Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) care is easy when you know exactly what to do. In this post, I’ll give you lots of information about the plant – including the name, different dieffenbachia types, toxicity, common problems, and FAQs. I’ll also show you exactly how to care for a dumb cane plant.
I love being surrounded by plants all year round, and that’s one reason why I have a large collection of houseplants. I like to grow a variety of them, but I especially appreciate the ones that are simple to maintain.
Well guess what, the dumb cane houseplant (Dieffenbachia) is one of the easiest!
It’s no mystery why dumb cane plants are one of the most common houseplants you see for sale at garden centers and big box stores.
They are extremely tolerant of any indoor environment, and are super easy to grow houseplants (heck, they practically take care of themselves).
Even though dieffenbachia care isn’t difficult, it’s definitely important to know the growing requirements in order to keep it alive and thriving. This comprehensive guide will show you exactly how to grow dieffenbachia.
What Is Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane) Plant?
Dieffenbachia (aka Dumb Cane) is a very common tropical indoor plant that is prized for it’s beautiful foliage and easy care requirements.
Though they originate from the tropics, they make excellent houseplants because they can easily adapt to growing indoors.
Is The Name Dumb Cane Or Dieffenbachia?
Both! (or should I say “either”?) Dieffenbachia is the scientific name for the plant, and Dumb Cane is the common name.
So you can use whichever name you prefer (and I will be using these two names interchangeably throughout this post).
What’s With The Weird Dieffenbachia Common Name?
Dumb cane is a really weird name for a plant, right? Well, there’s a reason for that funny name!
The dumb cane got the name because there is a chemical in the sap that can cause temporary loss of speech if any part of the plant is chewed or eaten.
And the word “dumb” is an old slang term that was used to describe someone who can’t talk (it’s mean, I know!).
Different Types Of Dieffenbachia
There are lots of different species and cultivars out there these days, and they are all gorgeous! Dumb canes can live for many years, and some varieties can grow to be several feet tall, creating a very large floor plants.
Some dieffenbachia varieties have dark green leaves, many with white spotting. Variegated dieffenbachia are even more stunning, and some have bright green or almost white leaves with dark edges.
Common dieffenbachia plant types or names you may come across are seguine, compacta, maculata, golden sunset, camilla (aka camille), amoena plant.
Here’s a great list of some of the most common dumb cane varieties. The good news is that, no matter which type you have, dieffenbachia care is the same for all!
Are Dieffenbachia Plants Poisonous?
Yes, the dieffenbachia plant is poisonous. According to the ASPCA website, dieffenbachia is toxic to cats and dogs.
So, if you have pets or small children around, then it’s best to treat dumb cane as you would any of your other poisonous houseplants, and keep it out of reach. Otherwise, check out my list of pet friendly houseplants instead.
Does A Dieffenbachia Flower?
Yes, but it’s not very common for a dumb cane houseplant to bloom indoors. They need the perfect growing conditions in order to flower, and it can be difficult to get it just right in the average home.
Though dumb cane flowers are pretty (and fun to see!), they’re small and insignificant, so it’s not a huge asset to the plant. That’s why they’re grown more for the beautiful foliage than for the flowers.
Can Dieffenbachia Grow Outside?
Yes, they love being outside during the summer. They could even be grown in your shade garden if you live in a warm climate. You can move your dieffenbachia outdoors during the summer, and they will flourish.
They won’t tolerate the cold at all though, so be sure to move them back inside before the temperature gets below 60F. Like I said, it can be grown outdoors in your shade garden, but must be protected from cold there too.
Dieffenbachia Care Instructions
Just like any other living plant, dumb canes do require some care in order to grow their best.
You can’t just stick it in a dark corner, pour a glass of water in the pot once and a while, maybe toss in some fertilizer if you think of it, and then expect it to stay healthy for long. Am I right?!
Instead, follow these detailed tips for how to care for a dieffenbachia plant…
How To Make Dieffenbachia Bloom
In order to bloom, dieffenbachia houseplants need a lot of bright, indirect light. However, they will not tolerate direct sunlight. So it can be a difficult balance to give them the perfect amount of light in order to get them to bloom.
Putting them next to a sunny window where they will get lots of natural light (but no direct sun) is the ideal location for them. If you can’t give them enough natural light, you could always add a grow light.
Feeding also encourages flowers. So, if you really want to see if you can get your dumb cane to bloom, then be sure to feed it. Follow the directions below for fertilizing dumb cane plants.
Dieffenbachia Watering Instructions
The number one cause of dieffenbachia houseplant death is overwatering!! <dramatic pause> Ok, ok, I just made that up to sound cool, I don’t know if there are any actual stats about the top causes of dumb cane death.
All kidding aside, overwatering really is the main thing you need to worry about when growing this plant. Proper watering is a crucial part of dieffenbachia care, and consistent overwatering will definitely kill your plant.
Just make sure you check the soil before watering by sticking your finger about an inch into the dirt. Allow the soil to dry out a bit between watering, but never let it get completely bone dry. So, once the soil no longer feels damp, then it’s time to water.
To water your dieffenbachia, give it a good soaking until the water starts to run out of the drainage holes. Then allow the excess to drain from the pot before putting it back on the plant tray. Never allow your plant to sit in water.
If you struggle with knowing when to water your plants, then I recommend getting a soil moisture gauge. It will allow you monitor the moisture level, and help ensure you’re watering your plant at the right time.
Dumb cane plants also really like humidity, but they will adapt to growing without it. However, if yours constantly has brown leaves, tips, or edges, then try running a humidifier nearby to see if that fixes the problem.
Dieffenbachia Light Requirements
Dumb cane are perfect low light houseplants because they actually don’t like it when they get too much light, especially direct sunlight. Direct sun will cause their leaves to fade or burn.
On the other hand, if the room is too dark, they’ll quickly grow tall and leggy. A spot next to a sunny window, or where it gets filtered sun through a curtain would be perfect.
Just be sure to keep them out of the window so they don’t accidentally get too much sun. If you start to notice the leaves are fading or turning brown, then move it farther away from the window.
They will adapt to growing in a low light area, but they won’t grow as vigorously. And like I said, they will get leggy much faster without adequate lighting.
If you don’t have a bright room to grow your dumb cane, then you could add a small grow light to help keep the plant from growing too leggy.
It also helps to rotate the plant once and a while so it doesn’t reach toward the window (like this neglected one that was growing in my dark kitchen…oops!).
Rotate the plant every time you water to help prevent it from leaning to one side as its reaching for the the light.
Dieffenbachia Soil Requirements
Dumb cane houseplants aren’t super fussy about the type of soil they’re grown in. Any general purpose potting soil will work just fine.
However, if you’re a person who tends to give your houseplants TOO much love in the form of water… then you’re better off using a fast draining soil mix for them.
If you tend to overwater plants, make sure you grow your dumb cane in a pot that has drainage holes, and never allow it to soak in water.
Repotting Dieffenbachia Plants
You don’t need to worry about repotting your dumb cane very often, they really don’t need to be repotted until they become pot-bound.
In fact, repotting a plant just for the sake of aesthetics, or simply because you feel it should be part of your regular dieffenbachia care routine are the wrong reasons.
And never repot a sick or ailing plant to try to save it. Repotting puts a lot of stress on plants, and the transplant shock may end up killing weak or unhealthy plants.
So how do you know when to repot it then? One good indication that it’s time for repotting your dumb cane is if there are roots coming out of the bottom holes.
Also, if there are more roots than soil in the container, or you find that you have to water it constantly to keep it from drooping. Then it’s probably time for a bigger pot.
To be sure, simply slide the plant out of the pot and take a look at the roots. If very little soil is left, or the roots are circling around the bottom of the container, then it’s time to repot it.
Only go up one or two sizes in pots, or the plant may have a difficult time becoming established in the new pot. For example, if you’re growing dieffenbachia in a 4″ pot, then choose a 6″ pot.
Or if it’s in a 10″ pot, put it into a 12″ or 14″ pot. Always, always use a container with holes in the bottom for drainage. Learn how to repot houseplants here.
Fertilizer For Dumb Cane
Another great thing about easy-to-grow indoor plants like dumb cane is that they can grow just fine without fertilizer. But, like any houseplant, a dumb cane will definitely benefit from a being fed.
I highly recommend using an organic plant fertilizer rather than chemical ones. Over-feeding with synthetic fertilizers is a very common problem with dieffenbachia plants, and can lead to brown leaf edges and tips, among other issues.
Just put it in a spray bottle and mist the leaves of the plant – they will love the added humidity too! Other organic fertilizers that I like using are this houseplant fertilizer or a general purpose plant food.
Only feed your plant in the spring or summer (during their active growing season). They go into a dormant state during winter, so it’s best to let them rest.
Dumb Cane Pest Control
If you notice webbing on the leaves or leaf joints, those are spider mites. Mealybugs look like white cotton on the plant, and thrips are tiny bugs with arrow shaped black bodies.
If you find bugs on your dieffenbachia, then start treating the plant right away using organic pest control methods.
Never use chemical pesticides on indoor plant bugs because they can build up a resistance to chemicals, making problem even worse.
A soapy water spray is also very good for controlling most types of bugs. I use a mixture of 1 tsp mild liquid soap per 1 liter of water.
Dieffenbachia Pruning Tips
Pruning is an important part of dieffenbachia care, it helps keep the plant tidy, grow bushier, and look healthier. Here are my tips for how to prune dieffenbachia…
Brown or yellow leaves can be removed from the plant at any time, as can dead or faded flower. Simply cut them back all the way down to the main stem.
You can also prune brown leaf tips and edges as necessary, following the natural shape of the leaf.
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. New leaves will grow just below the place you made the cut.
You can even keep the top and root the stem to grow yourself a new plant (learn how to propagate dieffenbachia in the section below).
Dieffenbachia Propagation Methods
Dumb canes can be propagated by either rooting stem cuttings or by division. If there are several stems growing in the pot, you can separate them to grow new plants.
Just be sure that each stem has roots before potting them up, otherwise they may not survive on their own.
Rooting dieffenbachia cuttings can be a bit tricky. The key is to keep the soil moist but never soggy, and give the cutting lots of humidity.
You’ll definitely want to dust the cut end with rooting hormone before attempting to root it. And be sure to use a fast draining soilless mix for rooting cuttings, rather than regular potting soil.
Personally, I’ve had the best success using my propagation box for rooting dumb cane cuttings. But you could try putting a plastic bag over the cutting to help give it enough humidity (just never allow the bag to touch the leaves).
I’ve also heard of people successfully rooting dieffenbachia in water, though I’ve never tried it myself. If you want to try rooting your cuttings this way, make sure the stem is several inches long.
Place the stems into a vase of fresh room-temperature water. Then keep the water fresh as you wait for the roots to grow.
Troubleshooting Common Dieffenbachia Problems
The most frustrating part of dieffenbachia care is when your plant is sick and you don’t know why.
As you’ll see below, almost all problems you’ll have with growing dieffenbachia are caused by either incorrect watering (usually overwatering) or over-fertilizing.
So keep that in mind as you troubleshoot your plants symptoms…
- Yellowing leaves – It’s normal for the lower leaves to turn yellow or brown, and eventually die. Simply trim them off as needed. However, if there are several yellow leaves, and they aren’t all on the bottom, then there’s something else wrong. It could be caused by overwatering, insufficient light, pot-bound roots, or bugs (spider mites or thrips are the likely culprits).
- Brown leaf tips and edges – Brown leaf edges and tips could be caused by inconsistent watering, low humidity, too much fertilizer, or salt/mineral buildup in the soil from tap water. Crusty buildup on the top of the soil or around the pots edge are signs of over-feeding or too much salt/minerals from tap water. Switch to using organic fertilizer, and use filtered water or rainwater instead of tap water.
- Brown spots on the leaves – Brown spots on dieffenbachia leaves can be a sign of a houseplant pest infestation (probably thrips or spider mites), or the leaves may have either been frozen (perhaps touching a freezing cold window?) or somehow burned (is it near a fireplace or in a sunny window?)
- Drooping leaves – Drooping is usually caused by over or under watering, but it could also be from exposure to cold or hot air, plant bugs, or transplant shock after repotting.
- Curling leaves – Curling dieffenbachia leaves are usually caused by spider mites or other types of pests, but could also be caused by excess fertilizer, under watering, or extreme temperature changes (like cold or hot drafts).
- Stunted, small new leaves – Small, stunted new leaves are usually the first sign of a pest infestation (most likely mealybugs or spider mites). Over-fertilizing or improper watering are also a common causes. However, in some cases it could be due to the plant being pot-bound, or sometimes even root rot.
- Yellow stem – A yellow stem can be caused by overwatering, over or under fertilizing, pot-bound roots, or something more serious like root rot or stem rot. Slide the plant out of the pot to inspect the roots for signs of rot. If the top of the stem is yellow, you can prune it off using a sterile knife or clippers.
- Leggy dieffenbachia – Legginess is the natural growth habit for this plant, dieffenbachia normally grow leggy over time. But it can be made worse if your plant isn’t getting enough light, so move it to a brighter location. You can also prune your plant regularly to encourage bushier growth.
Dieffenbachia Plant Care FAQs
In this section, I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions I get about proper dieffenbachia care. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for after reading through the post and these FAQs, then ask your question in the comments below, and I’ll answer it as soon as I can.
Why are the leaves on my dieffenbachia turning yellow?
It’s normal for the bottom leaves to turn yellow, and eventually die and drop off. Though annoying, that’s the normal growth pattern of this type of plant.
However, if several leaves are yellowing at the same time, or they aren’t the bottom leaves, then something may be wrong. Refer to the troubleshooting list above to help you figure it out.
Why is my dieffenbachia drooping?
The most common causes of dumb cane drooping are over or under watering, exposure to hot or cold drafty air, houseplant bugs, or transplant shock.
See to the “Troubleshooting Common Dieffenbachia Problems” section above for more details.
How often should I water my dieffenbachia plant?
Rather than watering your plant on a set schedule, you should always check the soil to figure out when it needs water.
Check it every few weeks by sticking your finger about 1″ into the soil. If it no longer feels damp, then it’s time to water. See the “Dieffenbachia Watering Instructions” section above for details about watering dumb canes.
Can you cut back a dieffenbachia?
Yes, and you should make it part of your normal dieffenbachia care routine. The stem will grow new leaves right below the cut.
See my “Dieffenbachia Pruning Tips” above to learn how to cut back a dieffenbachia. Plus, you can take the cutting and root it to make a new plant!
If you want to learn how to root a dieffenbachia plant, see the details in the section called “Dieffenbachia Propagation Methods”.
Why are the tips of my dieffenbachia plant turning brown?
Brown tips and leaf edges could be caused by inconsistent watering, dry air, overuse of chemical fertilizer, or minerals in tap water.
The list under “Troubleshooting Common Dieffenbachia Problems” will give you more ideas and details about fixing common dieffenbachia plant care problems.
Is the dieffenbachia dumb cane plant poisonous?
Yes! So if you choose to grow this plant, then be sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets. See “Are Dieffenbachia Plants Poisonous?” above for more information.
Where To Buy Dieffenbachia Plants
Since they are very common indoor plants, you should be able to find dieffenbachia plants for sale at your local garden center any time of the year.
But, usually you’ll find the best selection of houseplants during the fall and winter months. Of course, you can find dieffenbachia for sale online any time during the year.
Dieffenbachia care may seem a bit overwhelming at first. But don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it in no time! And now that you know how to take care of dieffenbachia, you’ll be able to grow these gorgeous houseplants for years to come!
If you’re tired of watching your houseplant suffer to stay alive through the long, dark winter months, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is for you! It will show you how to keep your indoor plants alive and thriving all year long! Download your copy today!
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Share your dieffenbachia care tips in the comments section below.