No plants enjoy being root bound in their pots – dieffenbachias are no exception. Dumb canes like to grow in well-aerated soil so that their roots are exposed to oxygen. When they are root bound, their roots grow so tightly together that they strangle themselves.
Dieffenbachias are fast-growing plants that need to be repotted even 2 to 3 years to keep them from becoming root bound. When the root mass is too dense inside the pot, the plant cannot get enough nutrients or water from the soil. The growth rate slows down and can even stop.
Here, we discuss how being root-bound affects dumb canes, how to tell if your plant is root bound, and what you can do to fix the problem. Thankfully, rescuing a root bound dieffenbachia is not very difficult, and it should bounce back quickly!
Does Dieffenbachia Like to Be Root Bound?
Dieffenbachias have been popular houseplants for centuries because they grow very well in containers. Even though these plants have extensive root systems, they will happily grow in the confines of a pot.
Dieffenbachias do not enjoy being root bound, but they do tolerate their roots being relatively dense in their pots. As long as the roots do not fill the entire pot, strangling themselves, a dieffenbachia will happily keep growing.
When a plant’s roots outgrow the pot size, there is not enough soil to provide nutrients for the plant, and water does not drain through the roots effectively. Root bound dieffenbachias are prone to diseases like root rot, and their growth rate slows down drastically.
How to Tell If Dieffenbachia Plant Is Root Bound
If you suspect that your dumb cane may be root bound but you are not 100% sure, look out for the following signs that your plant has outgrown its pot:
- You see roots growing out of the pot’s drainage holes. If the roots are trying to escape the pot, searching for more space, it is a sure sign that a dumb cane is root bound.
- The plant’s growth has slowed down or stopped despite fertilizing. If you have ruled out all other issues and can’t seem to figure out why your dumb cane is not growing, it is probably root bound.
- The plant shows signs of drought stress, even though you are watering it. If your dumb cane has wilted, drooping leaves or the leaf margins are brown and crispy, and you have been watering it as usual, it may be pot bound.
- Water runs out from the pot’s drainage holes immediately as you water. If water runs straight out of the pot, it means that the roots have filled the pot, so there is no more soil left to retain water.
How to Fix a Root Bound Dieffenbachia
When you notice your dieffenbachia is root bound, you need to assess the extent of the issue. If it is so badly pot bound that the leaves are dying back or water won’t drain through the pot, you need to act immediately. However, if your dumb cane is not too severely root bound, you should wait until spring to repot it.
Dieffenbachias are fast-growing plants. In 2 to 3 years, its roots can grow to fill up the pot. Therefore, you should repot a dumb cane every 2 or 3 years.
Repotting a Root Bound Dieffenbachia
It is best to wait until early to mid-spring to repot a dumb cane. At the start of the annual growing season, when the plant is actively growing it has the best chance of surviving repotting.
Repotting can be a stressful experience for all plants, so it is important to take the correct steps so that the process goes as smoothly as possible:
- Start by cutting off any old, deal leaves using a pair of clean, sharp pruning shears.
- Prepare a fresh potting mixture for your dumb cane. Combine coco peat, bark chips, perlite, and vermicompost to make up a nutritious, well-draining mixture.
- Find a new pot for your dieffenbachia. It should only be 2 inches larger than the old pot. Increasing the pot size too much can lead to other problems! The pot should have ample drainage holes.
- Fill the new pot roughly a third of the way with the fresh potting mixture. Moisten it lightly.
- Gently remove your dieffenbachia from its pot. Try inverting the pot so that gravity can help to slide it out. If it is really stuck in there, use a blunt knife to loosen the edges. Tap the bottom and sides of the pot to help release the plant.
- Once the plant is out of the pot, have a look at the roots. You may have to loosen some of the soil using your fingers. Gently work the roots apart and shake off the excess soil.
- Check if any roots look discolored, squishy, or slimy – signs of root rot. Use disinfected, sharp pruning shears to cut off infected parts of the root system. If any roots are too long to fit into the pot, snip them off.
- If you have to prune off more than a third of the root system, you will need to prune off the same proportion of the foliage, too, so that the plant does not dehydrate and lose energy.
- Place the dumb cane into its new pot and fill it up with the rest of the new potting soil.
- Water the dieffenbachia in to settle the soil, rather than pressing down on the soil. Water planting helps to prevent root damage and hydrates the plant to reduce stress.
- Keep your dieffenbachia in a humid, warm, brightly lit room, out of direct sunlight. These are the conditions it needs to recover from repotting.
- Once your repotted dumb cane grows new leaves, you will know that the transplant is successful! Conclusion
Dieffenbachia plants do not enjoy being root bound. When their roots fill the entire pot, it causes several problems for the plant – it cannot access the nutrients and water it needs, can develop fungal infections, and can stop growing and lose its leaves.
To rescue a root bound dieffenbachia, you need to repot it into a slightly larger container with fresh, well-draining potting soil. It takes some time for them to settle into their new pot, so it is best to repot dieffenbachias in spring.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.