Learning Dieffenbachia care is easy and a good way to get started with the basics of indoor houseplant care.
There are many varieties of “dumbcane” on the market, ranging from some small almost dwarf type varieties to the large Dieffenbachia amoena.
“Dieffs” can be grown for years indoors where they can reach a height of 4 to 5 feet.
The plant earned the name “dumb cane” from its toxic sap, which can cause a temporary inability to speak if ingested.
Dieffenbachia Plant Care
Lighting and Temperatures
The Dieffenbachia plant does well indoors, thriving with year round room temperatures averaging 65-75 degrees.
The dumbcane is not a “fan” for temperatures to drop below 60 degrees. The plant cannot handle full sun but does appreciate good lighting, like you would find in a kitchen.
In fact, high temperatures and bright light can make Dieffenbachia weak and sickly.
Watering and Feeding
Being from the aroid family – with cousins like the Aglaonema, Spathiphyllum and Philodendron – let’s us know dieffenbachia likes humidity and during the summer lots of water. Soil stays moist but not wet. During the winter season watering should be reduced.
During the primary growing season – March Through October – feed every other week when watering using a complete liquid food. During the winter months use NO fertilizer and water only.
Soil, Potting and Transplanting
Dieffenbachia prefers a well draining soil. I’ve had excellent results using 2 parts peatmoss and 1 part perlite. An African violet soil mix would work well also.
A large plant like “Tropic Snow” capable of reaching 4-5 feet can be grown and live in a relatively small pot. The problem is usually not pot size but plant size making the plant top heavy.
For top heavy plants use a cachepot to stabalize the top heavy plant
When potting or repotting plants, springtime is best just before the growing season begins. Do not overpot!
Most propagation of Dieffenbachia is done when the plant gets too big and the plant becomes leggy.
When plants become leggy the stems will be “naked” and the plant looks like a bunch of stems with foliage up top. Not a pretty site for a dumbcane.
The topshoot can be cut off, and rooted by placing the “cutting” in a pot with moist well draining soil – (50% peatmoss & 50% perlite).
Stems or canes of Dieffenbachia can be rooted as well. Stems must have an “eye” from which new leaves and stems will emerge.
Place stem cuttings on their side, with about 1/2 the stem buried in the soil with the “eye” pointing upwards. Rooting in a “mini” greenhouse like a soda bottle planter will speed up the rooting process. Roots should start forming in 2-4 weeks. Keep temperatures around the 72 degree range.
When taking cuttings I like to use a razor blade as Dieffenbachia is very sensitive to bacteria.
Pest and Problems
Dieffenbachia is an attractive strong grower – generally. Bacteria is the one disease which can become a real issue as the plant will rot, leaves can become slimy, smelly and stems become soft. Bacteria can spread across the leaves and stems quickly.
Bacteria thrives in wet, humid conditions. Unfortunately, if your plant does get get bacteria, there is not much you can do. get rid of the plant.
Indoors few homeowners will experience bacteria.
Winter Brown Spots
Several conditions can cause dieffenbachia leaves to get brown spots during winter months. Either over fertilizing or the plant drying out too much between waterings.
Differences: The difference between bacteria and brown spotting is the brown spotting will be dry and bacteria diseases will be “wet.”
Spider Mites, Mealybugs and Aphids
Under hot, dry, conditions indoors especially during winter months, red spider mites may show up on the undersides of leaves.
Mealybugs and aphids which suck juices from the plant can also be a problem.
Use sprays designed to control the insect pests such as Malathion or Neem oil for plants.
There are many varieties of Dieffenbachia on the market. One of the most widely known varieties is Dieffenbachia “Tropic Snow”, others are “Compacta”, “Splash”, “Topic Honey” and many others.
The video below will show others.
Warning: Dieffenbachia Poisonous
As beautiful as Dieffenbachia is it does have a downside.
The question has been asked many times… “Can you tell me as I have heard, Dieffenbachia leaves are poisonous.”
The Answer: It is true, Dieffenbachia leaves and stems are poisonous if eaten. It has been said… one bite paralyzes your voice, two paralyze you, while three are supposed to be fatal. It is wise, therefore, to keep these foliage plants out of the reach of children and pets.
DO NOT put your plant in locations where pets and children may come in contact with them.
DO NOT allow an animal (cats love them) to chew on its the plants leaves.
Avoid getting any of the sap in your eyes or mouth.
Wear gloves when you handle the plant.
The sap from the plant is toxic and causes painful rashes, allergic reactions numbness, and even the temporary inability to speak or paralysis if ingested.
Even with the “downside” the Dieffenbachia plant is a wonderful addition for indoor use and brings a real tropical look to any interior.