How to Care for Your Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane): Plant Guide

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I love my Dieffenbachia (Dee-fen-ba-kee-uh), but she can be a little fussy at times, so I wanted to share some tips on caring for them as they can be a little cranky if they are not getting the right conditions.

Dieffenbachias are tropical houseplants that are native to South America and West Indies. They grow well in humid environments with temperatures of 20c (68f). They should be fertilised once a month during the spring and summer using half-strength fertiliser. Dieffenbachias can live in low light conditions and do not require pruning; however, you should remove any dead or yellowing leaves.

How to Care for Your Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane): Plant Guide

How to Keep Your Dieffenbachia Alive and Healthy

Dieffenbachia Overview

This popular houseplant has pointed, ovate leaves, and vary in colour from green to cream to white. 

A massive, well-grown Dieffenbachia may grow up to 10 feet tall and have 20-inch-long leaves. However, in normal indoor circumstances, where 3 to 5 feet is more typical, the plants rarely reach this size. This plant can grow up 2 feet within one year if given enough light!

The common name ‘Dumb Cane Plant' refers to the toxicity and burning sensation that sap will produce if eaten. It can also numb your throat and, in some cases, can paralyse your vocal cords, so it's not just a dumb houseplant! So keep them away from pets and small children.

Popular Dieffenbachia Varieties:

Dieffenbachia Amoena ‘ Tropic Snow' – This dumb cane has attractive large leaves with cream and green colours. Short stems support the leaves. This vast house plant will add structure and colour to your home or workplace.

Dieffenbachia ‘Camilla' – This Dieffenbachia has a unique two-toned look because it has different colours on each of its leaves. One side is green, and the other is white. The leaves can grow up to 40cm long.

Dieffenbachia' Compacta' – Dieffenbachia' Compacta' is a small, elegant houseplant with unique leaves. The middle of each vivid green leaf is streaked with white variegation that fades out to a dappled pale yellow near the outermost edges. This Dieffenbachia is ideal for offices because it's low-maintenance and can tolerate lower light conditions.

Dieffenbachia' Reflector' – The leaves vary in size. They are dark green paddle-shaped with boldly streaked, paler green or nearly white markings, which give the plant a striking and unusual appearance. It will gradually form an upright cane as it matures (and lower leaves are shed), giving it a palm-like aspect.

Where to Buy Dieffenbachias

If at all possible, begin your search for a new plant at a local plant nursery or garden centre. It's ideal (and most fun!) to choose and select the exact plant you want to bring home, as well as ensuring that it isn't infested with pests and appears to be a healthy one.

Keep in mind the pointers on how to pick the finest plant for your home while out shopping.

The other great option if you can't get to a local plant nursery is to buy online. I have purchased plants from both Crocus and Patch Plants and they have been wonderful plants and great service.

Dieffenbachia Care Instructions:

Temperature: Average or above-average warmth – minimum 60f /15c in winter
Light: Indirect bright light and partial shade.
Water: Water regularly from spring to autumn, water sparingly in winter months.
Air Humidity: Mist frequently as they like high humidity (or use a humidifier). Wash leaves occasionally. Surround pot with damp compost.
Repotting: Repot in spring every year.
Toxicity: Toxic to humans, cats and dogs if eaten.
PH: 6.1–6.5 (slightly acidic)

How to Water a Dieffenbachia:

Dieffenbachias should be watered 1 or 2 times per week as they like to be kept moist but not soggy; as mentioned above, they need a lot of water. Make sure the top inch of the surface of the soil is dry before watering.

I use room temperature filtered water as it's a tropical plant, and the roots might not be my friend when watering with cold water straight from the tap.

Temperature and Humidity for a Dieffenbachia

Because Dieffenbachia is a tropical plant, it prefers a slightly high humid environment. To keep them happy, they should be at a temperature of 20c (68f). Temperatures of 10c (50f) and below the Dieffenbachia will stop growing and sulk :).

Dieffenbachia is known for its moisture-loving personality. If you want to maintain a healthy balance with this plant, then the goal should be around 60% humidity throughout the year. 

If you need to, you can increase the moisture in your home by using a humidifier (this is the one I use). But don't worry too much because they will adjust to the average humidity found indoors.

How to Fertilise a Dieffenbachia:

Fertilise your plant once a month during the growing season, usually between spring and summer with a half-strength fertiliser such as this organic natural liquid fertiliser from Natural Grower and stop in the autumn and winter.

When fertilising a dieffenbachia, it's important to remember that too much can be just as bad as too little. If you use more fertiliser than the plant needs, this will damage your plant and cause it to emit a strong odour.

Light Requirements of a Dieffenbachia

The Dieffenbachia variety is an excellent addition to your home because they do well in low light and live with less sunlight.

However, if you want the plant's growth rate to increase, then it would be best to get more indirect sunlight (never direct) sun during the autumn/winter months since this will encourage healthy new leaves on top of existing ones!

Repotting a Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachias should be repotted every year, but how often you repot will depend on how big your plant is getting. If they have been in the same pot for a while, or if the pot is small, then you might want to consider repotting more often.

If the plant looks squished on the sides, repot it in a pot that is only slightly larger than the current one.

Make sure you use a pot with drainage holes at the bottom of the pot so excess water can escape and doesn't sit in the pot and cause root rot. These can be potted in most pots, such as ceramic, plastic or terracotta.

Best Soil Mixture for a Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachias like to have fast draining and aerated potting soil, such as this one from Soil Ninja, which is a blend of Coco Coir, Perlite, Bark, Sand, Activated Charcoal, and Worm Castings.

This will ensure that it gets the moisture it needs but doesn't sit in water for too long and cause root rot, which will eventually kill your plant.

How to Prune a Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachias don't need pruning as such, but getting rid of dead or yellow leaves will keep your Dieffenbachia looking great and healthy.

TIP: Please be careful when pruning the brown/dead leaves of your Dieffenbachia. This plant has a toxic sap caused by calcium oxalate crystals that can cause irritation and swelling, so make sure to wear gloves when pruning.

Cleaning requirements of a Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachias don't need a lot of cleaning, but a quick wipe with a damp cloth like this one from Patch Plants now and then is all you need. Be sure to get rid of any dust built upon the leaves, as this can cause them to look dull.

How to Keep Your Dieffenbachia Alive and Healthy

Common pests with Dieffenbachias

Dieffenbachias are tropical plants that are pretty hardy. I have experienced a mild case of spider mites on them.

It was easily treated by showering them and raising the humidity in the room, which is what they naturally like anyway. I am vigilant in looking for those spider mite webs.

Related Post: How to Get Rid of Bugs on Indoor Plants: Effective Tips

Common problems with Dieffenbachias and how to solve them

Dieffenbachia's Leaves Turning Yellow

Firstly, If the lower leaves are turning yellow it can be a sign that the plant is not getting enough light, or it could be a sign of overwatering or underwatering. 

Secondly, If it's not getting enough sunlight, move it to a location where it will get more indirect light.

Finally, if it's being overwatered, then stop watering it for a week and see if the leaves start to turn green again.

If it's being underwatered, water the plant thoroughly and wait until the soil is dry before watering it again.

Dieffenbachia Leaves Dropping

One common problem that Dieffenbachia owners face is leaf drops. It is normal for an occasional leaf to yellow and falls when you have new growth, but if more than one leaf is falling off at a time, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

The most likely culprit is too much water. Dieffenbachias are native to tropical regions and prefer evenly moist soil.

Overwatering can cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop off. Another possible cause of leaf drop is pests. Aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites can all cause leaves to yellow and drop.

If you suspect pests are the problem, then check the undersides of the leaves for small insects or webs.

Keep your plant in a consistently warm area that's between 18c (65f) degrees to 23c (75f) degrees.


What are the benefits of Dieffenbachia?

Dieffenbachias are great for removing toxins from the air; they improve air quality and help to prevent asthma and other respiratory problems.

They are also easy to care for, require little light and are forgiving if you forget to water them occasionally.

Is Dieffenbachia hard to care for?

No, Dieffenbachia is easy to care for. They only need moderate light, occasional watering and fertilising every few months.

How long do Dieffenbachia plants live?

Dieffenbachia plants can live for years with proper care. However, they may eventually outgrow their pot and need to be replanted in a larger pot.

How do you take cuttings from Dieffenbachia?

To take stem cuttings from Dieffenbachia, you will need a sharp knife or scissors, a soil pot, and a water spray bottle.
1. Cut off a stem from the adult Dieffenbachia plant with at least two leaves attached.

2. Dip the cut end of the stem into some rooting hormone like this organic one from Crocus and place in a pot of fast-draining soil mix as mentioned above and water well.

3. Place the pot in a warm, sunny location and mist with water every day until new leaves sprout.

How do you keep Dieffenbachia from getting leggy?

A lack of light can cause leggy Dieffenbachia plants. Unfortunately, this is not an easy problem to solve. You will need to cut the Dieffenbachia back to grow again. However, if you prepare before cutting, then your plant should survive.

But if it's only a little leggy, move it to a location where it will get more indirect light and keep an eye on it.

That's it! You now know how to care for your Dieffenbachia. So, what are you waiting for? Go and get yourself one (or a few) plants!

And Finally:

The Dieffenbachia is a beautiful plant that can add life and energy to your home. The best way to keep it healthy? Follow the instructions in this blog post! 

Please keep reading for how-to guides on how often to fertilise, how often to repot, how much light they need and more. We hope you've enjoyed our article about how to care for your Dieffenbachia plants!

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