Dieffenbachia Care: How to Grow Dumb Cane Houseplants


Wondering about Dieffenbachia care? Fortunately, this is a simple plant to look after and grow. It’s suitable for beginners and will grow fairly quickly.

Dieffenbachia are generally green leaved with striking mottled creamy white or striped markings. There are a variety of different species and cultivars of Dieffenbachia, each with slightly different coloring. Two popular species for houseplants are Dieffenbachia seguine and Dieffenbachia maroba.

It is naturally found in the forests of the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

There is a toxin in the leaves that can cause irritation of the mouth and even make speech impossible, hence the common name ‘dumb cane’. Despite this, it’s become very popular as a houseplant and should not cause issues if you take adequate precautions (as discussed below).

Here is our complete guide to Dieffenbachia care:

two dumb cane plants showing difference in coloring

Light Requirements

In terms of light requirements, Dieffenbachia care is relatively easy. It likes to be placed in moderately bright indirect light, or light shade. It doesn’t enjoy being put in direct sun. You should position the plant a short distance from a window, or put up a sheer curtain to filter out some of the sun’s rays.

If you put your Dieffenbachia plant in direct sun, its leaves will burn and turn brown.

Temperature Requirements

Dieffenbachia plants prefer to be kept in warm places, and usually like temperatures to be between 61 -75oF (16-24oC). True cold will kill them, and even cold drafts can cause them to shed their leaves and shrivel.

Keep your Dieffenbachia somewhere with stable temperatures, preferably away from either heaters or windows.

Watering Requirements

This plant likes to be kept in fairly moist conditions, but it must be allowed to dry out a little from time to time. It is a good idea to water it lightly but frequently, as this will help to ensure that it does not get waterlogged.

You should not let your Dieffenbachia get completely dry, but keeping it very wet makes it vulnerable to root rot and fungal infections. It can be a little tricky to get the balance correct. The best way is to press your fingertip into the top of the soil, to about an inch below the surface.

If the soil is dry to an inch down, your plant needs a drink. If it is still wet, wait a few days before watering it.

Soil Requirements

Good drainage is must for this plant. It is important to use some perlite or another material to aid drainage to your plant’s potting mix. Because they like to be watered regularly, providing a substrate where the water can drain away is key to keeping the roots healthy.

When you pot your Dieffenbachia, mix fine gravel or perlite into the compost that you use.

You should also choose a pot with large drainage holes to ensure that the soil can drain well.

Special Care

Because Dieffenbachia plants have large, flat leaves, they benefit from being dusted on a regular basis. When dust collects on the leaves, it hinders the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and also prevents the plant from exuding moisture effectively.

You can dust or wipe your plant’s leaves with a damp cloth to help keep it healthy and maximize its growth.

Dieffenbachia prefer humid environments, so consider regular misting of your plant or place it on a pebble tray containing water. Avoid dry atmospheres, for example in the colder months when the heating is on.

dieffenbachia plant in pot

Propagating

Dieffenbachia plants are easy to propagate, and there are a few different methods. Two popular methods are by cutting and by division:

Cuttings

Stem cuttings are an easy way to get baby versions of this plant. All you need to do is to cut a piece of the stem with a sharp pruning knife, and set it in a pot with compost.

Moisten the compost and set the piece of stem horizontally on the surface of it. Keep the soil lightly watered as the cane starts to root. After a few weeks, you should have a new plant.

Take care to avoid coming into contact with the sap, which can irritate. Wear gloves or wash your hands well after taking cuttings.

Division

You can also propagate the plant by dividing its roots up when you re-pot it. Simply divide a small section of roots and canes away from the main plant, and put them into fresh compost. The plant should soon start to settle into the compost and grow independently of the parent plant.

Pests & Problems

Although Dieffenbachia plants are generally resistant to pests, you should look out for spider mites, which can be a problem. Make a habit of checking the undersides of the plant’s leaves, especially if it is not looking very healthy.

Spider mites are often too small to spot, but you should see tiny spiderwebs if they are present on the plant. You can get rid of them by blasting the plant with water, or by wiping the leaves with neem oil.

Toxicity

The plant is toxic to humans, as well as cats and dogs. It contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause irritation to the mouth and throat if ingested.

In Amazonia, the indigenous people use the plant sap on their arrows to increase their effectiveness.

If you have pets or small children, you should either avoid growing this plant, or place it well out of reach. Be aware that cats may climb and chew on the foliage.

Make sure you always wash your hands thoroughly after handling your Dieffenbachia plant, especially if you have pruned it. Avoid touching your face when you have been handling the plant. Wearing gloves when pruning or propagating is also a sensible precaution.

Common Questions About Dieffenbachia Care

Q: Why do my plant’s leaves have brown tips?

A: You are likely watering your plant on a very irregular schedule. If your plant dries out and then gets flooded regularly, its leaves will turn brown at the ends.

Q: How often should I repot the plant?

A: When your plant is young, you will probably want to repot it every year to year and a half. You should scale up its container gradually, rather than putting it in a much bigger container. Once your plant is larger, you will probably find it only needs repotting once every two to three years.

Q: How do I make the plant grow evenly?

A: Because these plants are fast growing, they often produce uneven growth, depending on where the light is. You can overcome this problem by turning your plant regularly so that each side gets approximately equal access to sunlight. Alternatively, use a grow lamp to increase the light on the side of your plant that faces away from the window.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Just getting started? Make sure you see our guide to the 'Best Houseplants for Beginners'