Dieffenbachia is one of the most well-known and widespread houseplants. Many appreciate the beauty of its leaves (which can be found in a large number of shades) as well as the adaptability to the conditions that can be found in our homes.
Plant widespread in the apartment, the dieffembachia exists in about thirty species, all native to South America; they have fleshy, erect or prostrate stems, on which large oval, pointed, more or less leathery leaves develop depending on the species.
The leaves of the dieffenbachia have long petioles that partially surround the stem; at the apex of the stems the new leaves develop initially protected by the small of the previous leaves. The characteristic of the foliage of these plants is the coloring, every spent of dieffenbachia cultivated, its leaves are differently variegated, dotted, streaked with white, yellow and light green.
It does not often occur to potted specimens, but dieffenbachia in nature bloom, producing thin stems that carry a thin spatula and a spade, both green, inconspicuous.
How to cultivate dieffenbachia
The success of dieffenbachia in the apartment is due to their great reliability, in fact in general they survive at best even in non-ideal conditions; unfortunately, inadequate cultivation leads to the ruin of most of the leaves, which may show less showy colors, dry in the area near the tip, and show dark spots.
In general, this type of foliage defect is resolved by growing the plant in the most suitable way.
These are evergreen shrubs of tropical origin; in the areas of origin they are used to a constantly hot and humid climate; for this reason it will be good to keep them in the house also with good brightness, avoiding direct sunlight: generally they are positioned in an area of the room well exposed to the light of the windows, and in summer they move on the terrace, in a semi-shaded place.
As with most plants grown in apartments, the key to good cultivation is the environmental humidity for dieffenbachia; as far as soil moisture is concerned, it is easy to intervene: it is sufficient to water it regularly, waiting for the soil to dry, and then intensifying the watering and reducing it in winter.
With regard to environmental humidity, however, the needs of our plants are often difficult to satisfy; in fact, at home we often have a very dry climate, due to the air conditioning, or the heating system, especially in the case of underfloor heating; outdoors the climate is less dry than in the house, but our dieffenbachia will stay out of the house only in the hottest months, and it is known that the Italian summer is characterized by a strong drought and by many hours of strong sunshine.
To overcome these problems it will be good to supply water also to the hair of our dieffenbachia, as well as to the roots.
To increase the environmental humidity, therefore, we will be forced to vaporize the foliage often, with demineralized water; we can also place near the plant a container with gravel or expanded clay, always full of water. If we live in a very dry apartment, or we have always turned on the air conditioner, we can also evaluate the possibility of keeping a humidifier next to the plants, which will greatly benefit all our plants, both in summer and in winter.
As with most houseplants, we avoid in any way placing our dieffenbachia in a passage area, near a direct source of heat, near a window or door, from which it can receive blows of air.
THE DIEFFENBACHIA IN BRIEF
Family, genus, species
Araceae, dieffenbachia, about 30 species
|Type of plant||Houseplant or warm greenhouse with decorative foliage|
|Foliage||Persistent, dark or light green, with variegations and spots in the cream or yellow|
|Height||From 60 to 150 cm|
|Width||From 20 to 100 cm|
|Resistance to cold||low|
|Minimum temperature||15 ° C|
|Ideal temperature||25-30 ° C|
|Exposure||Very bright, no full sun (especially from spring to autumn|
|Ground||For houseplants, at acid pH|
|Composting||Every 15 days, liquid for green plants|
|Avversitа||Rottenness, cold strokes, cottony cochineal, red spider mite|
|Propagation||Talea, aerial layering|
A dieffenbachia in a vase
These plants produce a fleshy root system, quite large, but not excessive; generally they like to be grown in not too capacious pots; remember however that often the plant develops up to 60-80 cm from the ground, producing a lot of foliage and therefore reaching a quite conspicuous weight.
Therefore it often happens that the vase is too light and that the plant tends to fall, due to the weight of the leaves.
To avoid this type of problem, we choose a medium-sized but very deep container, so as to be able to fill the bottom of the vase with pebbles, or gravel, which will make it heavier.
We use for this plant a slightly acid, and very well drained soil; we can mix universal soil with soil for acidophilic plants to which we will add sand or pumice stone, to increase drainage.
We avoid keeping the soil excessively wet, because by doing so we could cause the development of rot, to which the dieffenbachia roots are very subject.
A poisonous plant
The dieffenbachia have been widely cultivated in Italy for several decades; many people who have one at home may not know that it is a very poisonous plant, in all its parts; in fact leaves, stem and roots contain a highly irritating and toxic sap.
For this reason it is good to wear gloves when working with the plant and in any case avoid dirtying the skin or mucous membranes with the sap of the plant.
A tropical species, not cultivated in nurseries, and therefore not found on the market, has a high toxicity in particular for the vocal cords; if the sap is ingested it may remain unable to speak for a few days, which is why the common name is a plant of the silent.
Dieffenbachia (which takes its name from the curator of the gardens of the Schцnbrun palace in Vienna) is a plant originating from the tropical belt of the American continent. It is a herb with persistent leaves with vigorous, unbranched stems. The leaves are soft and carried on very robust petioles. The lateral ones are erect and with marked veins, while those on the margins have a more decombing bearing: it is precisely its asymmetrical appearance that makes it particularly attractive.
Generally they are of a nice medium green color but, thanks to the work of the horticulturists, today we have available cultivars with veins, variegations and contrasting spots in the paler white, golden or green.
Flowering is not rare even in our apartments, although it is not encouraged because it is not very ornamental. The inflorescence has the typical spade shape, common to all the exponents of this family.
Like many other Araceae exponents it is poisonous: it is therefore absolutely necessary to avoid bringing the sap into contact with the skin, or worse still, with the mucous membranes. A specific variety is even nicknamed "dumb plant": if the sap comes into contact with the mouth it is capable of paralyzing the tongue even for a week.
On the other hand, in recent years, it has been included in essences capable of purifying domestic environments by absorbing certain elements present in the air such as toluene and formaldehyde (deriving from paints, glues and plastic materials).
Until the mid-1900s, dieffenbachia was cultivated almost exclusively in a hot or temperate greenhouse and was therefore reserved only for horticulturists passionate about tropical flora. The new varieties have proved to be much more tolerant and have also spread to the city apartments and verandas.
To have a vigorous growth an extremely bright exposure is necessary (especially for the dieffenbachia with variegated leaf, lacking a good part of the chlorophyll). The rooms with large windows facing south or east are therefore ideal. However, we avoid the direct sun, especially from mid-spring to autumn, even more if concentrated by glass. Excessive light and heat (especially if combined with insufficient environmental humidity) will certainly cause burns and excessive dehydration.
Temperatures and climate
This araceae wants a climate as similar as possible to that of origin: high temperatures and minimal variations during the year. In general, the best results in terms of growth are obtained by keeping the thermometer from 25 to 30 ° C. Certainly this is not possible at home, in every period and in every season: we try however to keep us always above 20 ° C. In winter the plant can be kept in inhabited rooms, but it also accepts a period of vegetative rest, with less intense light and a climate of around 15-18 ° C. However, we take care that problems such as yellowing and foliar drop will begin to appear below this minimum threshold.
These may, however, also be caused by abrupt thermal drops or drafts.
Purchase of the plant
The best time for buying or repotting is the beginning of spring even if, with the right care, it is possible to get good results in every season. We choose plants with healthy foliage, full bodied and shiny, checking that there are no spots. It is also important to check the total absence of parasites (for example, scale insects often hide at the base of the head). We also observe earthen bread and roots well: we opt for a specimen whose substrate is not too wet.
THE CALENDAR OF DIEFFENBACHIA
|repotting||Spring, every year|
|Composting||Every 15 days, always with temperatures above 20 degrees, otherwise only from spring to autumn|
|Stem cutting||Spring Summer|
The advice is to always repot the specimens just purchased to ensure that the root system is healthy (and possibly remedied) and to provide a slightly larger pot, essential for fast growth. It is a process to be carried out, however, once a year.
The suitable container must have a diameter of at least 20 cm and be equipped with numerous holes on the bottom to guarantee a perfect water draining. We create a layer of at least 5 cm of expanded clay; the rest of the vase will be filled with a compost for high quality green plants. We insert the plant so that the collar remains uncovered thus avoiding water stagnation and the onset of rot.
To help keep the ambient humidity high and avoid excessive evaporation, it is useful to spread at least two cm of expanded clay on the surface, to then vaporize often. The same thing can be done with a saucer, though making sure that the water never comes into contact with the roots.
Irrigation and environmental humidity
Dieffenbachia wants regular, but not excessive irrigation: to have a healthy plant we give water when the surface is well dry, but we check that drainage is always optimal. In winter, if we keep it in a poorly heated room, we significantly reduce the water intake by checking that the ground bread never gets completely dry.
Indispensable to avoid drying out, especially at temperatures above 20 ° C, is high atmospheric humidity. Good results can be obtained with frequent vaporizers or using special electrical appliances (and in winter the humidifiers to be applied to the radiators).
In hot weather it may be a good idea, from time to time, to expose the pot to a thunderstorm: the plant will be well rehydrated and the leaves freed from dust and other household residues.
In this regard, we remind you that for this type of plants it is always preferable, for all uses, to use demineralised or rainwater: we will avoid the accumulation of calcium salts on the stomata or on the root system.
With temperatures above 20 ° C, dieffenbachia is in full vegetative growth. It therefore needs regular support. In this sense, liquid fertilizers for green plants are excellent, to be dissolved in irrigation water. In general, a fortnightly administration is sufficient, even at slightly lighter doses than those recommended by the manufacturer.
In the right environmental conditions the dieffenbachia, even if grown in pots, can reach remarkable dimensions, even much higher than the meter. On the other hand, it often leads to an emptying of the base with an unpleasant effect. To remedy this we can intervene by removing the top of the stem and thus inducing greater branching from the foot. The best time to do this is half of autumn.
The most common problems are due to rot, cold and parasites such as the floury cochineal.
For the former it is necessary to implement a correct cultivation. For the cochineal it is possible to use systemic insecticides in tablet to be inserted in the soil of the pot.
New plants can be obtained through tip or stem cuttings or by operating an aerial layering.
However, the first method is the simplest and gives a good guarantee of success. You can try from the end of summer to the beginning of winter.
Cut the tip right under a knot and get one or more segments about 25 cm long. We eliminate the lower leaves and dust with a rooting product. We put the base in a very light mixture and cover it with a transparent plastic bag. Vaporize abundantly and keep at a temperature of about 21 ° C. The rooting should take place in about 40 days, after which we can transfer everything to the final compost.
The genus Dieffenbachia includes about thirty species. The most common and widespread on the market is the picta, although lately others are spreading along with several hybrids.
• Dieffenbachia picta it has elongated leaves with a sharp apex and a long and robust petiole. They are usually bright green, but may have contrasting spots and streaks, especially in the cream.
Here are some cultivars
Amoena dark green with white variegations along the lateral ribs. Large, single stem.
Antioquiensis dark leaves with golden spots
Barraquinia dark green with white spots and cream petiole
Camilla leaf with white center
Compacta light green with cream spots. Up to 60 cm
Exotica dark green with white and light green veins, small size
• Dieffenbachia celsonii beautiful for the leaves spotted in yellow and green.
• Dieffenbachia oerstedii very ornamental leaves for their large size and dark green color, marked by silver and cream veins.