Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.
What Is Dieffenbachia? You Probably Already Have One!
If you have houseplants in your home, there is a very good chance that one or more of them is a dieffenbachia plant, sometimes known as dumb cane. If you have one that you have been caring for and you think you could never have another one that looks as good, think again, because that one nice plant can produce many more using cuttings.
If you start a plant from seed, you can never be certain how it will turn out, but using cuttings allows you to clone the plant and have another one with the exact same characteristics. And, the good news is that it is easy!
You can always expect to find some prima donnas among houseplants, but dieffenbachia plants are not among those. They're easy to grow and attractive to boot!
Popular Varieties of Dieffenbachia
If you don't already own a dieffenbachia plant from which to take cuttings, you will probably have to purchase one from a garden center (or beg a neighbor for a cutting). If you do buy one, keep in mind that a dieffenbachia plant can grow for many years as an indoor plant, which makes them a good investment.
Generally, the plants have a juicy, thick stem that resembles the trunk of a small tree. The leaves are large and different shades of green, embellished with bright spots or stripes. These are a few of the most popular species that people choose for their homes and/or businesses:
- Dieffenbachia Tropic Snow: This is one of the largest and most beautiful of the dieffenbachia plants. It is native to Brazil and has stalks that resemble canes with large, oblong green leaves variegated with white or cream.
- Dieffenbachia Camille: This is one of the best-known dieffenbachia plants. The leaves are broad and coarse and have dark green and cream variegated coloring. If you are looking for a bushy, lush variety this might be a good fit for you. Camille will grow from two to five feet high with a spread of three to five feet.
- Dieffenbachia Hilo: Hilo plants have large, pointed, coarse, dark green leaves that have a light green variegation and prominent white veins. They can grow to four feet high with a spread of up to two feet.
- Dieffenbachia Compacta: This variety has medium-green, heavily-speckled leaves with a creamy yellow color in the center.
What You Will Need
- A healthy dieffenbachia plant
- Some potting soil (or sphagnum moss, perlite, peat, sand or vermiculite)
- Rooting hormone
- A tray or pot in which to put your cuttings
Don't Be Afraid to Cut!
Don't have any reservations about cutting your dieffenbachia plant. Some of them will grow to the ceiling if you let them. I always cut the plant to my desired height and use that cutting to start a new plant (I don't particularly want my plant to be huge, thick, and to-the-ceiling).
How to Make Cuttings
- Use a sterile knife to make the cuttings and be sure to sterilize the instrument before and after you use it.
- If you have stems that have become bare from dropped leaves, they can be cut into two-inch sections as long as they have at least one lateral bud. (Note that cuttings you take from the top of the plant will usually root faster than sections taken from the base of the stem.)
- Dust the cut with rooting hormone. There are so many rooting hormones available; just pick the one that you like or have used before. The one I always use is Garden Safe TakeRoot Rooting Hormone for Plants, but most people find no measurable difference in any of the major brands.
- Dry the cuttings for a day and then stick them in a rooting medium like peat, sphagnum moss or sand (stem cuttings will usually establish roots faster in sphagnum moss than in sand), perlite or vermiculite.
- You can also use some new, sterile potting soil (I like Miracle Gro®). The cutting will take root (patience is a virtue) and the mother plant from which you took the cutting will branch out.
Tips and Warnings
- Cleanliness is essential when propagating any plants, so use a sterile knife to make your cuttings.
- Use new, sterile potting soil.
- Wash your hands often during the process.
- Keep your cuttings in an area where the temperature is pretty constantly 65-70 degrees.
- The sap of the dieffenbachia plant is poisonous. If you have small children or pets, always be mindful of where your plant is placed. It must be out of reach.
- Always wash your hands after handling a dieffenbachia plant. Even a very small amount of sap on your tongue can cause your throat to close up, and you could suffocate.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I have brownish colored scale on one of my diegfennachia plants, the plant continues to grow and scale doesn’t appear on all the stems. What do I do with it? Also have a large section of plant that fell off the side of my plant can it root in water?
Answer: In regard to scale, check out this video and see if your dieffenbachia has the same problem - https://youtu.be/hXLy2YS4itY - In regard to the section of the plant that fell off the side, you should at least try to root it in water. Cut off 3-4" sections and snip off any leaves. Put it in clean water. Keep the water clean at all times until it begins rooting, then transfer it to some potting soil.
© 2011 Mike and Dorothy McKenney
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on July 29, 2020:
I would cut it back and allow the main stems to build up. Once you stake it up, you'll have to keep it staked up and I don't think they are very attractive that way. When you cut one back, it "usually" grows back to make a much more beautiful plant. Thanks for reading, and I'm sorry that I overlooked your comment and question until now.
Diane on July 20, 2020:
I have a small Dieffenbachia, which was sick & I nursed it back but now the stems on the bottom are thin & it is getting top heavy. Should I stake it up or cut it back to propagate.
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on November 21, 2019:
Was the piece that broke off part of a stem, or a leaf itself. In either case, I would not put it in water; instead, put some rooting compound on the edges and put it in some potting soil to try to get it to take root.
tracey on November 19, 2019:
can the plant be planted with out rooting in water first. A peice broke off and I was sure if I should place it in water, for afraid that it would get soggy at the end of the breakage. Can you suggest the best way to handle this matter without lossing the plant?
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on September 10, 2019:
It is, indeed, that easy!
CMT on September 02, 2019:
Great article! My plant has turned into a palm tree and it top heavy. Planning to propagate the stem, but what about the thriving top? Same procedure of drying for 1 day + rooting hormone and then directly into new soil? Can it be that easy?! :)
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on July 31, 2019:
I'm pretty sure you would have to have a stem; I can't imagine having luck with just a leaf. Thanks for reading the article.
Tyson on July 29, 2019:
Can you propagate this from just a leaf or do you have to have a stem
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on May 14, 2019:
I doubt it very much if it will be affected much at all, although it will take it several weeks to begin rooting. Don't give up!
Amanda on May 13, 2019:
I read somewhere else on how to propagate dumb cane. I didn't didn't dry mine out for a day first, just put it in the soil almost immediately. Will that effect it's propagation?
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on March 15, 2019:
Wow! That's one big plant! Glad it is doing well, and thanks for reading.
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on March 15, 2019:
You can take dieffenbachia cuttings at any time. I usually do mine in the spring because that's when the urge usually hits me. Thanks for reading.
JF on March 13, 2019:
Great article. Not too much fluff or extra narrative. Very helpful. I have a huge diefennbachia that I inherited last spring. It was pretty tall but in rough shape. I spent some time addi g new soil to the pot and heavily staking it. It has gone crazy and is to my ceiling. I didn't want to kill it. So happy it sounds like it should be safe.
PK on March 13, 2019:
Hi, I found your article very interesting. I too have a dieffenbachia from which I want to take cuttings. Please advise which season is ideal
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on March 11, 2019:
Usually, the yellow leaves are a sign that you are not watering the dieffenbachia plant enough. The soil needs to be kept constantly moist. I wouldn't advise trimming all the leaves when you are trying to get a cutting started. I always like to leave at least two. Let me know if this helps or if I can do some further research. Thanks.
Deepika on March 10, 2019:
Hi...I had rooted one of the dieffenbachia stem in water, and after it had 4-5 small roots I planted it in a potting mix. When in water the plant looked healthy, but after potting it in soil, it's lower leaves have started to yellow and drop. The plant was new/small (abt 4-5 inch stem, with 6-8 small leaves).
It's only about a week since it's potted in soil.
Should I trim all its leaves to redirect it's energy towards it's growth? Will it grow that ways?
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on December 14, 2018:
Certainly. Send the pictures to email@example.com
James Cooper on December 13, 2018:
I really need help! My child broke my roommates and I really need to fix it! Can I send you pics and get your advice?
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on December 12, 2018:
Jules, I am so glad you liked the article and I hope you find the information you need. Thanks for reading!
Jules on December 09, 2018:
Great article! Thanks for your good information and professional photos! I have 2 dieffenbachia plants and one is struggling so out searching for help. :) I'm going to look over your site for help with any other plants I have! Good job!
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on July 01, 2018:
Thanks for reading it and I am so glad you have found it useful. Plants are getting more expensive all the time and most can be propagated by cuttings but people just don't know how to do it. I have enjoyed writing useful articles. Thanks again!
Onaolapo Adeyemi from USA on July 01, 2018:
Awesome post! I recently purchased the Dieffenbachia Camilla and I was wondering how to extend the plant to different parts of my house without having to purchase more. It is very expensive. Thanks for sharing.