Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Dramatic Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachia picta

This is one of my patients. When I first saw it was very faded. It was almost lime green in color. The problem was that it was simply getting too much light. It is now in a spot where it gets some filtered sun, but not too much. They are wonderfully sturdy plants and can be revived and get growing again, like gang busters, if they are given the proper care.

Sometimes they do get "leggy" with a just a few leaves at the top of a long stalk. They can be cut back, and the stalk that is removed, can be placed right into a new pot of fresh potting soil. If it is kept a little more moist than usual for a couple of months, it will root and grow up again quite robustly. If you leave part of the leafless stalk that is still rooted in your original pot, it may sprout out new leaves in a few months.

There are many species of dieffenbachia on the market. The picta species shown here is the largest-leafed variety and makes a dramatic presence in your home or office. Dieffenbachias will stay beautiful, full and lush looking if you are devoted to them. They have been enjoyed as houseplants for years and years because they are so hardy. 

They can be propagated in water or right in potting soil. In potting soil, the stalk should be pushed as far down into the pot as possible for best results. Placing the stalk deep enough into a new pot of soil, as far down as the point where the lowest leaf begins, will work well.

A potted dieffenbachia with many plant clusters can be divided into separate plants, if you'd like to make new plants from the "mother". 

still growing well on 10/11/14

One common name for Dieffenbachias is 'dumb cane' because supposedly if you eat a leaf it will make you mute. I've never heard of any cases of this happening in my many years of retail work with plants but it is not meant to be an edible plant, so please don't try that.

Care Instructions--
  • Bright indirect light or some direct sun. Full afternoon sun is too much. The leaves will bleach out in too much light.
  • Let the soil dry out well on top or up to 1" below the soil surface before giving a thorough watering. 
  • A plant in a 10" (25cm) diameter pot like the one shown here will use about 2 quarts (about 2 liters) of water when necessary.
  • Plants in a 6" diameter pot will use about a 1 pint (almost 1/2 liter) of water when necessary.
  • Fertilize regularly for best color.  
  • They do appreciate humidity. Misting daily is recommended, especially if your home atmosphere is dry.

 ***To see short video clips on houseplants from my 90's TV show, click below:  

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