Dying Dumbcane?? (with pics)

almax881March 14, 2009


Below are pictures of my two dumbcane (dieffenbachia) plants. I think they are dying. Would you please give me some advice as to (1) what caused the dying problems and (2) if the plants can be saved.

Thanks for all of your assistance.



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How are the plants being taken care of as far as light and watering? Some of the leaves look sun scorched.
Both plants look to be over-potted as well.

As far as saving them, well, it's very possible.The care might be off a bit and just needs some tweaking perhaps.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 1:18AM
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Thanks for the response. I wasn't thinking, I should have included how I take care of them in my initial post. I keep them in my apartment next to a window. Since the window doesn't get any light, I have a small fluorescent plant light (1,000 lumens) over them. I water them once every 10 days or so with a little diluted fertilizer.

Some of my theories:

1) I was overwatering the plants, and the plants had root rot.

  1. The plants had some sort of deficiency and needed some fertilizer.
  2. The plants were not getting enough light.

I have tried to address all of these issues by watering the plants less, adding fertilizer, and including a plant light.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 10:06AM
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going out on a limp here and say, it's most likely NOT not a deficiency problem, but more a light and watering problem.

I never used any other kind of light but natural, so I can't say whether the artificial light your using is right, or enough.

If you can provender "natural light" make sure it's real bright light. but "indirect" bright light, direct sun can burn the leaves.
Water thoroughly when the soil is close to being dry, but not all dried out, "Close."
Make sure the pots they are in, the roots are a little bit on the snug side. If the pots are too large, soil stays wet for too long and can cause root-rot. The soil should be well draining.
I wouldn't fertilize anymore until the plants start to do well, then use half, or less strength.
In the meantime, cut off any dead, or dying leaves and check the root-balls for rot, anything mushy can be cut off.

Right pot size, Likely better light, good watering habits and the right size pots with good drainage should improve things.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 2:39PM
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maidinmontana(Zone 5 Billings MT)

Is the second plant a peace lily? If so, I would take it out of the soil and examine the roots. If they are frim, not mushy, I would cut as much of the dreid stuff off and start over. Put it in a smaller pot as the root ball will be smaller. The pot should be just slightly larger (1") than the rootball. It looks as tho it is getting too much water and not enough light. The top 1-2 inches of the soil should be dry when you stick your finger into it, and drainage is very important. Don't let the pot sit in a saucer with water in it. PL's don't like to get too dry and they really don't like to be too wet, and they really reallly don't like their feet wet.

Don't feed it while it is distressed.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 11:18AM
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The condition of the leaves, brown and yellowing, are sure signs of overwatering.
I'm betting the pot sitting in the larger container is sitting flat and drains maybe well...but the water goes nowhere, it sits under the pot to redraw what drains back up.

The Dief, is one plant that appreciates the lower sun values that can be gotten by giving it a northern exposure.
If such is unavailable, then bring the plant back behind a curtain...no direct sun should hit it.

Water to drainage, let it drain fully, dump the excess and when the surface feels dry, let it go another couple days...before watering.
Fertilize only in spring and summer when the plant is growing.
In the meantime, STOP all feeding until the plant regains its health.

If the watering practice has cause the soil to be too wet, soggy....a re-potting at this time is recommended.
The fresh soil (potting soil) will give it what food it needs for the time it takes to get going before adding fertilizer.
Only when it shows growth should it be given fertilizer.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 3:24PM
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The second plant is definitely a Dieffenbachia, not a peace lily.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 3:44PM
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Thanks for the assistance. I attempted to repot the plants and the culprit was definitely root rot. The first plant was a goner. All of the stems pulled out when I gently lifted the plant for repotting.

The second plant, I think can be saved. I think it suffered from being both overwatered and being too close to the plant light. I'm going to repot it, trim the dead leaves, and place it farther from the light.

Again, thanks for the help everyone.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 10:47AM
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mc_hudd(5 - MO)

Almax~ Don't throw the 1st "goner" plant away! You can still save it. I know how crazy that sounds, but I got a Dief. several years ago (one of my first house plants) & my cat attacked it, knocked the pot over & completely uprooted it. Well, it turns out he actually saved its life! When I went to re-pot it, I noticed that all of the roots were rotted off & there was just a mushy mess left. Well, I didn't know any better, so I just stuck it back into the soil hoping that it would live. Sure enough, it did & it grew to be over 6 ft. tall (mine was the larger version) until it finally got so top heavy that I had to trim it down. That same plant has had 1 flower bloom from it & has now had at least 5 babies! So, my point is that there is still hope for your plant. Just make sure you get all of the mushy stuff off & try putting it in some moist, not soaked, soil... It might just live! :)

I think a good rule of thumb to go by is to put your plant in the sink or shower & water it throughly, only when it needs it, not on a "every 10 day" basis. Then, let it set for at least an hour or two... perhaps all day if you're at work (you might have to prop the bottom up so it's not flat on the sink/shower so water can drain freely). This way the soil is getting flushed & drained completely. I do this w/ all of my plants.

Jeannie7~ I have to disagree w/ you about direct sun. I think they like brighter windows & there's no reason for them to be behind a curtain. I've had the above mentioned Dief. for probably 10 yrs. now & it's been in every sun exposure possible & has thrived when in a southern & western exposure window, but it also lived being in a norther & eastern exposure & also did well not even being by a window. I also have a smaller version like the OP has pictured & it was originally in a north-eastern facing window, but I've moved it to a western facing window & it's looking much livelier. Just my 2 cents.

Good luck w/ your plants!


    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 11:28PM
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Mc_Hudd, I have taken your recommendation and kept Plant One alive. I have it in a much smaller pot. Hopefully, it will grow.

As for Plant Two, the stronger plant. I have cleaned it up, but I'm still trying to decide if I should move it into a smaller point. When I started to repot it, I noticed that the root ball was about 1.5 inches all around, from the sides of the pot. The roots aren't really compacted, so I might be able to go to a smaller pot with no problems. Any recommendations?

Thanks for the help. A picture is below.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 12:58AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I'd suggest you cut off all the dead, dried & shriveled portions of cane in the left plant. I woudn't have bothered, but you seeem determined. But pls. cut off all dried & dead tissue as it won't recover.

You could even experiment by taking out a couple of those canes & try to save them in different ways. You could try rooting one in water (that usually works).

You could also cut up some canes such that they have a node (a joint or knuckle in the stem) & plant them in that mix. That's how I know Diffenbachias to be started, the new growth (leaves & roots) would grow from one of the nodes.

Whatever you do, pls. go easy on the watering, good luck w/ their recoveries.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 12:35PM
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Hi, glad to find this post even though its old but what does it mean when the leaves start looking like this? There were more leaves than this but slowly before i changed soil old pot was too small, older leaves would start to yellow completely, and i just plucked them off. Only thing I can think of is being too moist, since I recently transplanted the smaller plants to this one big pot with my tall dumb cane, and the soil used is a mixture of: perlite, cactus soil from miracle grow, and bonsai mix/orchid mix (used the last of it since their wasn't much left in the bag). Soil has good drainage, clay pot, partial sun. The big older leaves that's only doing this recently. My house w/AC is set to 75 but since its nice out we keep windows open so it's mid 70's to upper 80's.

All suggestions welcome, Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 3:41PM
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Far away pic when the sun shines

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 3:45PM
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For sure over watered..large leaf look sunburn too..let it dry until point of wilting. than water well...have you checked the roots?..could be root rot..

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 8:51PM
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Yes it's still wet middle-bottom of soil in the pot, I stuck a chopstick to check, and no roots are nice/white. Sunburn ok I'll keep the sheer curtain down, instead of me opening it up, I thought it wasn't getting enough light. Oh my poor plant and I'm glad to have asked!! Thank you

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 10:05AM
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Hello all!
Just purchased this dumb cane (1st picture) about two weeks ago. Directions say to give it bright filtered light.. well I did so and the leaves are drooping and the plant is not full and standing upright like when I got it. I feel as if indirect would be better..I think it's possible it may have been a bit over watered as well, some leaves were yellowing. I'm aware it's not dying (yet), but I don't want it to end up like my second one. (The second plants roots and yellow/brown and dried out. Should I just throw it out or is there still hope?)
Any advice would be appreciated!!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:22PM
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Oh, and here's the second one.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:23PM
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Ok I been down this road before when I had to move to a new house and here the air is DRY!! So all my tropicals had to be reconditioned and it wasn't pretty

Pic #1) If you just purchased it then the plant is going through the "adjustment phase" in its new environment and some leaves will yellow/droop. If it's not watered then do so lightly and let it dry out if the plant has already been watered when you purchased it. Like you said indirect - low light is a good place to put it until it recovers. I put my plants in its designated spots so I won't have to move it again. All the leaves will pop back up & stop yellowing. All my plants have a hard adjustment in my house since our air is so damn dry inside and all I got is tropicals, cactus/succulents

Pic #2) looks like how I cut all the leaves off my other dumbcane like plant I keep in my bathroom and after 4 months has now sported leaves and looks like a plant!! I just kept the plant watered 1X a month since it was given to me during winter last year and as for your plant it'll be fine.
--Give it time: Cut off yellow & dead matter on the plant, water sparingly (enough to keep soil most and let it dry between waterings), low light, and it'll sprout

Dumbcanes from what I see are very tough but take time to recover

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:40PM
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Here is my bathroom dumbcane type plant
You can tell I cut the plant back, you still see some stalks that is flat ontop but the stems grew out from the side. When I got the plant my co-worker had it in a jar filled with water. So I took it home potted it up and all leaves yellowed so I just chopped it all off and all you seen was bare green stalks. It took 4 months to start seeing a little piece of something sticking out of the side an it's been growing ever since. There's a small window in the bathroom so it'll get light but these are resilient plants

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:45PM
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My tall dumbcane when I had posted on this site in Sept 2013 was going through something I still don't know what and these new pics shows it's doing great now. Still don't know why the big leaf yellowed but once I cut it off it was fine.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:50PM
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You all have revived my old post from....2009. Fantastic!

Years later, I've learned that my problem was overwatering. Those plants eventually bounced back, so I'm sure all of your plants will too.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 8:56PM
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Almax I agree :))

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:02AM
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Thank you!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:40AM
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