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So have you ever paid attention to the plants in the mall when you do your holiday shopping? If you did, then you will be familiar with this die-hard foliage plant. The Dieffenbachia is a plant that requires very little attention and actually thrives when you forget to water it for a few days. It's quite a forgiving plant, which makes it great for beginning plant parents. It will also tell you very quickly when it's not happy, so you can adjust your plant care in time, before serious harm can be done. Who doesn't love a plant that communicates!


Originally found growing in the West Indies and from Mexico, all the way south to Argentina, the dieffenbachia plant, or “Dumb Cane” plant as it is sometimes called, is a member of the Araceae family and a relative of the Anthurium, Caladium, Calla Lily, and Monstera Deliciosa. All members of the Araceae family contain calcium oxalate crystals and are very poisonous. The name Dumb Cane refers to the toxicity of its sap -- if ingested, it will burn your mouth, numb your throat, and possibly paralyze the vocal cords, not a dumb houseplant!


Light - A dieffenbachia plant requires medium to bright, indirect light; but no direct sun. Direct sun burns the leaves and even too much bright light causes the vibrant leaf color to fade. Your plant will also let you know if it's not getting the light it needs to thrive. If the leaves turn green, it's not getting enough sunlight and if they're turning yellow, it's getting too much sunlight. When a dieffenbachia does not get enough light, the new leaves are small and far apart on the stem.


Rotate your dieffenbachia regularly to provide adequate light to all sides of the plant and prevent it from reaching toward the light on one side. When growing dieffenbachia 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.

Temperature - Your dieffenbachia is a tropical and prefers temperatures above 60°F. The lower leaves on the plant turn yellow when exposed to cold drafts from doors, windows, or air conditioners.

Water  - The most common problem with growing dieffenbachia is too much moisture. Overwatering is a common problem with many houseplants and the dieffenbachia houseplant is no exception. Water well and then allow the top 2"-3" of the soil to dry out before watering again. A dieffenbachia plant does best when watered on a regular schedule. If the soil gets too dry, the bottom leaves may turn yellow. If a dieffenbachia plant is over- watered, the plant stems get soft and mushy and the plant starts to die. The goal is to keep the soil slightly moist without overwatering.

Humidity - Dieffenbachia love moisture in the air; more is always better. This fact makes her a great candidate for a hot, steamy bathroom! The goal should be to have a 60 percent humidity level throughout the year. You can place your plants atop a tray filled with water and pebbles, or use a humidifier. Misting the plant’s leaves is a temporary help, but isn’t enough to keep the humidity levels sufficient.

Soil - The best soil for a dieffenbachia plant is a rich, organic mixture that drains quickly.

Fertilizer - Feed a dieffenbachia only when the plant is actively producing new leaves. Most dieffenbachia plants need to be fed every two weeks in the summer and once a month in the spring and fall. Never fertilize a dieffenbachia in the winter. Excess plant food causes browning around the edges of the leaves. Use a houseplant food high in nitrogen and apply at half strength.

Re-pot - A dieffenbachia plant likes to be a little root-bound. Repot t in the spring if the roots have filled the existing pot. The new dieffenbachia plant container should be only one size larger and must have drip holes in the bottom.

Pests - Spider mites and Mealy Bugs are two plant pests that can damage a dieffenbachia plant. Since a dieffenbachia likes high humidity, it may get bacterial leaf spot, erwinia blight, and other bacterial diseases that often develop in humid conditions. Keep the leaves dry and provide good air circulation around the plant to prevent diseases.


Maintenance - Aggressively prune a dieffenbachia plant to keep it bushy and to prevent the plant from getting top heavy. Always wear a long sleeve shirt and gloves when pruning; this prevents the toxic, irritating sap from getting on your skin. Never touch your eyes or mouth when pruning a dieffenbachia. Wash your tools thoroughly with some bleach when finished pruning.

Propagation - The best way to propagate a dieffenbachia plant is by air layering if the stem is very thick, or by stem cuttings if the stems are thin

Potential Problems - Browning bottom leaves on your dieffenbachia is normal for the plant. Snip them off to keep the plant tidy.

Special Notes - A dieffenbachia plant is extremely poisonous with a #4 toxicity level and very toxic to cats, dogs, and small children. If the sap from a dieffenbachia gets on your skin, wash it off immediately. Ranked as NASA Clean Air Plant #20 for its ability to remove formaldehyde and other chemical toxins from an indoor environment.