PRO TIP: Dieffenbachia have a toxic sap that can cause the tongue to swell, giving the plant its nickname, “Dumb Cane”. Keep out of reach of pets and children, and wash your hands after pruning.
The Dieffenbachia is a lush and showy plant from the tropics of Mexico, South America, and the West Indies. Often called “Dumb Cane” due to its toxic sap that causes irritation when ingested, this plant is not ideal for a space with small children or curious pets. However, with a small amount of caution it poses no significant threat.
This plant will thrive in a spot that receives bright ambient light, but direct sun will scorch the leaves. In an office space, the Dieffenbachia can adapt to fluorescent lighting, though it may take some time to adjust.
If you are unsure about the lighting conditions in your home or office, read our guide for how to measure light in your space.
The Dieffenbachia's broad, patterned leaves make it an excellent companion in plant clusters.
PRO TIP: The leaves of the Dieffenbachia are expressive and will often let you know the state that the plant is in. A thirsty plant's leaves will crinkle and become dry, eventually falling off, while an overwatered plants leaves will slake off and leave behind a slimy residue on the stalk.
Always be sure to assess your plant’s watering needs upon receiving it. Before giving your plant a drink, it is best to check the moisture level in the soil first to ensure it isn’t moist right beneath the surface. Also, consider aerating the soil of your plant before the initial watering. We compact the soil to avoid shifting during transit, so aerating can help the soil breathe and allow moisture to be released.
Dieffenbachia prefer soil that is consistently and lightly moist, but not soggy. Generally, aim to water when the top 1”- 2” of the soil is dry, but if the plant is in a lower light condition, it can comfortably dry out a little further. However, allowing the soil to dry completely will result in the leaves browning, drooping, and wilting.
Cool drafts can cause the plant’s leaves to yellow and curl, so keep it in a spot with temperatures above 60 degrees. The Dieffenbachia is susceptible to spider mites, but placing it out of the direct stream of air vents and increasing the humidity around the plant with a humidifier, pebble tray, or mister will aid in prevention.
Rotate your plant periodically to ensure even growth on all sides and dust the leaves often so the plant can photosynthesize efficiently. When dusting the leaves, also take the opportunity to inspect the undersides and keep an eye out for pests.
Remember each plant is a unique living thing and may have varying needs, especially in their individual locations. Pay attention to the condition of your Dieffenbachia and its watering needs and you will have a long and happy relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are my Dieffenbachia leaves drooping?
- Droopy leaves are often caused by underwatering. Feel the soil of your plant, when the surface is dry to the touch your plant is ready for a drink. If the soil is moist and the leaves are drooping, then the issue may be too much water, not enough light, or cold temperatures.
My plant is developing brown tips on the leaves, what’s going on?
- Browning tips can be caused by uneven watering. Make sure that your plant gets watered regularly. It is best that your plant does not sit in too much water. Additionally, the soil should not remain dry for extended periods. Adjust the watering, and trim away the brown tips with a clean pair of sheers, following the shape of the leaf.
How do I keep my plants growth even and full?
- Dieffenbachia produce lots of new growth in short periods of time. Rotate your plant regularly as it will grow toward the light source and this will prevent it from becoming bare on one side. Fertilizer will help promote new growth so ensure the plant is properly fed. Pruning your plant regularly can also prevent it from acquiring a top heavy shape. Be sure to wear gloves or wash your hands directly after pruning. Do not let the sap get in contact with your eyes or mouth.
How often should I fertilize my plant?
- In general, house plants will thrive when they are fertilized spring through fall. Fertilize once a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer, following the package instructions for dilution and administration. Greenery NYC uses an organic potting mix with a slow release fertilizer in the soil so your plant will not need fertilizer within the first 6 months of receiving it.
How often does my plant need to be repotted?
- For smaller desktop plants, we suggest repotting once every 12-18 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel 1”- 2” larger in diameter to allow for growth. Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plant's roots. If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Spring or summer is the ideal time to repot as the plant is at its strongest.
- For larger floor plants, we suggest repotting every 18-24 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel 2”- 4” larger in diameter to allow for growth. Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plant's roots. If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Spring or summer is the ideal time to repot as the plant is at its strongest.
Standard Planter Instructions
There are two types of standard planters offered by Greenery Unlimited—those with drainage holes, and those without. Within these two categories are an array of sizes and styles to choose from. The presence of drainage holes and the size of the planted vessel both play a role in the quantity and frequency of water given to your plant.
Plants purchased in pots without a drainage hole have been set up with a built-in drainage system. A layer of Aeration Stones (porous, absorbent material made of recycled clay) has been placed beneath the soil to act as a reservoir for any excess water that flows through the soil. You will need to be slightly more cautious not to pour too much water into these containers as there is no way for the excess water to escape. We suggest slowly pouring small amounts of water in bit by bit, until you have reached the desired moisture level in the soil.
For plants potted with drainage, water until the excess begins to come out the bottom of the pot and into the catch tray.
Self Watering Container Instructions
The self-watering containers require a deep and thorough watering of the topsoil after they are first placed. This is important because the roots of the plants first need to grow into the reservoir in order to drink from it. Follow the standard planter instructions for at least four weeks, before testing the reservoir. During the dormant seasons, or for plants that have slower growing habits, consider top watering for up to ten weeks.
TEST: After the initial top water period, fill the water reservoir until the red indicator reaches half way between the MAX and MIN line. If the indicator goes down over the first few days, it means the plant is ready for regular reservoir servicing. If not, be sure to continue top watering for a few more weeks, until the red indicator goes down, meaning the plant has started drinking from the reservoir.
RESERVOIR SERVICING: Once the indicator goes down, do not refill the reservoir right away. Similar to how humans need a breath of air between gulps of water, almost all plants require a drying out period. Always allow for the reservoir to empty all the way, and after a drying out period of a few days, be sure to refill it until the indicator reaches the MAX line.
From here on out, you should NEVER topwater the plant while using the reservoir system. If you water from the top, it can drown the plant. In the Self Watering Container, the top layer of soil will eventually become extremely dry and hard, and may even pull away from the edges of the pot. This is not a cause for concern, but simply because the plant is drinking directly from its roots in the water reservoir. You may opt for adding fresh soil into the gaps between the soil and planter, so as to give the plant a nutrient boost. You may annually, or bi annually, top water the plant to flush the foot system. Only do so when the reservoir is empty and the plant is ready for more water.
Step 1: Top water for four to ten weeks. The indicator will look empty, like the picture above.
Step 2: Fill the reservoir until the red indicator reaches the MAX line.
Step 3: Watch the indicator over the next day or two. If it goes down on its own, it means the roots of the plant have grown into the reservoir. From here on out, ONLY water into the reservoir.
Aeration Stones promote healthy root growth by creating air pockets in the soil and absorbing excess water in the basin of your planter. These porous clay stones are a natural, efficient and invaluable material to set your plant up for success. We always suggest using these when working with a planter without drainage holes.
We've tried countless pruners over the years, and none surpass the ARS. Our team uses these pruners daily for all manor of indoor and outdoor plant work and we'll never go back to another brand.
Neem Oil is an all purpose insecticide, miticide, and fungicide used for organic gardening. It's systemic, which means the plant will absorb the neem oil into its circulatory system and poison pests from within. Be careful not to overuse, as this can weaken plants and cause discoloration.
Plants do poorly without air to the roots. Overwatering causes the air to be pushed out of the soil, compacting the soil around the waterlogged roots of the plant. Using the Soil Probe aerates the soil as it checks for moisture.
Watering cans come in all shapes and sizes, and the perfect one for your home is the one you're happiest living with. Look for long spouts and a container volume that's appropriate for your plant collection.
Fox Farm Ocean Forest contains all the features we look for when aiming to ensure the long term health of a plant: excellent water retention, breathability, texture, and is made from organic materials.
10-4-3 fertilizer is a great, gentle choice for indoor foliage. Simply mix this in to your watering can using the supplied directions every other week. Ensure that your plant is receiving a good amount of light, otherwise it won't have the energy to process the nutrients and burnt tips may occur on the foliage.