Dieffenbachia (Dumb cane) - Expert tips

How to care for Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia): Care tips for houseplants

You're in for a treat with this species! There aren't many houseplants with such beautiful foliage mixes as Dieffenbachias. The leaves are generally large and oval and almost always have irregular spots with lighter green, yellow or even cream-coloured spots. These leaf patterns are just amazing!

Dieffenbachia is also known as Dumb Cane or Leopard Lily plant. It is native to tropical America and the West Indies and is a member of the Araceae (Arum) family. This genus includes more than 50 species of tropical plants and is popular as houseplants because of their tolerance to shade and easy maintenance. Dieffenbachia is perfect for busy people or beginners who may not have much experience with plants.

Dieffenbachia leaves

The “Dumb Cane” nickname comes from its ability to cause mouth swelling in those who eat the leaves, which makes them unable to speak, or "dumb". This means that when you buy a Dieffenbachia, you should always consider the plant and how it will (or will not) get along with any pets and children.

Dieffenbachia Care: 10 expert tips for growing it successfully

  1. Provide bright indirect light. Dieffenbachia prefers filtered sunlight. Direct sunlight can cause its leaves to burn and turn yellow.
  2. It can handle lower light well. However, leaves will be smaller, growth will be stunted, and those beautiful leaf patterns won't be as striking.
  3. Rotate your Dieffenbachia regularly. It will ensure that all the leaves receive equal light and ensure that your plant has a more beautiful shape.
  4. Let the soil slightly dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so wait until the soil has slightly dried before watering again.
  5. Avoid temperature fluctuations. Keep the temperature around the plant consistent, and avoid placing it near cold drafts or air conditioning vents.
  6. Keep the humidity level high. Dieffenbachia prefers a humid environment, so consider using a humidifier or placing a water tray near the plant.
  7. Watch out for pests. Common pests like spider mites and mealybugs can damage the leaves, so look for any signs of infestation.
  8. Fertilise regularly. Dieffenbachia can grow fast if you provide it with enough necessary nutrients. Use liquid plant food every 2-4 weeks in the growing season.
  9. Provide support, if necessary. Dieffenbachia can become top-heavy, so consider using a stake or trellis to support the plant as it grows.
  10. Prune regularly. Prune your Dieffenbachia regularly to promote bushier growth and remove any yellow or damaged leaves.

Dieffenbachia plant care tips

Dumb Cane care is easy when you know exactly what to do. With the following information, we will help you with the proper information regarding the growth requirements in order to keep your Dieffenbachia alive and thriving.

Light and placement

Dieffenbachia loves indirect bright light, so a spot near an east or north-facing window is perfect. Since they grow in the understory of tropical forests, they cannot tolerate direct sunlight. It will survive if it gets some morning sun or evening sun. When it’s near a sunny south or west-facing window, use some curtains to filter the direct sunlight.

Tip! Rotate your plant occasionally. This way, all sides of the plant will get equal light. It will also help keep its shape looking even as it tends to lean towards the light.

Dieffenbachia is also known to tolerate shadier conditions. They may not grow as fast, and their leaves may not be as vibrant and big, but they live well. However, in too-dim situations, it can become leggy. If the room is particularly dark, consider adding some artificial lighting.

Dieffenbachia houseplant


When watering Dumb Cane, it is essential to strike a balance between keeping the soil moist and avoiding overwatering. It is prone to root rot if the soil is too wet for a prolonged time. The best time to water is when the topsoil is dry to the touch or when the entire soil has slightly dried out.

To determine if it is time to water, use a water meter or stick your finger into the soil to check the moisture level. Dieffenbachias are also known as drama queens - they will tell you they need water by dramatically wilting leaves. But don't worry, a quick drink of water will have them perking up in no time.

Tip! Use water that's at room temperature when watering your Dieffenbachia. Cold water can shock the roots, so it's best to use water that's at a comfortable temperature for yourself.

If you're unsure whether it is the right time to water, remember that dry soil is better than wet soil. Your Dieffenbachia will forgive you when you forget to water it. However, when you forget it for too long, its leaves will start to yellow (usually lower and older leaves).

Dieffenbachia also can be sensitive to fluoride and chlorine, which can be found in tap water. If you think your tap water is high in these compounds, let it sit for 24 hours before using it on plants.


Dieffenbachia does benefit from regular fertilisation, especially if it is a younger or rapidly growing plant. It just eventually will use all necessary nutrients from its soil. Although Dieffenbachia can do with minimal nutrients, it will grow slowly but maintain a desirable shape.

As a general guideline, use a PLNTS Nutirion liquid plant food every 4-6 weeks during the active growing season (from spring to summer). If the plants grow in low light, they can be fertilised less often.

It is not necessary to fertilise during the winter months, but if you see that your plants are still growing and new growth is coming, you can fertilise a little (dilute it 50%, for example). Remember that they are pretty sensitive to over-fertilising - you'll see curling or browning.

Dieffenbachia watering


Dieffenbachia plants thrive best in temperatures between 18-29°C, so keeping them in a room with an average home temperature is perfect. However, they don't like sudden temperature changes. It can disrupt their metabolic and growth processes, leading to stress and potential damage. So keep them away from open windows/doors and heating elements.

They are pretty tolerant and can handle lower temperatures for a short period, with a minimum of around 10°C. Still, temperatures lower than that may cause some damage to the plant.

Is it safe to take it outside in the summer (Europe)?

Dieffenbachia can be taken outside in the summer, but it should be gradually acclimated to the outdoor conditions and protected from direct sunlight and strong winds. Give your Dieffenbachia some fresh air by placing it on your terrace or balcony where extreme weather won't bother it. Remember to take it back inside before it gets chilly!


Dieffenbachia enjoys humid environments with an optimal humidity range between 60-70%. Although it can handle humidity levels as low as 40%, it may start to show signs of stress, like brown leaf edges or wilting. A relatively humid atmosphere results in vigorous growth, as the large leaves can dry out in a warm room. To increase humidity levels around the plant, mist it regularly, place a humidifier near it or place it on a tray filled with pebbles and water. Additionally, grouping plants together helps them to maintain higher humidity levels. Find out how to measure air humidity and how to raise it.

Dieffenbachia spraying


Dieffenbachia plants may need to be repotted periodically to provide fresh soil and room for growth. The frequency of repotting will depend on the plant's size, the pot's size, and the growth rate.

As a general rule of thumb, it's a good idea to repot your Dumb Cane plant every 2 years or when you notice that the roots have filled the pot and are growing through the drainage holes. Read our best tips on repotting houseplants.


Dumb Cane plants prefer a well-draining potting soil that is slightly acidic, pH between 6.0-6.5. A mix of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite is a good option. Avoid too compact soil that doesn't drain well.

Dieffenbachia propagation

Dieffenbachias are easy to propagate, although they may take a little longer to root. You can propagate them when your plant has grown too tall or leggy or just for the joy of it. Just a friendly reminder, when propagating, it's best to wear gloves as the "milk" from the plant is toxic.

Dieffenbachia can be propagated in two ways: stem cuttings and air-layering. Stem cuttings it more common and easier, while air-layering is excellent for experimenting and older plants.

Easy step-by-step guide on how to propagate Dieffenbachia by stem cuttings:

  1. Select a healthy stem from the Dieffenbachia at least 8 cm in length and has at least 2-3 leaves.
  2. Make a clean cut just below a leaf node (the point where leaves grow from the stem).
  3. If you have any leaves left at the bottom of the cutting, remove them.
  4. Dip the bottom end of the stem cutting in rooting powder to encourage root growth.
  5. Plant the stem cutting in well-draining potting soil.
  6. Water your cutting well and place it in a warm, bright location. Keep it out of direct sunlight.
  7. Keep the soil consistently moist and mist the leaves regularly to increase humidity.

Alternatively, you can root your cutting in a glass of water so you can see when it's forming new roots. Doing this, remember to change or add some fresh water regularly. When roots have developed, transplant them into the soil.

Dieffenbachia repotting

Easy step-by-step guide on how to propagate Dieffenbachia by air-layering:

  1. Select a healthy stem from the Dieffenbachia that is at least 20 cm long and has at least 2-3 leaves.
  2. Make a cut around the stem at a leaf node (about 2-3 cm long) and lightly scrape it.
  3. Apply rooting hormone powder to the scraped area.
  4. Put some damp sphagnum moss around the scraped area, wrap a plastic wrap around it, and secure it with a twist tie or rubber band.
  5. Keep the plastic wrap moist by misting it regularly and placing it in a warm, bright location but out of direct sunlight.
  6. Check the plastic wrap regularly to make sure that the roots are forming.
  7. Once roots have formed, carefully cut the stem below the roots and pot it up as a new plant.

Most common pest on Dieffenbachia

The classic pests that affect most houseplants can also affect your Dieffenbachia: mealybugs, spider mites and aphids. You can try to wipe these pests away with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol. This is an effective tactic if you discover the infestation in its early stages, but we recommend that you visit our PLNTS doctor page to make sure which pests are infecting your Dieffenbachia and how to control them.

Dieffenbachia Frequenlt Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are Dieffenbachia’s toxic for pets or children?

Yes, they are. Dieffenbachia contains crystalline, needle-like structures that are emitted when the cell walls are damaged. Ingestion of the plant causes a stinging and burning sensation in the mouth and throat, with symptoms lasting up to two weeks. This reaction can make speaking impossible. Exposure to the eyes is particularly painful.

So, handle the plant with care when pruning or making cuttings for propagation. Small children and pets should be kept away from Dieffenbachia plants.

Is Dieffenbachia hard to care for?

Dieffenbachia is rather easy to care for if you provide it with the right growing conditions. They like to be in a warm place with filtered bright light. Avoid too intensive sunlight. The hardest part is finding a proper watering routine, but it will come with practice!

Can I prune my Dieffenbachia?

You can prune back your plant heavily if it has grown too tall and has become leafless at the bottom. Cut stems can be treated as stem cuttings, and you can root them and grow new healthy and compact plants. The cut stem ending that was left in a pot will also grow new healthy leaves if you continue to water it and give it enough light.

Additionally, you can cut all yellowed and damaged leaves. It is recommended to wear gloves when pruning as the plant's "milk" is toxic.

Why are the leaves of my Dieffenbachia turning yellow?

One common cause is over-watering, as the roots of the plant can become waterlogged and unable to absorb water or nutrients properly. Underwatering can also cause the same. Usually, when this happens, older leaves turn yellow.

Another possible cause is a lack of proper lighting, as Dieffenbachia prefers bright, indirect light. If the plant is not receiving enough light, it may struggle to photosynthesise properly, and the leaves may turn yellow as a result. Additionally, pests or diseases can also cause yellowing leaves.

It is essential to inspect your plant carefully and address any issues as soon as possible to ensure the health of your Dieffenbachia. So, keep an eye on the water and light conditions, check for any signs of pests or disease on the leaves, and take necessary actions.

Why are my Dieffenbachia leaf edges brown?

Brown leaf edges are often caused by environmental stress such as lack of humidity, underwatering or high temperatures (too sunny spot). When this happens, the plant loses water, and the cells on the edges of the leaves can get damaged, which causes them to turn brown. So, if you notice that the edges of your plant's leaves are turning brown and crispy, your plant is likely feeling a bit stressed.

To help your plant feel better, it's important to take a closer look at its environment. Think about how often you're watering your plant, what the humidity is like in the room, and if your plant is getting too much sunlight. If you figure out what the problem is, you can make some small changes to make your plant more comfortable.

Should I bottom water Dieffenbachia?

It is generally recommended to bottom water Dieffenbachia plants. This means that instead of watering the plant from the top, you would place the pot in a tray of water and allow the roots to soak up the water from the bottom.

This method of a watering can be beneficial for Dieffenbachia plants because it helps to prevent water from sitting on the leaves and causing rot or mold. Additionally, bottom watering can ensure that the roots are getting the proper amount of moisture, as the plant can only absorb as much water as it needs.

Do Dieffenbachia like to be misted?

Dieffenbachia tolerates misting well, but it is unnecessary if the room's humidity is already high. If you have a plant that needs its leaves cleaned or if you want to raise the humidity in the air near the plant, misting can be useful.

Why is my Dieffenbachia crying?

Don't worry, your Dieffenbachia is not crying! It's just releasing droplets of water from its leaves, which is a natural process called guttation. It's nothing to be concerned about. This process is often seen in the morning, on the tips or edges of the leaves, and is caused by water movement from the roots to the leaves. It's usually due to high humidity, moist soil or high transpiration rate, but it can also vary depending on the plant species. Just keep an eye on your plant's overall health and address any issues that may affect it, such as over or underwatering.

Buy Dieffenbachia online at PLNTS.com

At PLNTS.com you can buy your new Dieffenbachia online, for example the Dieffenbachia Reflector. Whether you like your PLNTS big from the start or prefer to grow them from tiny BabyPLNTS into full-grown PLNTS - buy Dieffenbachia online at PLNTS.com

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Hi, I'm Emma, your PLNTS.com guide!

Hi, I’m Emma, your PLNTS.com guide!