Houseplant Profile - Dieffenbachiaby Justin Card
Here is one houseplant which is quite popular. Dieffenbachia is grown for its attractive patterned foliage, and is commonly found as a houseplant due to its ability to tolerate shade. However, if you have pets which love to chew houseplants, or you have young children in the house, you may want to skip this one. Once the kids are older and it can be protected from the pets, you may want to consider this one.
Now that we have that warning out of the way, here is more information on the growing of this popular houseplant.
Dieffenbachia are a tropical perennial from the family araceae, which also includes philodendrons, anthurium, caladium, and spahtiphyllum. They are commonly grown for their variegated foliage, which may be varying greens, white, and yellow. Most plants will grow to about 4 feet tall, although plant height of 8 feet has been reported, especially in semitropic and tropical areas. Like all aroids, dieffenbachia will occasionally flower, with very small flowers appearing on an inflorescence called a spadix. A spathe, or hood, often accompanies the spadix and may partially surround it.
Due to their preference of shade, but bright indirect light, dieffenbachia tend to do well as houseplants. Normally near an east or west facing window will supply enough light, but southern windows may provide too much or too direct of sunlight. If near a southern window and leaves appear to yellow and fall off, you may want to try moving it to a more shaded location and see if its condition improves.
Dieffenbachia are tropical plants, and as such prefer a more humid environment. This being said, the base and roots of your dieffenbachia are susceptible to rot caused by overwatering. Let soil mostly dry out between waterings, and your dieffenbachia should not experience root rot. Like all houseplants, if you neglect your dieffenbachia too long though, it will wilt and die from underwatering, so don't forget about it and don't get too paranoid about overwatering.
Like all houseplants, you will need to supply fertilizer to your dieffenbachia. A timed release foliage houseplant fertilizer can be used as per instructions, or a liquid fertilizer can be applied when watering once every two to four weeks. Dieffenbachias should be fed during spring through fall.
Another thing to consider, especially if you are a dieffenbachia lover in more extreme climates, is that these particular houseplants do not tolerate extreme cold well. During the winter months, be careful about drafts from windows and doors, which can adversely impact your dieffenbachia.
So, you've now kept one of these prime examples of foliage houseplant alive for a while, kept all nearby creatures from snacking on it, and now you've decided they're like a brand name potato chip. You can't have just one. Here's how to get another one. Before I get into propagation, there is one thing I should mention. Any time you work with this plant, especially cutting it, you should thoroughly wash your hands and any surfaces which have come into contact with the cut parts.The easiest way to propagate your dieffenbachia is by air layering. This method involves making a cut in the stem, and applying rooting hormone to the cut. Moist peat or coir is then applied around the stem cut, and is held in place with plastic and twist ties. Once roots are visible near the cut, cut the dieffenbachia stem below the newly formed root ball and plant as normal.
Enjoy the looks of this wonderful plant, and take care to keep it safe from pets and kids, and keep pets and kids safe from it.
About the Author
Justin Card is the primary writer for Gardening in Boxes, a weblog on container gardening and houseplants.