Dieffenbachia is an attractive houseplant that is admired for its rich, tropical leaves. Commonly known as Leopard Lily or Dumb cane, the plant is prized is for its easy-to-grow, lush foliage that is perfect for home gardens.
The plant grows up to a height of 72-84″ inches (182-213cm) with oblong-shaped leaves. It thrives well in moist, well-drained soil and indirect but consistent sunlight. If you’re growing dieffenbachia plants indoors, there are chances that they may begin to crowd their pots.
Apart from looking unkempt and messy, overcrowding compromises on the space your plants need for root growth. When this happens, it’s important to re-pot and propagate your dieffenbachia plants. Here is our detailed guide on dieffenbachia propagation.
How to Propagate a Dieffenbachia Plant
Dieffenbachia propagation can be done in two ways – stem cuttings and air-layering.
Stem-cuttings is a fairly straight-forward and one of the most common processes to re-produce a plant.
Air layering, on the other hand, is a type of layering where the dieffenbachia plant is wrapped or potted in a moist, growing medium to accelerate root growth.
Dieffenbachia Propagation From Stem-cuttings
Stem cuttings can be propagated in two ways – rooting in potting medium and rooting in water. You can choose either depending on your ease and convenience.
Rooting in Potting Medium
- Before snipping the stems, sterilize and clean your pruning shears with a solution of 1 part pine oil cleaner and 3 parts water. This will ensure that the fresh cuttings remain unharmed by bacteria or infection.
- While the stem tips root the fastest, you can take cuttings from the base, middle, or lower section of the dieffenbachia plant. Wear rubber gloves and cut at least 3-4″ inches of the cane. Cut at least 3 sections to increase your success rate.
- Remove any leaves and place the cutting in direct sunlight or leave it to dry overnight. Next, dip them in a high-quality rooting medium.
- Now, prepare a flower pot with potting soil made from half sand and half peat moss. Moisten the mix thoroughly.
- Place the dieffenbachia cuttings horizontally into the potting mix, with the bottom portion inserted into the soil and the leaf bud above the soil. Keep the potting mix in a warm location at around 75°F (24°C) and moist for optimal root growth.
You can also cover the plant cutting with a plastic sheet to keep the soil moist and humidity levels constant. Keep watering the plant whenever the soil looks dry.
The stem cuttings will take 4-8 weeks to root. At this point, you can transplant the cane sections to a sunny spot in your garden or a 3-inch pot, filled with a good potting mix.
Rooting Dieffenbachia Plants in Water
This is a relatively quicker and easier process:
- Simply cut 4-6″ inches long stem sections and remove the leaves.
- Pour a glass of water and place the dieffenbachia cuttings into it. You can change the water every few days or so.
- Keep the jar in a bright and warm spot but out of direct sunlight as that can shrivel the plant. Once the new roots form in a few weeks, transplant each cutting into a 4″ inch pot filled with peat-based, moist, and well-drained potting mix.
- Make sure to transplant right when a few roots have formed. If you let the roots grow any longer, it’ll be harder to transplant the stems.
Dumb Cane Propagation by Air Layering
Air layering is typically used to propagate larger dieffenbachia plants than ones produced by cuttings. Air layering is also great if the plant’s leaves are leggy or losing their color. This method of propagation uses flourishing stems to produce healthy roots and branches.
However, layering can be a tad bit complex. Therefore, it’s important to follow the steps with precision. Here’s what you have to do:
- Carefully inspect the plant and identify stems with healthy leaf bud. Choose one and carve a long, upward slit – about 2-inches long – on the stem.
- Insert a small toothpick or a twig in the cut portion to ensure that the slit section doesn’t touch the main stem. Now, dust the cut portion with some rooting medium.
- Next, moisten a handful of sphagnum in water and hand-squeeze it to remove excess moisture. Make sure it’s still moist but not dripping.
- Place the moss over the cut section of the dieffenbachia stem and tie it around with a piece of string or an electrician’s tape.
- Cover the moss using a sheet of polythylene film, cover the moss while making sure that there are no air pockets between the film and the moss. Secure the film further with some electrical tape.
- In a few days, the roots will start to propagate at the cut portion. Soon enough, you will see roots shooting out of the moss.
- Once you notice growth, carefully remove the polyethylene film. Using a sharp knife, remove the newly rooted branch from the parent stem.
- Plant the new branch in a pot filled with high-quality potting mix. At this point, take another piece of polythelene film and cover the newly rooted branch to prevent any loss of moisture.
- Once the roots have properly established, remove the film and place the dieffenbachia plant in a well-lit spot with indirect sunlight.
Propagating Dumbcane By Division
Much like aloe, dieffenbachia plants produce viable offshoots as they mature. These can be removed and planted elsewhere. Here are the steps for dividing your dumb cane.
- Locate offshoots, and look for the base of the plant. Holding the base securely, tip the plant’s pot over. Some soil will spill out, so ensure you have an area prepared for this.
- Slide the plant out of its pot, and dust the soil away from the roots. You can do this by hand, or by gently running water over the root ball.
- Gently separate with your hands any offshoots that already have their own root system developed.
- Using sterilized pruning shears, snip the roots on either side where the offshoots are produced. If the offshoot is produced from a root node, ensure there is at least one node on either side of the new planting.
- Plant your mother plant and new offshoots in pots that have soil prepared within them.
- Wash your hands and tools to remove any residual plant sap, which can irritate your skin.
Safety Tips for Propagating Dieffenbachia Plants
There’s a reason why dieffenbachia plants are known as dumbcane. This is because the leaves contain a poisonous, milky white sap of calcium oxalate, which can severely irritate the skin and throat.
While propagation is quick and easy, it’s important to practice some safety tips when handling this plant. Here’s what you need to take care of:
- Always wear protective clothing, a face mask, and a pair of gloves to remain unharmed from its poisonous sap.
- Never touch your eyes after handling the plant as dieffenbachia can cause severe itching, burning, and irritation.
- Keep the plants out of reach of curious pets and children, preferably at a higher place if you have placed it indoors.
You might have to relocate the plants to your garden outside if they’re especially under the reach of pets and children. Chewing the leaves can cause a deep burning sensation ensued by temporary paralysis. It can swell your pets’ airways, making it extremely difficult to breathe. Therefore, make sure to keep the plants in a pet-free and child-free zone.
As long as you keep these safety tips in mind, you can enjoy propagating dumb cane plants without any stress!
Other Related Questions
Q: How do you fix leggy dieffenbachia?
A: As mentioned above, a leggy plant can be fixed through air-layering. The process uses a healthy stem to propagate stronger branches, while thinning the mother plant out overall.
Q: How many varieties of Dieffenbachia plants are there?
A: There are many, each with their own personality and lush leaves. There is Tropic Snow, the Hilo – known for its dark, pointed leaves with lighter veins, and the Rudolf Roehrs with creamy leaves and bright, white spots.
Q: Can dieffenbachia tolerate colder drafts?
A: Dumbcanes thrive the best in warmer temperatures, around 75°F (24°C). Keeping them in darker, colder regions can slow down the growth and cause excessive leaf drop.
Q: Can you propagate dieffenbachia leaf cutting?
A: While leaf cuttings aren’t a viable means of propagation, stem cuttings are!
Q: Where do you cut dieffenbachia for propagation?
A: You want to cut above a full growth node to ensure more growth can occur on your stem cutting.
Q: How do you split a dieffenbachia plant?
A: Either cut the roots where offshoots are produced, or gently separate the independent root systems of offshoots.
Q: Will a dieffenbachia leaf root in water?
A: Simply cut 4-6″ inches long stem sections and remove the leaves. Pour a glass of water and place the dieffenbachia cuttings into it. You can change the water every few days or so. Keep the jar in a bright and warm spot but out of direct sunlight as that can shrivel the plant.