Last Updated on May 30, 2021 by Sophie
Characterised by its beautiful leaves which can come in various variegated forms, Dieffenbachia is incredibly easy to grow and has been popular since Victorian times. Here’s a complete Dumb Cane guide, as well as watering tips and hacks on how to keep your indoor plant healthy.
Dieffenbachia is also sometimes referred to as ‘dumb cane’ on account of the fact that the plant is highly toxic and can cause the throat to swell if the plant is ingested, leaving one unable to speak. As a result of the toxic calcium oxalate crystals in all parts of the plant, Dieffenbachia is therefore unsuitable for those home with pets and children.
Dieffenbachia varieties and cultivars
Due to its immense popularity as a houseplant, you can find the Dieffenbachia in many different varieties and cultivars. Though these typically green plants are all part of the same species, their breadth of colour and diverse leaf patinations mean that many houseplant collectors will end up adding several to their collections.
Though most cultivars are compact and will only grow to around 12 inches tall, others are more reminiscent of the tree-like nature of the plant when it is in nature and can grow up to eight feet tall when given the right light and water conditions.
One of the most common varieties of Dieffenbachia is that of ‘camouflage’. As its name would suggest, the markings of these striking leaves are reminiscent of camouflage and are a lime green flecked with specks of darker green. No two leaves of this specimen are the same, making every plant entirely unique.
One of the most beautiful varieties of Dieffenbachia is that of ‘Camille’. The broad leaves of this Dumb Cane plant have bright lime green interiors framed with darker green edges and features specks of green between the edges and the centre of the leaf.
Yet another striking and beautiful type of Dieffenbachia is that of ‘seguine,’ which features a cane-like stem with large, broad green leaves and light green interiors.
Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane) Care Guide
Watering your Dieffenbachia
Like many indoor houseplants (with the exception of most Calathea Varieties), the easiest way to water your Dieffenbachia, and keep it happy in the process, is the soak and leave method. I personally completely soak my plant and leave it to dry out completely before waterings before repeating the process all over again.
This way, you will help to prevent root rot, which can eventually lead to the demise of your plant. A few months ago, overwatering also caused many of my plants, including my Dieffenbachia, to develop fungus gnats.
While not generally harmful to plants, they are a large nuisance and hard to get rid of. Another common problem that you may face when watering your Dieffenbachia is a lack of high humidity, which can cause the Dieffenbachia leaf tips to turn brown and crispy. One of the easiest ways to elevate humidity in your home is to group plants together.
Best soil conditions for the Dieffenbachia
Like many houseplants, the Dieffenbachia prefers well-draining soil so as to avoid root rot. Many garden centres which sell indoor houseplants will sell pre-made substrate mixes containing a mix of organic matter soil and grit and clay which is formulated specifically for plants of jungle origins.
Best light conditions for the Dieffenbachia
Bright indirect light is best for the Dumb Cane plant, though it will still fare under lower light conditions, meaning that it’s a great plant for those who don’t have incredibly bright homes. If placed in direct sunlight, the leaves will burn and, in the most severest of cases, too much sunlight can cause the plant to wither and die.
Though the best spot for the plant would be in diffused light, the Dumb Cane can tolerate shadier conditions. Like many plants featuring variegations, the more light the plant has, the more variegation will show up. Too dark and new leaves will grow with less variegation.
Dieffenbachia pests and common problems
A fairly hardy houseplant, hence its incredible popularity, Dieffenbachia is much less prone to pests and problems than many other indoor species. The plant can often survive a lot of neglect and missed waterings, meaning that it’s ever-popular among amateur gardeners.
One of the most common pests that the plant faces is that of mealybugs. These small white pests are cotton wool like in their appearance and should be treated as soon as they’re found. When watering your plants, check for their presence on the underside of the leaves. Mealybugs can be treated with Neem oil or Isopropyl alcohol.
Despite their name, spider mites aren’t really a type of spider at all. They tend to appear on plants which have been neglected, and have therefore become distressed, particularly when the plant hasn’t been watered enough. Spider mites can be tricky to get rid of but can be treated with a soapy spray for (made from dish soap) and a spray of water.
Why are the leaves of my Dieffenbachia turning yellow?
One of the most common problems which Dieffenbachia can suffer from is yellow leaves. This is almost always caused by overwatering. Unfortunately, this is irreversible and the leaves will not turn green again.
If the plant has sufficient other foliage, then the yellowing leaves should be cut off and pruned as they will only hinder the growth of the plant. If you haven’t overwatered the plant, then other reasons that the leaves on your Dieffenbachia have turned yellow include the plant not receiving enough light or high enough humidity levels.
Why are the leaves of my Dieffenbachia crispy?
Much like many Calathea varieties, Dieffenbachia can be quite fussy when it comes to watering requirements. If the water contains minerals (often a problem with hard tap water) or you miss out on waterings, then the leaf edges can become brown and crispy. Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse this but improve your plant watering schedule for optimum future plant growth.
Why are the leaves of my Dieffenbachia curling?
There is one common Dieffenbachia problem which is incredibly easy to diagnose and treat and that is the leaves curling. If the leaves are curling, then this is a surefire sign that the plant isn’t receiving adequate amounts of water and should be watered straight away. Within a few hours, the leaves should start to unfurl.