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Dieffenbachia leaves struggling/yellow and greyish material on soil?

2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

Hey everyone, a month ago our dieffenbachia was looking a bit off and the water was draining from the pot a weird brownish color which it had never done over the course of the past year. When we would water it, water seemed to flow through pretty quickly and not get absorbed too great. We were watering every 7-8 days. I got concerned the water had turned hydrophobic from not watering enough and why the water would run through so quickly and eventually turn color (this drove the more frequent watering i'll describe later).

So we repotted it in a slightly larger pot (on 6/18/22). When doing so, we noticed the roots were slightly root bound (not too bad), so we thought we nailed the issue. We were using simple miracle grow outdoor potting soil but because it's an indoor plant we switched to miracle grow indoor potting soil when we did the repot. it's all home depot had. We watered it the 1st time when we repotted on 6/18/22 and the 2nd time on 6/23 (5 days later). The quick turnaround due to the hydrophobic fears from before. We watered a 3rd time on 6/28 (5 days later). At that point we noticed the soil was definitely staying wet so we cut way back (yes, there are drainage holes in the pot).

On 7/5 we noticed the leaves were turning a bit transparent/yellow and there seemed to be some white residue on them. I took it to a nursery (on 7/5) who said to spray it with neem because it might have aphids (none were visible). Even though I offered to pay/buy spray, the lady didn't seem too interested, so i question her diagnosis. Anyway, we got some neem at her advice and sprayed it down. The soil was still moist (before the neem) so we did not water at this point.

A week later on 7/12 we noticed the gray material at the base of the stems in the picture. We sprayed the neem again and watered a 4th time. The soil seemed dry by that time. It's now been 3 days since the 2nd neem. The gray material hasn't come back, but we aren't sure if that's just cause the soil is moist and it is blending in. The leaves seem to continue a slow downhill descent. The oldest/largest leaves seem fine, but the smaller ones are all over the place in terms of unhealthiness and seem to get worse by the day.

Timeline summarized:

  • 6/18: repot (switch to indoor soil) and 1st water
  • 6/23: 2nd water
  • 6/28: 3rd water (decide to slow down on watering)
  • 7/5: notice leaves turning clear/yellow with white residue, spray neem oil (no water)
  • 7/12: notice gray material on soil near stems, spray neem oil 2nd time, 4th time water plant

Any thoughts on what is going on? I realize we probably complicated things by changing the watering cycle. We repotted 1x before last year and had great success, so a bit miffed by what is going on this time.

Thanks and sorry for such a long post!

white residue noticed on 7/5. before 1st neem.

grey material noticed on 7/12 (1 wk after 1st neem)

image1 from today 7/15 (zoom for better details on damage)

image2 from today 7/15 (zoom for better details on damage)

image3 from today 7/15 (zoom for better details on damage)

image4 from today 7/15 (zoom for better details on damage)

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