Dieffenbachia is one of the most common houseplants. It is an easy to care for plant that is very expressive when there is something amiss with its care routine. This is why you may come to the point where you have to ask yourself “Why is my dieffenbachia dying?”.
A common complaint about dieffenbachia’s is that their leaves turn yellow.
This is the first sign of a dieffenbachia being unwell is that its leaves turn yellow and fall off. Most time, it is easy to figure out what is wrong with the care and change it before the plant dies.
1. Watering Schedule
The leaves of a dieffenbachia will turn yellow and the plant will get distressed if it is over or underwatered. If the soil is very wet, let it dry out slightly until it is dry at the top.
The roots can get soaked and drown and cause the plant to get stressed and die. The soil should be dry to the first knuckle before watering. If it is any drier, the leaves will turn yellow and then brown and the plant will ultimately die from underwatering.
Sometimes if the plant is in a pot that is too large for the root system, it will suffer. The plant should have no more than 2 inches around and beneath the root system, otherwise, the soil will not dry enough in between watering. This causes the roots to stay wet for too long and get root rot.
If you overwater, let the root system dry out by waiting 7 to 10 days in between watering. Make sure the plant is repotted into a proper pot if the pot is too large for the roots and remove all of the yellowing or dying leaves from the plant. This should bring the plant back to a healthy state.
It is also beneficial to make sure your dieffenbachia is planted in well-draining soil with perlite. The better the roots drain the more chance there is that the plant will remain healthy.
2. Too Much Sunlight
Dieffenbachias thrive in partially shady conditions but can experience stress in bright areas. Sometimes if a dieffenbachia is in sunlight that is bright or direct, it will droop and ultimately die.
It is used to being in the shady ground of the jungle where it is not too hot and not too bright. Bright sunlight can scorch the leaves and cause death.
If you suspect sunlight is the culprit to your dieffenbachia being unwell and turning yellow, put it back from the window so that all the light it receives is indirect. It needs some sunlight but never directly onto its leaves.
3. Low Temperature
Dieffenbachias should be kept in 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius) conditions. If the temperature gets too much lower than that on a consistent basis, your plant will droop and eventually die.
If the leaves don’t turn yellow before they droop, it is a sign that the plant is too cold. Don’t allow the room your dieffenbachia is in to get cooler than 55 degrees (13 degrees Celsius).
A drafty area can also affect a dieffenbachia. Make sure the plant is away from draftiness in your home. The temperatures need to be warm and consistent.
I keep mine away from my air conditioner vents in the summer and I keep it closer to the indirect sunlight in the winter to make sure it stays at its optimal temperature.
4. Nutrient Deficiencies
If a dieffenbachia doesn’t get the proper nutrients, it can cause yellowing of the leaves. In extreme cases, if the plant is nutrient deficient for too long, it can die.
The cause for this can be that the soil it is in is not nutrient-rich enough for a dieffenbachia. Dieffenbachias thrive in pure peat moss or a 1:1 peat moss and perlite mix.
They can also do well in a 1:1:1 peat moss, perlite, and soil mix but I would never plant a dieffenbachia in pure soil with no peat moss.
I prefer a mix that has perlite in it as well. I personally find that this is the optimal mix for a nutrient-rich plant.
I also make sure to give my dieffenbachia a complete fertilizer such as 20-20-20 every 4 to 6 weeks during its growing season. I give it food a lot less in the dormant times, usually every 8 to 10 weeks.
5. Root System Issues
Dieffenbachias are prone to being root-bound. They have an extensive root system and when they get too tightly wound, the plant suffers.
You can tell if the plant is getting too root-bound by looking at the watering holes in the pot. If the roots are coming out of the holes, then the plant is root-bound.
Transfer it to a larger pot but not more than 1 to 2 inches bigger than the root ball as that can cause problems for the health of the plant as well.
6. Pest Infestations
Pests can be a problem with most indoor plants. The most common infestations for dieffenbachias are mites or aphids.
Check under the yellow leaves for webby material for a spider mite infestation and aphids can be seen crawling all over the leaves.
To solve a pest problem, you can use insecticidal soap on the leaves or Neem oil can be wiped on the leaves with a cotton ball to suffocate the pests. I have also used rubbing alcohol successfully on a spider mite infestation.
There are several reasons why your dieffenbachia could be dying or turning yellow. Usually, it is easy to fix the culprit of the yellow leaves but once the leaves have started to turn it is only a matter of time before the whole plant turns yellow and dies.
Gently pull the yellow leaves off or snip them with clean and disinfected shears so they don’t infect the others.
Most often, yellow leaves are an issue with the watering schedule or temperature so those are the two things I would try and fix first.
All in all, dieffenbachias can live a very long and happy life as long as you keep these six common mistakes in check.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.