I have two Dieffenbachia (dumb cane) plants in pots in my kitchen. One looks great, the other is struggling because I have not done a good job of keeping it watered. It has lost a lot of leaves, and now looks like two tall canes with a bunch of leaves at the top (the lower leaves all dried and have been removed). It is terribly unattractive. Is there any way to save the plant? I've read that you can cut it back, but since all of the leaves are at the top, I would be removing all of the leaves if I cut it back. I assume this would not work. Can I layer it?

  • I have had this problem before and simply cut the whole thing back to a nice round head no wider than 20cm (8 inches) in diameter and it fluffed up with close set leaves nicely. No idea if this is a good idea generally though. The caveat would be that you do water it properly in future! – Lisa Apr 4 '13 at 6:12

You can remove the top crown of leaves, dip in hormone rooting powder, pot them up into potting compost and provide bottom heat, or you can try cane cuttings. I'd try the first method, but keep the original, now leafless plant, cut it right down and see if it grew again, as well as attempting to propagate from the top parts.


Another way to save the Dieffenbachia is to cut the leaves with 20 cm of trunk. Then cut another piece of trunk leaving 20-30 cm at the base. Leave to dry the left in the pot, if necessary disinfected with antibiotic powder.

Put the two pieces of plant immersed directly into two transparent vases of white glass, filled with water. Put them at a point where they get a lot of light (but not sun). In a short time they will make new roots and leaves.

It is necessary that the water is very clean, changed every few days, with no cold water and "rested". You also need to clean the bottom, because the trunk into water get rot. It should be kept it very clean. You can clean it under not-cold gentle running water.

Just sprout roots, you can put the two new plants in a hydroponics culture. Only now you add fertilizer for hydroponics. Lifting plants from water for hydroponics, apply a bit of antibiotic powder on the underside (but not on the roots), and there will be no rot to clean.

These plants can live very well in water, they must have a lot of light (but no sun), and fertilizer for hydroponics. If you want, you can adjust them into the crop soil with normal techniques for the transition from water to soil.

Meanwhile, the trunk remained in the vessel should have made lateral branches with new leaves. Fertilize and adjust the watering.

  • antibiotics are not necessary for propagating plants. Clean tools and pots are. – kevinsky Apr 4 '13 at 10:42
  • Yes, very true. Even though, I prefer to disinfect with antibiotic powder the part that, after cutting, remains at air. In special cases, as in Dracaena, I prefer to disinfect the discovered cut and, when dry, cover with wax plug. – violadaprile Apr 6 '13 at 15:15
  • I am confused over your use of the word "antibiotics". What substance do you use? – kevinsky Apr 6 '13 at 17:03
  • I usually use a cicatrizant powder, called in Italy "Cicatrene". Topic. For human use. But any other healing is good. I don't know how is called by you. Then i add a card with composition and other news here – violadaprile Apr 6 '13 at 17:59
  • This is interesting enough to deserve a separate question – kevinsky Apr 6 '13 at 18:43

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