally love to be kept hydrated and constantly moisturized. However, they will easily rot if kept in a damp potting, or their leaves stay for days in a humid environment. They’ll always require more regular watering during spring and summer, so ensure you water them more frequently than at least once or twice every week.
It’s a great practice always to keep their potting moist and only water it when the topsoil looks dry and crispy. It would be best to do more misting and spraying in their first growing season to keep their leaves fresh and pulpy. As they age, you’ll have to substitute misting for bottom watering since they must have grown stronger roots by then.
Dieffenbachia can easily die because of over-watering, so you should always observe their leaf and shoot colorations and density; when the leaves start turning discolored, brownish and seem weak, almost breaking off easily, it’s a sign the plant is well over-watered, and you should cut down the watering cycle.
On the other hand, signs of under-watering include leaves looking dehydrated, wrinkly, and flakey until they start breaking off.
Toxicity of Dieffenbachia
They’re called Dumb Cane and Mother Inlaw’s Tongue because when their raphides are inadvertently consumed, they can cause one to become dumb and unable to speak for a while. This unassuming house plant is the perfect description of an all-around toxic plant.
Dieffenbachia carry minute acuminate crystalline calcium oxalate compounds on their leaves, stems, and flowers; when consumed, they cause instant irritations and a painful bulge on the mouth, throat, and lips which also affect the speech ability of the victims.
They’re averagely toxic to adults and fatally toxic to infants and pets; keep your dog and cats away from their pots to avoid nasal irritations. Although they display certain dire toxication symptoms, their effects aren’t usually permanent, and the poisoned victims will most certainly recover if urgent medical care is provided.
Yes, you may not eat their leaves and flowers, but growing Dieffenbachia pots as outdoor garden plants or Indoor house plants still offers several advantages; they’re popularly regarded as one of the most excellent air-detoxifying and purifying decorative plants.
The Dumb Cane plants have exceptional efficiency in dissolving carbon dioxide, toluene, xylenes, formaldehyde, and other similar compounds out of the atmosphere.
Their general outline brings the beauty of Tropical sceneries to reality in your home. They also improve the purity of the air by fixing Oxygen in the atmosphere. These, coupled with their easy care and low maintenance requirements, makes them the ideal garden plants for every home and best potting gift to share with friends and loved ones.