Let’s talk about the dieffenbachia. For me, it’s the plant that I fall in love with over and over again whenever I look at it, but it’s also the plant that I tend to ignore. My dieffenbachia, also colloquially known as a dumb cane, has been slowly eking by over the past year, and while it’ll lose a leaf or two from time to time, it’ll keep putting out growth (and growing taller and taller). It’s a reliable plant with striking foliage and can grow quite beautifully under ideal conditions.
Native to tropical South America and the Caribbean, the dieffenbachia has been popular in homes since the Victorian era. As a houseplant, it’s usually around one foot tall with a straight stem and simple alternating leaves. However, it may grow up to eight feet tall. This tropical flowering plant comes in many different variegated forms, all of which share similar elements. My particular plant is a Tropic Snow variety, which has creamy white leaves edged and flushed with dark green. Other types of dieffenbachias include Star Bright, Honeydew, Camille, and more — basically, you’ll find creamy leaves with some dark or medium green edge or speckling!
I suspect my plant needs a bigger pot and more light to grow to its full potential, but it’s been (at least) going through the motions in its four-inch home. Happy in loose, well-draining soil such as a peat and perlite mixture, the dieffenbachia thrives in room temperature above 60 degrees and tolerates medium to bright indirect light. It does tend to grow better with generous lighting but may get yellow, faded leaves with too much sun exposure.
Whenever the surface of the plant feels dry, water thoroughly, yet sparingly, as too little water can cause droopy leaves and leaf drop, but too much water can lead to root rot. Like many foliage plants, the dieffenbachia appreciates humidity, so if you find its large leaves drying up, place it in a tray with pebbles or keep a humidifier handy. As for food, feed your dieffenbachia plant with all-purpose liquid fertilizer once or twice a month during spring and summer! You don’t want to go overboard with the fertilizer, though, as it may cause browning tips.
The dieffenbachia doesn’t typically get pests. However, should you find mealybugs or spider mites, your best bet is to spray down your plant with water and apply neem oil to the affected areas.
One last note: do not ingest your dieffenbachia plant! The sap is poisonous and will cause your mouth to swell and burn. Keep it away from your little ones and pets!
My dieffenbachia is getting old, but it’s a survivor. I might give the stalk a much-needed cutting later and try to repropagate, but for now, I’ll give it more fertilizer and a good helping of sunlight. While it’s by no means my easiest plant, I recommend the dieffenbachia plant to foliage novices — it’s a relatively common and inexpensive find that’s beautiful in form and will teach you a thing or two about plant parenthood without too much heartbreak!