Did you know that Dieffenbachia propagation is a breeze? If you’d like to multiply your plant for an easy gift or to expand your own houseplant collection, you’re in luck: all you have to do is take a cutting and root it in water or directly in potting soil.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about Dieffenbachia propagation and how to care for your brand-new plants after they’ve rooted.
Dieffenbachia propagation: Types of cuttings
Unlike with some plants, like succulents or Begonia, you can’t propagate a Dieffenbachia using just a single leaf. You need a piece of stem, also known as a cutting. Luckily, taking a cutting is not difficult at all.
Before we start, I’d like to remind you to wear gloves while handling a Dieffenbachia. The sap of these popular houseplants contains high concentrations of calcium oxalate, which can seriously irritate your skin.
There are two types of cuttings you can consider:
1. Stem cutting with leaves
The standard (and easiest) way to propagate a Dieffenbachia is to go for a stem cutting with a few leaves. You take one of these cuttings by simply beheading the plant, or one of its side shoots, using a clean knife or gardening shears.
Try to ensure that each cutting is at least around 2” in length, and don’t forget to include 2-3 leaves. More is okay; less can decrease the chances of your cutting rooting successfully.
Don’t worry about the mother plant. She’ll look a little sad without her head at first, but she’ll be fine. As long as she gets plenty of light, she’ll produce one or more new “heads” over the course of the next few months. These grow from small bumps called eyes or nodes on her stems, which have the capacity to produce roots or leaves. She’ll look better than ever before!
2. Stem cutting without leaves
If you’d like to take multiple cuttings in order to produce more new Dieffenbachia plants, that’s no problem. You can remove the top of the plant for a stem cutting with leaves, and then cut the rest of the stems in as many 2”+ sections as you want. As long as there is a node on each section, it will have the capacity to grow into a whole new plant.
Do keep in mind that Dieffenbachia propagation using leafless stem cuttings can be a slower process. Until your plant grows new foliage, it can’t photosynthesize quite as well. As such, it can take a bit longer before these cuttings root, and it’s a good idea to keep an extra close eye on them until they’re fully established.
Dieffenbachia propagation: Rooting methods
Managed to obtain a Dieffenbachia cutting? Excellent! Now, it’s time to help it grow roots and (new) leaves. Here, too, there are a few different methods to choose from.
Rooting in water
The easiest way to go about rooting your cutting, at least if you obtained one with a few leaves, is to propagate in water. All you have to do is simply fill a glass or small vase with water and place the cutting in there in such a way that about half of the stem portion is submerged.
Find the glass with the cutting a warm and light place in your home, like a windowsill. Do try to avoid direct sunlight: that’s a bit too harsh for a plant that hasn’t yet had time to establish itself.
Depending on the season – propagating a houseplant can take a lot longer during the cold and dark winter months than in summer – you’ll see the first roots appear on your cutting in around a month or so. You can leave it to grow in water for as long as you want, though most houseplant enthusiasts choose to move theirs to potting soil once the roots have reached an inch or two in length.
After potting, your rooted Dieffenbachia cutting can look a little limp for the first few weeks. However, its root system should soon adapt to its new life in soil. Once new leaves begin to appear on the plant, you’re in the clear.
Rooting in soil
It’s also possible to place a Dieffenbachia cutting with leaves directly in potting soil. This saves you the extra step of having to pot it up later, but it unfortunately also means you lose the ability to keep an eye on the rooting process.
I’ll admit that my success rate with Dieffenbachia propagation by rooting cuttings directly in soil is a little lower than when I use water. However, if you keep the potting soil lightly moist (never wet), keep the plant in a nice, light location and use some rooting hormone powder, it should usually turn out fine.
If you’re not sure whether your new Dieffenbachia has rooted yet, give it a gentle wiggle. Feel any resistance? That’s a sure sign roots have begun to grow! Here, too, the appearance of new leaves is a sure sign your cutting has managed to establish itself successfully.
Rooting in perlite and moss
Propagating in perlite is a method often used for the more fragile tropical houseplant species. For Dieffenbachia propagation, you could consider it if you’ve decided to go for stem cuttings without leaves. These are a little difficult to root in water, after all. They can be rooted in soil, but they do require very high humidity to be able to do so successfully.
Mixing perlite with sphagnum moss gives you a great rooting medium that stays nice and damp, but doesn’t get wet enough to accidentally provoke rot. You can even use a small propagator to keep the air moisture level nice and high, in order to help your cuttings along.
Fill a nursery pot or propagator with a mixture of perlite and damp sphagnum moss. After dipping in some rooting hormone (optional), stick the cuttings in the pot or lay them directly on the substrate. Place the pot in a propagator if you’re not planting directly in one, and then set the whole thing in a nice and light location. Artificial grow lights work fine if you don’t have any windowsill space available.
Keep the moss lightly moist over the next few weeks. If all is well, the first roots will appear after a month or so. Eventually, one of the eyes on the cutting will swell and eventually sprout a new crown for leaves to grow from.
Once your cutting has a few roots and leaves of its own, you can pot it up into normal Dieffenbachia soil. As mentioned previously, it can take a while for your new plant to get to this stage.
Bonus: Air layering
Air layering is best described as a hybrid Dieffenbachia propagation method. Rather than taking a cutting and waiting for it to grow roots, you can actually trick your plant into producing the roots before you ever take the cutting. Sounds strange, but it works!
Thanks to their thick stems, older Dieffenbachias especially are well-suited to air layering. This method is mostly used for woody plant species that are more difficult to propagate, but you can consider it here if you’re looking for an extra safe way to multiply yours and are worried a normal cutting won’t take.
Here’s how you propagate a Dieffenbachia by means of air layering:
- Start by thinking about where on the mother plant you eventually want to make the cut.
- Clean a knife with some rubbing alcohol to prevent infection or rot from taking hold later.
- Use the knife to make a ring around the stem of the plant in your chosen spot, scraping away the top layer. This will stimulate root growth.
- Wet some sphagnum moss (it should be damp, not dripping) and apply a nice and thick layer around the ring you made on the stem.
- Cover the moss with plastic film so it stays put and to help keep moisture in.
- Care for your Dieffenbachia as usual. If the moss dries out, re-wet it and re-apply the plastic.
- After 2-4 weeks, you can take a first peek at the wounded stem ring. With a bit of luck, the first roots will already have appeared at this point!
- Once the stem has sprouted a good root system, you can cut it right under the roots, just as you would for a normal stem cutting.
And voilà! You’ve obtained a stem cutting with both leaves and roots. Just pot it up and it should keep growing as any Dieffenbachia would. All in all, air layering is a bit more work, but it does allow you to almost completely avoid the risk of a cutting not taking.
Caring for a Dieffenbachia
Managed to get your cutting to root? Great! You’ve obtained a brand-new houseplant for free. And luckily, caring for a Dieffenbachia is just as easy as propagating one.
The most important care factors to keep in mind are:
- Light: they like plenty of it, but they’re not huge fans of harsh direct sun.
- Water: keep your plant lightly moist during summer and let the soil dry about halfway in winter.
- Planter: use a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom, as houseplants don’t like wet feet.
- Soil: an airy soil mixture for aroids (like normal potting soil with some added perlite) should work fine.
Images from @Small Things With Moumita