Dieffenbachia Guide: How to Care for a Dumb Cane Plant
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Dieffenbachia Houseplant Guide: How to Care for a Dumb Cane

With large speckled leaves that come in a variety of gorgeous patterns and colors, dumb cane plants, also known as dieffenbachias, make incredible house plants. They are easy to care for, love indoor conditions, and have grow faster and larger than most houseplants. In other words, why don’t you have one already? Here, we’ve gathered up everything you need to  care for a dieffenbachia, including light, water, and fertilizer needs; how to propagate, divide, and prune; and the best places to buy the dumb cane plant your home or office deserves.

Dieffenbachia Details

  • Common Name(s): Dieffenbachia, Dumb Cane, named cultivars including Camille, Honeydew, Camouflage and Tropic Marianne.
  • Scientific Name: Dieffenbachia spp.
  • Ease of Care: Easy
  • Light: Medium to bright filtered light
  • Water: Every 2-4 weeks, depending on light exposure
  • Temperature: 70 – 80 F
  • Height: 1 – 8 feet
  • Growth Rate: Medium to fast
  • Pest: Mealybugs, Spider Mites
  • Disease: Erwinia Bacteria, Anthracnose
  • Toxicity: Toxic to pets and people

Dieffenbachia Benefits

The gorgeous greenery of dieffenbachia immediately brightens up indoor spaces, improving the moods of the people who occupy them. Furthermore, successfully caring for your dieffenbachia will give you a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that will have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.

potted dieffenbachia camille on side table in filtered bright lightDieffenbachias also improve your physical well-being, boosting the air quality in your home. The plant is notably effective at filtering out common household air pollutants like xylene and toluene, which can lead to all kinds of ailments and sicknesses.

In particular, dieffenbachia is skilled at absorbing carbon dioxide, being one of the most effective plants at doing so. Dieffenbachia takes carbon dioxide in and releases oxygen, increasing the amount of oxygen in your home, in the process improving functions like sleep.

Dieffenbachia Care

Dieffenbachias are extremely easy to care for, thriving in indoor spaces and requiring a minimal amount of care. If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 11 or 12, you can even grow your dieffenbachia outside!

For everyone else, the care instructions that follow will ensure your dieffenbachia flourishes indoors.

Water

The most common dumb cane growing problem is overwatering which can lead to issues like the development of fungal diseases and the dreaded root rot.

Because of this, before watering your dieffenbachia let the top 1 – 2 inches of soil dry out completely. Make sure that excess water is flowing through your container’s drainage holes instead of building up in the soil.

How frequently you water will depend on what temperatures your plant is exposed to and how much light it is getting. In the summer you will need to water your plant a lot more than in the winter.

Light

The best lighting for dumb cane plants is filtered light. You can achieve this by putting your dieffenbachia on a window sill with a sheer curtain or something else that filters the sun’s rays. In an east-facing window, your plant can have more sun exposure while in a south-facing window the light should be blocked by drapes.

Rotate your dieffenbachia plant on a weekly basis so that all of its sides are exposed to an adequate amount of sunlight.

Dumb cane plants can tolerate low light situations, but it will slow their growth. Bright, direct light will burn the leaves of your dieffenbachia plant. Some dumb cane plants are more resilient than others, and some even prefer low light, so be sure to check out your plant’s individual lighting care requirements before positioning it.

Soil and Container

Use fertile, well-draining soil that you can easily keep moist but not soggy. The container you use should have adequate drainage holes to enable this balance. Large dieffenbachia plants will require pots in the 12 – 16-inch size range while more compact varieties will do better in 6 – 8-inch pots.

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Temperature and Humidity

The best temperature for a dieffenbachia is in the 65- 75 F range. If the temperature frequently dips below 55 F, it will slow the growth of your plant, while temperatures over 85 F can also stunt its growth.

Dieffenbachias love humidity. You can provide it with humidity through placing your home’s humidifier near it, keeping it in your bathroom, putting it on a humidity tray, or misting it on a weekly basis.

If your plant’s leaves start to turn brown, then it’s your plant begging you for a misting. Oblige.

Fertilizer

If your potting mix lacks sufficient nutrients, fertilize as soon as you plant your dieffenbachia and when you repot it. Fertilize while watering to prevent burning your plant’s roots and to ensure that the fertilizer gets deep into the soil, once or twice a month with house plant food. Try a balanced 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer or one with high nitrogen content.

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Pruning

For cosmetic reasons and the plant’s health, prune away dead and dying branches when they emerge.

If you are unhappy with your dieffenbachia’s height, you can prune it to be shorter. After all, larger varieties can reach heights around 6 feet tall. When you do so, use

sharp, clean pruners and cut the plant’s canes at a 45-degree angle. Also, never cut away more than one-third of your plant’s foliage or you risk killing it.

dieffenbachia dumb cane houseplant closeup foliage

When handling the plant, be very careful that none of its sap gets on your bare skin. Dumb cane’s common name derives from the oxalic acid in its stems and foliage that can cause pain and swelling in the mouth. Wash your hands and tools thoroughly with warm water and hand soap after any handling, just to be safe.

Dieffenbachia Propagation

When propagating your dumb cane plant, don’t be, well…  dumb. Dieffenbachia contains oxalic acid which can burn when it comes into contact with your skin and mouth. Because of this, you should absolutely wear rubber gloves and even eye protection when cutting your dumb cane plant. Also, use a blade that can either be thoroughly cleaned or disposed of after taking the cuttings.

Other than having to avoid touching the sap, propagating your dieffenbachia plant through cuttings is very easy. You can take cuttings from your plant’s roots, stem, or tip. Take pieces that are at least a few inches in length.

Fill small containers with sand or sphagnum moss. Moisten them thoroughly, and let the water drain out of them. You want them moist but not soggy. Dip the end of your cuttings in rooting hormone, brushing off excess powder. Make a hole in the middle of the planting medium and then plant your cutting in it.

Place your container in a warm spot with low light. Keep the soil moist by regularly spraying it with water. It will take 4 to 8 weeks for roots to develop. When they do, you can plant your dieffenbachia in a bigger container. Enjoy your new plant!

Dieffenbachia Varieties

Dieffenbachia plants come in numerous colors with various leaf patterns. Below are some of the best and most popular dieffenbachia varieties you can buy.

Dieffenbachia Camille

This popular variety has wide leaves edged in emerald green with pale yellowish-green centers. It’s a smaller variety so it’s great for compact spaces. Plant it in partial shade with well-drained soil and it will thrive. If you grow this plant in low light conditions it will lose some of its variance, turning more of a solid green color.

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    With two-toned speckled green leaves, this plant was all self-conscious until freckles became the “it” beauty trend. Now it stands tall and proud. Bright, indirect light. Will tolerate low light as well. Plant potted in eco-friendly coconut coir soil with lightweight two-tone planter with built-in saucer to contain water overflow.

Dieffenbachia Camouflage

The eye-catching speckled pattern on dieffenbachia camouflage gives this variety an unusual look that sets it apart from other dieffenbachia plants. It has long, wide leaves that are light green with dark green and cream spots. This is a larger variety whose huge leaves can take up a lot of space. It thrives in filtered sunlight but due to its resilience can survive in full shade.

    Camouflage Plant (6-Inch Growpot)

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    Dieffenbachia Camouflage Plant in a 6-inch growers pot (ceramic pot not included). Dieffenbachia plant is also referred to as dumbcane and it is a staple for all houseplant lovers.

Tropic Snow

This elegant dumb cane variety has an absolutely gorgeous emerald and cream pattern on its leaves. Its foliage is large and glossy, but the variety itself has an average size. It thrives in indirect light and fertile soil, otherwise being a relatively low maintenance house plant choice.

    PlantVine Dieffenbachia Tropic Snow (3 Gallon Growpot)

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Tropic Marianne

Topic Marianne (below) has huge, wide leaves that can grow to be 12 inches wide. The leaves have emerald around their edges which looks incredible in contrast with their yellowish-cream centers. It’s one of the most popular varieties and is widely regarded as one of the best varieties to grow because of its resilience. With fertile soil and filtered light, this plant is guaranteed to flourish.

foliage of dumb cane tropic mariana dieffenbachia cultivar

Where to Buy a Dieffenbachia

You can purchase dieffenbachia plants at your local garden center or online.

An excellent online option is House Plant Shop’s Dieffenbachia Camille. This top-rated plant has beautiful emerald edges and a light yellow-green center. It arrives in a 4-inch pot and is expertly packaged and quickly shipped so the plant only has a mild amount of transportation-related stress. It’s small when it arrives but is extremely affordable for a dumb cane plant.

Common Dieffenbachia Growing Questions

Still distressed about dieffenbachia? Have some of your dumb cane concerns not been addressed yet?

Check out the section below with answers to the most common dieffenbachia growing questions.

What is the Growth Rate of Dieffenbachia Plants?

How fast your dieffenbachia plant will grow typically depends on the variety and growing conditions. Some compact dieffenbachia varieties are slower growers and don’t grow much, only reaching between 2 – 4 feet in height while others may reach as tall as 8 feet. Their widths can also wildly range depending on the variety, spanning anywhere from 1 foot wide to 5 feet wide.

If your dieffenbachia is grown in less than ideal conditions, like in low light instead of filtered light, or grown without fertilizer, it will also have a slower growth rate.

However, in general, when grown in the proper conditions, dieffenbachia plants tend to have a fairly average growth rate in relation to other house plants.

houseplant dumb cane tropic snow cultivar foliage indoors

What are Common Dieffenbachia Pests and Diseases?

Dieffenbachia plants, like all other house plants, can be susceptible to attacks from spider mites and mealybugs.

Mealybugs look like very small cotton bundles that cling to your plant. To combat them you can first try peeling them off with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. If that doesn’t work then use an insecticidal spray.

Spider mites are almost invisible, however, if your plant’s leaves become bleached and have a web-like substance on their underside then you probably have a spider mite problem. To fight them apply a miticide to your plant. You will have to repeat the application every couple of weeks until they are gone because they often embed their eggs in the soil.

Dieffenbachia can also be attacked by a bacteria called Erwinia. The bacteria normally shows up in leaf joints or stems, causing them to rot. If your plant has Erwinia, it’s too late to save it.

Dieffenbachia can also struggle with the fungal disease anthracnose, which typically develops if the plant is exposed to too much humidity or a sudden chill. To beat it, remove leaves with black and dark brown spots that have been infected.

Are Dieffenbachia Plants Toxic?

Yes, dieffenbachia plants are toxic to humans and pets.

When eaten, dumb cane can cause swelling in the tongue and throat, the production of an excessive amount of saliva, and temporary loss of speech. If enough is eaten it can even cause suffocation. Also, it’s sap when it comes into contact with human skin can irritate and burn.

Do not place your plant anywhere that a child or pet could access it and eat it. Even though this is an awesome plant, because of its toxicity it might not be a great plant for people with pets.

dumb cane on high shelf out of reach of child indoors

Conclusion

This large, showy house plant is an incredible addition to interior spaces, brightening up rooms, purifying air, and looking fabulous.

It is absolutely one of the best indoor house plants you can grow, and one of the easiest, as long as you follow all of the instructions outlined in this guide.

I hope you enjoyed this dumb cane guide! If you did, be sure to share it and comment below with any questions!

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