If you ask any serious indoor gardener to name some of the top indoor plants to have, then dieffenbachia will quickly make the list. The other name for this plant is “dumb cane,” and it has a very appealing green and white foliage that is sure to look good in your living room – you must have come across it in some of your friends’ homes.
And why would such an appealing plant be referred to as a dumb cane? Well, the sap from the Dieffenbachia can cause swelling in your mouth and throat making you unable to utter any word – simply, dumb. Yes, it is a toxic plant, and you should keep it out of reach of children and pets.
In the following write up, we explore some of the care tips for a Dieffenbachia plant.
Characteristics of the Dumb Cane Plant
Depending on the cultivar, the leaves are typically thick and large with a mixture of white, green and yellow colors. Their overall size, variegation, and color vary across different varieties.
There are many compact varieties that you will not need to keep cutting to achieve the right size – most grow as far as 12 inches. If you think about it, Dieffenbachia can make perfect accent plants or even ground covers.
However, not all varieties are natural dwarfs. Some can grow more than 8 feet. Ideally, you should keep pruning these taller types to achieve a fuller form.
The Dieffenbachias do not flower indoors even though they do so seasonally. And when they do, they are not showy.
Planting and Care
The ideal medium for the houseplant is highly organic, loose and fertile. You are free to use different mixes such as peat and perlite (1:1), pure peat, and peat and soil (1:4). Whichever medium you choose, make sure it is well-drained and has a good water holding capacity.
When it comes to foliage plants, it is usually difficult to provide a particular recommendation. Fertilizing minimally makes the plants grow slowly but keep the desired shape. If the Dieffenbachias are in low light, then fertilization requirements will be quite low.
As a rule of the thumb, always strive to use a balanced fertilizer feed at intervals of 4-6 weeks when they are actively growing.
Like most other indoor plants, you should resist the urge to overwater but instead, keep the soil reasonably moist. In ideal situations, you should water once and wait until the soil is dry to the touch.
When the houseplant is in a relatively moist environment, it will grow vigorously and may lose its shape in the process. If the room is too hot, then you should maintain a reasonable level of humidity by putting the pot on top of the pebbled tray with some water.
Problems associated with watering include rotting off at the base or yellowing. Instances of low humidity cause the drying off of the leaves.
Light and Temperature
This houseplant can do reasonably well in a variety of lighting conditions. Unlike the majority of houseplants that must be kept in good lighting conditions near a window, you can have the Dieffenbachia in some of the dark spots in your house. However, this will lead to slow growth.
The best temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees. Make sure that the temperatures never go below 50 degrees.
Insufficient light can cause them to become leggy and the falling off of lower leaves. Sudden temperature drops can also cause the dropping off of lower leaves.
Full sunlight can cause yellowing and discoloration.
You can acquire new plants from the cuttings of small shoots or from the terminal portion of the houseplant. Avoid any possible contact with the trickling juice.
It is possible to use stems whose leaves have dropped. Typically, cut them in half and leave them for a day to dry. Then go ahead and stick them into a rooting medium such as vermiculite or peat.
Cuttings obtained from the top of the plant develop roots faster than those closer to the base of the plant – now you know which you need to select, right? Furthermore, larger stems are better than thin ones – of course, the bigger stems have more abundant food reserves than the thin.
The Diseases and Pests of the Dieffenbachia Plant
Bacteria can consume your Dieffenbachia within a short period. The disease causes the plant to rot producing a nasty smell – you have an idea. The stem becomes soft, and the leaves turn slimy.
The ideal conditions for bacteria are humid and wet conditions. When your plant becomes infected, there is nothing you can do. Just throw it away and try your luck with another cultivar.
There are two significant reasons for the Dieffenbachia to develop winter brown spots, mostly during the cold months. First is allowing the soil to dry excessively before you can decide to water them or over-fertilizing.
The most common pests affecting the Dieffenbachia include aphids and mealy bugs that love the juice from the plant – for them, the toxicity of the sap is a non-issue, really. You can kick these bugs out with common sprays such as Neem Oil for Plants or Malathion.
You can also get rid of mealy bugs by rubbing them off with cotton dipped in alcohol.
Some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Dieffenbachia Plant
- Is a dieffenbachia plant poisonous?
The leaves of this houseplant contain raphides, a chemical that easily irritates the mouth and lips when chewed. The animals that ingest the plants may be unable to swallow properly which is not a small issue. If you suspect that your pet has decided to try the edibility of the plant, rush it to the vet, and he will know what to do.
For humans, the plant can make the mouth and throat to swell and in severe cases, lead to choking.
- Why are the tips of my dieffenbachia plant turning brown?
The main reason for this would be uneven watering. Ideally, the keep the soil moist and avoid cases of overwatering.
When the water is too little, you will have droopy leaves that easily turn to yellow. However, if the leaves just drop and fall without changing color, then they could be feeling cold.