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Troubleshooting an Unhappy Dumb Cane

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Posts: 4
Posted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:13 am   Post subject: Troubleshooting an Unhappy Dumb Cane


Several months ago, in a fit of confidence after keeping several spider plants and a false Aralia alive for a while, I purchased a plant that claimed to be a "Camoflage" plant from the local Fred Meyer (Washington State, US). The tag instructed me to keep its soil fairly dry, away from drafts, and give it indirect light (which I did).

It did ok for a few months, but then the lower leaves started turning yellow and drooping, then falling down completely. It kept making new leaves, though.

A little googling later, and I think it actually is a "Dumb Cane" (Dieffenbachia) or a relative. Various sources suggested keeping the soil somewhat moist. I started watering more often. It didn't seem to help much. The newest leaf at the top of the plant started to yellow and droop, so I cut it off. Now the top center of the stem (where the new leaves are generated) has yellowed too.

A week and a half ago I gave it a tiny amount of liquid fertilizer with its water (up till then, no fertilizer at all). No major improvements. Now 2 of the last 3 leaves are starting to droop.

Can anyone help me turn this guy's sad little life around? Any suggestions?

In the picture, the tape measure is set to 1 foot for perspective. Also, the plant is normally not in front of the window, but a bit further away, where direct sun can't hit it.

Tape measure 1 foot long for scale. ( photo / image / picture from stripedog's Garden )

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Plants Moderator
Regular Plants Contributor

North Texas, Zone 8a
Posts: 15409
Posted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 12:55 pm   

So many plants found in grocery stores and some of the big box store garden centers are labeled with a localized common name that doesn't properly ID the plant and the growing instructions are usually generic and not specific to that in this case.

It needs consistently moist soil, setting it in a tray that always has a little water in it will keep the soil the way it likes. Also, it needs more sun than it has been getting. Not direct sun but a bright window will do, Keep it out of drafts from the AC/heat and it needs temps of at least 60 degrees.
I would hold off on the fertilizer until it's feeling better, too much when it is under stress will cause more stress and could kill it.

You might want to check the root ball too, If it is still in the pot you bought it in, the roots might have grown too crowded.

Good luck with it, keep us up on it's progress.

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Southern Oregon
Posts: 3657
Posted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:18 am   

I'm thinking too much water

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Upstate NY
Posts: 175
Posted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:52 pm   

I thought the problem might be over-watering as well.Checking the root-ball like Toni suggested might be a good idea.

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