Dieffenbachia Care, Problems, & Propagation

Dieffenbachia is one of the easiest indoor houseplants to grow, making it one of the most popular indoor plants. This low maintenance, tropical shrub is also known as Dumb Cane, and thrives in a large range of environments. It is easy to propagate and care for. Below are a quick dieffenbachia care guide and complete care guide. 

Water

 It is best to keep them evenly moist, not wet or dry. Never allow the plant to stand in water.

Light

Does best under bright, indirect light, but will survive in reduced lighting conditions.

Humidity

They prefer a little higher humidity in the air.

Temp

Performs best in temperatures between 65-75°

Soil

Use a loose, fertile, high organic medium. The growing medium should have good water-holding capacity and be well drained.

Fertilizer

Fertilize plants twice a month during the growing season to encourage healthy plant growth.

Pests

Susceptible to mealybugs, thrips, spider mites and aphids.

Pronunciation

dif-fen-bak-ee-uh or dee-fuhn-bak-ee-uh

Common Name

Dumbcane, dumb cane

Scientific Name

Deiffenbachia

Toxicity

Dumb Cane is toxic if ingested. Keep away from children and pets.

Dieffenbachia care is simple once you learn a few tricks. Its striking lush leaves are usually marked in shades of cream, yellow, or white, making dieffenbachia a great addition to any area. Dumb Cane adds fun color and texture without flowers. Dieffenbachia is a genus of tropical flowering plants in the family Araceae. It is native to the New World Tropics from Mexico and the West Indies south to Argentina. An upright grower, so it is an excellent choice to grow along an empty wall or near a large piece of furniture. It adds flair and drama to bedrooms, dens, offices, and other rooms.
Be aware that Dumbcane is toxic it has a toxic sap. If  it gets in your mouth, it can cause your throat to swell up and close. Exposure to the eyes is also particularly painful so be sure to keep it out of your mouth, keep it away from pets, and keep it away from children. Wash your hands after you handle the leaves because some people are actually allergic to just a little bit of exposure. Be sure to wash your hands, wash your tools, and keep them up out of reach if you have pets and kids.
Dieffenbachia plants like regular watering, but you never want the soil to be wet or soggy for extended periods. Indoor plants die way more from over watering than under watering every year, so it is best to keep dieffenbachia on the dry side if you’re in doubt. My foolproof way of watering is to use a moisture meter. They are pretty inexpensive and they remove any watering doubt.  
Keep in mind, the smaller the pot the more you have to water. If you have plants in small containers be prepared to water them more often because there’s not much soil in a smaller pot compared to a much larger plant. 
Lack of humidity can cause leaf tips to become brown and crispy. They prefer a little higher humidity in the air. If the leaves start developing brown tips or edges, try relocating your dieffenbachia to a well-lit bathroom for some added humidity. You can also group it with other house plants which release moisture into the air as they breathe, or set it on a pebble-filled tray of water so the bottom of the pot rests on the pebbles, but above the water to keep the roots from rotting. 
dumb cane dieffenbachia
dumb cane dieffenbachia
Dumb Cane is such an easy houseplant that is actually quite adaptable to many different lighting situations.  Like many tropical plants, they thrive in medium to bright indirect light, but can also do well in low light. Of course in low light they will not grow as fast and the leaves will not be as big and variegated, but they will be just fine. Dieffenbachia shows it’s best coloration under bright light. 
They really do want the light so be sure to rotate them at each watering about ¼ turn. If you notice that your leaves are coming out really small or not really growing at all, move your plant to a spot where it will get more light. Once you learn how to care for a dieffenbachia plant, you’ll find it to be adaptable to different kinds of lighting and conditions in which you might not expect a houseplant to grow.
Growing Dumbcane Dieffenbachia – How To Care For A Dieffenbachia Plant
Dumbcane Dieffenbachia
Dumbcane plants prefer well draining soil, but not so well-draining that the roots can’t access the moisture. Use a loose, fertile, high organic medium. Many different mixes can be used. I like a combination of 60% coco coir or peat moss with, 20% compost, and 20% perlite or pumice or coarse sand (or something that’s just kind of chopped up that is going to allow for the water in the air and movement through the soil). Plants can be grown in pure peat or a few different ratios. Peat and perlite (1:1), soil and peat (1:1), or soil, peat and perlite/vermiculite (1:1:1). The growing medium should have good water-holding capacity and be well drained.
If soil is  too compacted, plants don’t do well and they will be struggling to try to find the oxygen. They can also potentially get root rot which is bad and these guys do not like root rot. They actually prefer to dry out between watering and they will let you know it when they’re ready for water because the leaves will get a little droopy. Wait too long to water ,and the leaves will start to turn yellow and fall off.  Pull off the yellow leaves off when they can gently be pulled off. You can use sheers to cut the yellow leaves off, but it is best to wait until they can gently be pulled off. When you use sheers and make a cut, you’re allowing access for bacteria, fungus, and pests to get in. Nature is going to let you know when it’s ready to shed a leaf, so  just let it go a little bit longer than you might think and gently pull it off.
Fertilizing dieffenbachia encourages it to grow more and at a faster rate. At minimum, it’s best to fertilize dieffenbachia once or twice a year, but I personally will fertilize mature plants twice a month during the growing season to encourage healthy plant growth. Dieffenbachias are considered heavy feeders. A houseplant fertilizer high in nitrogen can be applied at half strength.

Young Dumb Cane Plant Fertilization

Younger plants love to be fertilized because they just really haven’t established their root system yet. I typically give younger Dumb Cane plants a little bit of liquid fertilizer that’s very diluted almost every time I water them during the growing season. During the offseason I’d recommend that you still fertilize it, although very lightly though. If you don’t use liquid fertilizers, then you can top dress it with worm castings once in the spring and you can probably do it again if you feel like your plant needs it. 
Plants given a minimal amount of nutrients will grow slowly and retain a desired shape. If the plants are growing in limited light, they require less frequent fertilization. 

Over fertilizing a Dieffenbachia Plant

Over fertilizing will be apparent when you start seeing curling leaves on the outer edges of the leaf. So if you see the outer edges of the leaves start curling, then you’ll know it’s time to back off and maybe like leech out the soil and get rid of the salts and the minerals that are building up in your soil. Just be careful with fertilizing,  but you should definitely do it if your plant is actively growing. Be sure to always water your plant first before you fertilize to avoid burning the leaf edges in the feeder roots. 
dumb cane dieffenbachia
Dumb cane - Dieffenbachia

Dumb cane live in a wide range of temperatures but they do not like to go below about 60º F. Temperatures should never go below 50º F as the plant will stop growing. They perform really well between 65º F and 75º F and even warmer, but when it’s warmer keep in mind you are going to have to water them more often. Keep out of hot or cold drafts because they will get sensitive to it. If you notice your leaves are really droopy, move it to a warmer spot in your house and you’ll hopefully see them perk up. 

dumb cane dieffenbachia
Dumb cane - Dieffenbachia Plants

Dieffenbachia Propagation

Dieffenbachia propagation can be done a few ways. I love water propagation because you get to see the roots forming. Healthy, light green or white and prolific roots will appear. Change the water about once a week. When you do take a cutting from your dieffenbachia make sure to have at least a few leaves. Cut where at least three leaves meet for the best success rate. Cut where you leave at least two leaves on either side, deep in the crotch. That is what it is called In the nursery/landscape world. Deep in the crotch, but leave leaves on either side so it gives the plant a chance to leaf out and push out more growth. 

Soil Propagation

Soil propagating also works well. Dry the cuttings for about one day, then stick  them in a rooting medium such as peat, sand, perlite or vermiculite. Stem cuttings will establish roots faster in sphagnum moss than in sand, and cuttings from the top of the plant root faster than sections taken from the base of the stem.
Larger stems initiate roots faster than smaller stems, apparently because the larger stems contain more stored food. Keep the soil moist for about a month or so. Not like dripping soaking wet, but moist. You want the roots to get established. Give it a lot of light, but not direct light because direct sunlight will burn the leaves.
Air layering can be used when the plant becomes top-heavy or lanky with naked stems.
dumb cane dieffenbachia soil
Repotting dumb cane - dieffenbachia
When repotting your dumb cane plant, select a clean pot that is about one size larger than the pot it is currently growing in and be sure it has drainage holes on the bottom. Keep in mind plastic pots retain soil moisture longer than clay, cutting down on the need for frequent watering. Clay pots are heavier, but the soil dries quicker requiring more frequent watering.
While removing your dieffenbachia from its present container, check the root system, and if it’s wrapping or is bunched together, gently pull it apart with your fingers. Fill the new container about a ¼ full of fresh soil and place the dumb cane inside. Continue filling the container with soil and when the pot is full, press firmly around the plant’s base with your fingers.
Never plant the dieffenbachia any deeper than it was originally growing, as this puts stress on the plant. After planting, water the soil until it runs from the container’s bottom drain holes and then place the plant back where it was originally growing.
Dumbcane Dieffenbachia repotting
Dumbcane Dieffenbachia repotting
Dieffenbachia has a unique type of flower; a spathe and spadix make up the inflorescence (imperfect bloom). The spathe is green and often resembles an unfolding leaf. It persists for a long period of time. Often hidden, the spadix is erect and off-white in color. Male flowers are near the tip of the spadix and the female flowers occur at the base. 
Flowers are insect pollinated. If fruit develops, it is berry-like in appearance. Dumb cane plants seldom flower indoors, and the blooms are not showy.
dumb cane dieffenbachia flower
Dumb cane - Dieffenbachia flower
Over 30 different dieffenbachia species exist (some more common than others) and more than 100 different cultivars. Choices in plants are vast and varied. Two popular varieties are Dieffenbachia seguine, also called spotted dumb cane (formally known as Dieffenbachia maculate) and Dieffenbachia amoena, often referred to as giant dumb cane. Both dieffenbachia varieties have a host of different cultivars sporting different leaf patterns, colors and sizes.
Both of these dieffenbachia varieties have cultivars that grow around 3 to 8 feet tall with large, oblong leaves growing up to 6 inches long and wide. Cultivars of spotted dumb cane’s foliage are mixtures of green, white, yellow and gold, with splotches or marks in white. However, the cultivar foliage colors of giant dumb cane include cream, tan, white, green and yellow, with bands along the leaf’s outer edge, spots and stripes.

More popular Dieffenbachia varieties

Some Dieffenbachia sequine cultivars include ‘Carina,’ with foliage that has white feathery patterns, and ‘Marianne,’ which sports yellow-golden leaves with green margins. Common Dieffenbachia amoena cultivars are ‘Tropic Snow’, which has leaves with green mid-veins and borders and a white center mark fading to yellow, and ‘Hilo,’ which sports variegated green and lime-green leaves. Dieffenbachia ‘Camile’, Dieffenbachia ‘Splash’, Dieffenbachia ‘Tiki’ are also popular varieties. 
dumb cane dieffenbachia care
Dumbcane - Dieffenbachia Plants
Let’s face it, all plants have problems. Nothing is resistant to everything. Problems with dieffenbachia plants can be easily overcome in most situations. Dumb Cane’s are susceptible to mealybugs, thrips, spider mites and aphids.  Caterpillar’s have even been known to chomp a leaf or two. If some leaves appear bleached, with a webby substance on the underside, check and treat the plant for pests with insecticidal soap spray or neem oil. Don’t use chemicals for this issue on dieffenbachia, as it often makes the problem worse. Learn more about plant pest eradication here.
You can have salt build-up or mineral build-up in your soil, so  be sure to keep an eye on the overall general health of your plant. Pull it out of the pot if you suspect that something’s going on that you can’t see on the foliage. Look at the roots because it is possible your plant is sitting in water too long. 

Overwatering a Dieffenbachia

Overwatering is a common problem with many houseplants and the dieffenbachia houseplant is no exception. The most common problem with growing dumb cane is too much moisture. Plant the dumbcane in a well-draining soil and water lightly, keeping the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Check the soil to make sure it is dry an inch down before watering the dieffenbachia plant. 

Improper Lighting for a Dumbcane plant

Other problems with dieffenbachia plants may be created by improper lighting. When growing dieffenbachia, most varieties do best in a filtered light situation. Bright to moderate light shining through a sheer curtain or other filtering window cover is perfect. Filtered light is particularly important in the spring and summer, when the dieffenbachia houseplant is producing new, tender leaves. Sunburn may occur if the light is too bright or shines directly on the plant.
Rotate the dieffenbachia houseplant regularly to provide adequate light to all sides of the plant and prevent it from reaching toward the light on one side. When growing dumbcane of various cultivars, check light requirements for the particular plant. Some dieffenbachia plants require low filtered light. Most cultivars do fine with a low light environment; however, growth is slower or stops, but the plant will remain healthy and attractive.
Browning bottom leaves on the dieffenbachia is normal for the plant as it grows and matures. Gently pull them off to keep the plant tidy. 

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Growing Dumbcane Dieffenbachia – How To Care For A Dieffenbachia Plantdumb cane dieffenbachia
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Can dieffenbachia plants kill you?

The leaves, if chewed or eaten, can cause a temporary burning sensation and then numbing or swelling of the tongue and throat, which gave the plants their common name, dumb cane.

This can lead to a temporary loss of speech. While this is usually not serious, it can cause suffocation. Avoid placing the dumbcane plant where curious children or pets might be tempted to taste it. Wash hands and tools after you touch the leaves. If you think your pet may have ingested it, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435. Human poison control can be reached at 1.800.222.1222. 

Why does my dieffenbachia plant drip water?

You notice water droplets or sap on the dumbcane plant, this is the byproduct of the transpiration process, which is active in most plants.  If the toxic sap gets into your mouth it can cause your throat to swell up and close. Keep away from pets and children. 

Why are the leaf tips of my dieffenbachia plant getting brown and crispy?

Lack of humidity can cause leaf tips to become brown and crispy. They prefer a little higher humidity in the air. If the leaves start developing brown tips or edges, try relocating your dieffenbachia to a well-lit bathroom for some added humidity. You can also group it with other house plants which release moisture into the air as they breathe, or set it on a pebble-filled tray of water so the bottom of the pot rests on the pebbles, but above the water to keep the roots from rotting. 

Why are the bottom leaves turning brown on my dumb cane plant?

Browning bottom leaves on the dieffenbachia is normal for the plant as it grows and matures. Gently pull them off to keep the plant tidy. Too much fertilizer can also cause the tips of your dumbcane to brown.

Why are my dieffenbachia leaves yellowing and dropping off of lower leaves?

Generally this will happen from overwatering. Be sure the soil is well-draining and not soggy.

Why are the leaves of my dumb cane plant droopy?

Your dieffenbachia will have some leaf droop if it is in need of watering or some added sun. First check the soil and add water as needed. If that is not the issue move your dumb cane to a spot that gets more light.

Why are my dieffenbachia leaves small?

When an indoor dieffenbachia does not get enough light, the new leaves are small and far apart on the stem. Water well and then allow the top 2″-3″ of soil to dry out before watering again.

How do you fix leggy dieffenbachia?

To keep dieffenbachia from growing leggy, pinch or prune out the new growth at the top regularly. Pruning out new top growth like this will encourage your plant to grow bushier, and stay more compact. If your dumb cane has grown tall and leggy, you can top the plant, or cut it back anywhere on the stem.

Should I mist my dieffenbachia?

Dumb cane plants loves humidity. Putting it in a bathroom will give your bath a great look and give it the humidity it likes. If you can’t do this, mist the leaves from time to time. The plant will grow easily from cuttings in a glass of water.

How do you pronounce dieffenbachia?

Diff-en-bach-ee-uh, dee-fuhn-bak-ee-uh, dee-fuhn-bah-kee-uh, or dee-eh-fuhn-baa-kee-uh are all suitable pronunciations of the dieffenbachia plant.

Why is dieffenbachia called dumb cane?

Dumb cane gets its name from the temporary speechlessness that occurs after chewing a piece of the stem. Juices of the plant contain oxalates and other substances that irritate the mucous membranes and cause swelling and inflammation of the tongue and throat. All of the plant parts contain raphides; crystalline, needle-like structures which are ejected when cell walls are damaged. Raphides are believed to be a defense mechanism against browsing by animals, since ingestion of the plant will cause stinging and burning to the mouth and throat with symptoms persisting for up to two weeks.  

Can dumb cane dieffenbachia live outside?

Gardeners living in zones 11 and 12 can grow dieffenbachia outdoors in partial shade, where it makes a great landscape plant. It can also be grown outdoors in a shady location, but must be protected from the cold.

Can dumb cane live in water?

Dieffenbachia plants can be rooted and grown in water.

Can you propagate dumb cane?

The easiest way to propagate your dieffenbachia is by rooting cuttings, either tip cuttings or stem cuttings. Plant these small pieces of greenery in the right medium and they will produce roots and, eventually, an entirely new plant. Cut the tips from the end of the plant or look for shoots coming from the main stem.

When should I repot dieffenbachia?

Allowing the plant to become too root bound in its present container can affect proper and healthy growth. Upon purchasing, if the pot is too small, proceed to repot so that the plant may grow adequately. After that, every 2 or 3 years and preferably in spring, repot your dieffenbachia in a pot of a slightly larger size. The roots hate excess water. 

Growing Dumbcane Dieffenbachia – How To Care For A Dieffenbachia Plant
Growing Dumbcane Dieffenbachia – How To Care For A Dieffenbachia Plant

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