Dumb Cane Plant Care — Growing A Dieffenbachia Plant

Last Updated on October 21, 2021 by Grow with Bovees

Dieffenbachia species is a tropical plant native to the new world tropics of the Caribbean and South America that has huge, beautifully patterned dark green leaves.

Because they are fast-growing and adapted to growing in the shade, they have become popular indoor plants around the world.

Dieffenbachia, or dumb cane, requires fresh soil with a high water-holding capacity but with enough drainage to prevent root rot.

They can be kept potted indoors in bright light or grown in a partly shaded area of the garden.

They need lots of water every week and may require annual repotting.

They get their name from their highly toxic sap which is poisonous to pets and humans.

Children that eat the leaves get a swollen tongue and cannot speak, hence the name “dumb cane”.

In this article, we focus on dumb cane plant care.

They’re easy plants to look after and will grace your home for many years if you treated right.

Let’s get to know this indoor houseplant a little better.

Classification Of Dieffenbachia Plants

The dumb cane plant is a herbaceous perennial plant type belonging to the Araceae family. It derives from the genus dieffenbachia.

The Dieffenbachia genus consists of many plant species all known by different names, but collectively they’re known as dumb canes or as dieffenbachias.

Fun fact: the name dieffenbachia was given to this genus to honor Joseph Dieffenbach, who was the head gardener of the Botanical Gardens in Vienna.

These different plant varieties are all beautiful tropical perennials most commonly grown as house plants.

Dieffenbachia Plant Types

  • Dieffenbachia seguine araceae
  • Dieffenbachia maculata (Dieffenbachia picta, Dieffenbachia Camilla)
  • Dieffenbachia amoena tropic
  • Dieffenbachia compacta
  • Dieffenbachia aglaonematifolia
  • Dieffenbachia antioquensis
  • Dieffenbachia beachiana
  • Dieffenbachia burgeri
  • Dieffenbachia brittonii
  • Dieffenbachia cannifolia

Just to name a few variegated dieffenbachia types.

Names

This shrub has been awarded a few names which might already be familiar to you.

Botanical name: Dieffenbachia spp.

Common names: Dieffenbachia, dumb cane

Other names: Spruce Slagle dieffenbachias, Krystal slagle dieffenbachias, Dieffenbachia tropic snow

These are just a few of the common names for this shrub.

Leaves

This plant’s leaves have bold colors, are showy and are what it’s known for.

They grow large ovate leaves with pointed leaf tips and deep green margins, and they can develop many variegations. Dumb cane cultivars include shades of white, cream color and green. The variegation makes the foliage exceptionally attractive.

These gorgeous clusters of cream-colored or white leaves grow from a strong central stem which is revealed when older leaves fall off from the lower part of the stem.

Other variegation of these houseplants include yellow colors, colored veins and even white spots and stripes on a base color of silver.

Dumb Cane Flowers

It’s quite rare for the dumb cane to develop flowers when grown as houseplants.

If you’re so lucky as to have a blooming occurrence, the flowers will appear in a green or creamy white color, resembling a peace lily and once they have developed, they will last a long time.

When left to grow in its natural habitat, insects pollinate the dieffenbachia flower, and it is able to produce some berries.

Growth & Size

The dumb cane has a fairly fast growth rate when given the right conditions. It is a low-maintenance plant that can reach 10 feet in height with dark green leaves that become up to 3 feet wide when grown in its natural environment of tropical rainforests.

In a typical indoor environment, however, the dieffenbachia rarely reaches this size. In this case, a size of 3-5 feet tall is more common.

If there’s enough light, this fast growing plant can grow up to a height of 2 feet tall in only one year.

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Considering the size, this shrub is better used as a desktop plant rather than a floor plant.

The Best Soil For Dieffenbachia

Plant your dieffenbachia in soil that is rich, holds water and drains efficiently.

Well-drained soil or damp potting soil is vital to avoid damage to the roots. Leaving roots to sit in soggy soil should always be avoided.

It’s best to create your own potting mixture by combining regular compost-based potting soil with coco peat moss and perlite or vermiculite.

Adding orchid bark has been shown to be beneficial for sufficient oxygen flow due to the creation of air pockets. Follow aroid soil guidelines for more soil tips.

Using standard potting soil will run the risk of the soil clumping around the roots. This makes for dense soil conditions, hindering excess water drainage and reducing aeration.

Dieffenbachias tend to prefer soils that are slightly on the acidic side. Adding compost or sphagnum moss decreases the soil pH while also increasing the soil’s water retention capacity. Perlite or vermiculite increases drainage.

Dieffenbachia Lighting Conditions

Dieffenbachias are such popular houseplants because they have relatively low light requirements and generally tolerate low light and dim conditions.

In nature, this particular plant grows under the canopy of tropical rainforests, so they tolerate full shade much better than most plants. They do, however, enjoy receiving some indirect sunlight during the winter months.

The optimal lighting conditions for a Dieffenbachia plant during its active growing phase are in bright, indirect sunlight or dappled/partial shade. They can survive in partial to full shade but grow much faster if they get slightly more than their minimum light requirement.

For large vibrant leaves of dark green variegation, ensure that the plant is exposed to enough bright indirect light. Direct sunlight should be avoided as much as possible as the harsh rays of sunlight can scorch the leaves. This will leave your dumb canes foliage looking pale and faded.

To avoid direct sun when placing the shrub near a window, cover the window with a sheer curtain. This material will filter the light, creating bright indirect light conditions.

Turn the pot every few weeks to ensure even growth — the side facing the window will be exposed to the most light and, in turn, grow faster than the other side! Not rotating your plant will cause uneven growth.

Leaving your dumb cane in a dark area will not harm your plant. It has the ability to stay alive and keep looking healthy, but a lack of light will eventually cause stunted growth.

Temperature For Dieffenbachia

These plants  can be grown in indoor conditions anywhere, but are hardy outdoors in zones 10 to 12. Dieffenbachias are sensitive to cold temperatures, preferring heat and humidity.

Keep the air temperature range between 65 and 75 °F (18-26 °C). If temperatures drop below 60 °F or 15 °C, they will lose their lower leaves.

Humidity For Dieffenbachia Plants

Dumb cane commonly thrive with high moisture levels in the air. Although these plants can also survive in average humid conditions that are present in homes, try to keep the humidity around 60% all year round.

Kitchens and bathrooms make for great spots to place this plant as these rooms are often naturally humid.

High humidity also prevents the infestation of some plant pests. Spider mites, for example, are very fond of rather dry conditions.

There are a few ways to improve humidity conditions in your home.

Fill a spray bottle with water and lightly mist the leaves of your dumb cane. This method not only aids in humidity but also helps to keep the plants attractive foliage free from dust.

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Using a pebble tray filled with water is another easy way to increase moisture levels in the air. Simply place a tray filled with rocks and water under your plant’s pot. The water will start evaporating, creating humid air.

Investing in a humidifier is a convenient way to create good humid conditions and to control humidity in your home. It might be more expensive than the other methods, but it’s totally worth it. Especially during the dry winter months.

How Much Water To Give The Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachias are fast-growing plants with high water demands during the growing season. Prevent them from drying out by practicing careful watering twice per week during spring and summer. During the colder months, they don’t need as much water.

Make sure that the top inches of soil dry out between watering, as this will prevent overwatering that leads to root rot. Overwatering may also cause stem rot, which in turn causes droopy leaves and yellow leaves.

It’s helpful to follow an exact watering schedule — especially during the summer, to avoid stunted plants.

Fertilizer

To keep your dieffenbachia growing prolifically, feed it every 4 to 6 weeks with a general-purpose organic liquid fertilizer or any fertilizer for houseplants. Dilute the liquid plant food to half-strength so that you do not burn the plant.

Fertilizing is especially beneficial when the dieffenbachia is in its active growth phase.

Water the plant after fertilizing in order to drain away excess fertilizer.

When And How To Repot Dumb Cane

Dieffenbachias are fast-growing plants, and when their roots start poking out from the soil surface or their leaves begin to droop, you should repot them. Generally, people repot their dumb canes annually in the spring.

It’s very easy to repot a dieffenbachia:

  • Wear gloves to protect you from plant toxins.
  • Gently lift the plant out of the old pot by its stem.
  • Loosen the old potting soil from the plant’s roots along with dead roots with your hands.
  • Remove any offsets to pot up on their own.
  • Place the original dumb cane plant into a larger pot into which the dumb cane fits and add fresh potting mix. The space in the new pot will promote root growth.
  • Water it well and give it time to settle in its new pot.
  • Always make sure that your pot has drainage holes to aid in achieving well-drained potting soil.

Propagating Dieffenbachia Houseplant

Propagate the dieffenbachia from cuttings. Here are a few ways:

Step-By-Step Guide

  • New dumb cane plants can be potted from offsets of the parent plant when repotting one of the larger varieties of the dieffenbachia.
  • Propagate new plants from cane cuttings. Cut the stem cuttings and lay them horizontally on fresh potting soil. Keep the cuttings damp, and they will root and eventually sprout new leaves.
  • Grow a new dieffenbachia from a stump. Cut the top off a large, old dieffenbachia with plenty of leaf buds and repot the remaining plant stems in a container with soil with the leaf buds pointing up. Apply rooting hormone to the top piece and pot it up. Cover the entire plant with a plastic bag and in a few weeks, new leaves will grow, and the old ones can be cut off.

Use a clean sharp knife when propagating this tropical houseplant and propagate during the growing season.

Pruning The Dumb Cane

The dieffenbachia plant will eventually become less attractive and leggy, resembling a bunch of stems with leaves, if not pruned properly and regularly. So, in order to keep these pants looking amazing and in good health, don’t be shy to occasionally go about pruning away deformed leaves, curled leaves or brown leaf tips.

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Always use a pair of gloves when going about pruning. The poisonous plant sap with calcium oxalate crystals may cause irritation of your skin.

Start by gently cutting the affected stems or damaged leaves with sharp and clean pruning tools. Cut at an angle of 45 degrees just above the leaf node. Be sure not to prune away more than a third of the plant at a time, this could potentially harm your plant.

Dieffenbachia Seguine Pests And Diseases

The dieffenbachia is a hardy plant relatively disease-free but can be susceptible to aphids and mealy bugs — which are the two major pests — as well as spider mites.

Here is how to identify and treat these common dieffenbachia pests:

Aphids

Aphid infestations are spread by ants and can most often be seen on new growing tips. They secrete a sweet and sticky substance called honeydew that further attracts ants and can cause fungal infection. Wipe the aphids off the plant using a soft, damp cloth. Set an ant trap to control aphids and prevent aphid reinfestation.

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are similar to aphids and also secrete honeydew. They look like tiny white bugs, and their egg sacs look like little pieces of white cotton. Simply apply some rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball and wipe the mealybugs away.

Spider Mites

Spider mites can be identified by the web-like strands on the underside of these plants variegated leaves. Treat this pest with a neem oil spray. Neem oil is an oil for plants which is organic and safe to use.

Other dumb cane plant diseases include fungal infections or a cultural condition known as bacterial leaf spot.

Don’t forget to inspect your plant properly. Pests like to sit in clusters in leaf axils and hide away on the bottoms of leaves.

Dieffenbachia Leaves Turning Yellow Or Drooping?

Dumb cane plants are sensitive to too much and too little water and light. This is often the reason that the broad leaves droop or turn yellow with brown tips. Address the problem by moving the plant to a different place and cutting off yellowed and distorted leaves.

If the dumb cane starts getting discolored foliage or even bleached foliage, but the plant is getting enough light and not too little or too much water, it may be lacking certain nutrients. Feed your dieffenbachia with a balanced water-soluble liquid houseplant fertilizer to see if it helps to bring back its beautiful green foliage.

Dieffenbachia yellow leaves may be caused by both, over — and under-hydration.

Conclusion

Dumb cane, with their gorgeously variegated foliage, large size, and low light requirements, are the perfect houseplants. Dieffenbachia care is easy, even for beginner plant collectors.

Plant the dumb cane in fertile, slightly acidic soil mix that has excellent drainage. Water them twice a week, keeping the soil moist during the growing season, and less frequently during the colder months. Don’t let these plants dry out! Check the soil moisture by sticking your finger an inch or two into the soil and keep its mottled foliage clean with a damp cloth.

Dieffenbachias thrive in a warm and humid environment and grow best in dappled shade or bright, indirect light, avoiding cool temperatures.

They benefit greatly from a dose of general-purpose diluted fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks. These fast-growing plants need to be repotted about once a year.

If the otherwise green leaves of the dumb cane turn yellow and droop, it is because they are getting too little or too much light or water or are lacking nutrients in the soil. Keep an eye out for aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites as they are common pests on dieffenbachias.