Dieffenbachia – Dumb Cane

Dieffenbachia – Dumb Cane

Dieffenbachia – Dumb Cane 15°C (60°F). Tropical America.

A striking foliage plant with large elongated oval leaves which are bright green with blotches and spots of yellow. The sap is poisonous and if chewed will cause pain and numbness of the tongue (hence the name). It should be kept away from children or pets. It is not easy to grow in living room conditions as it demands constant warmth and humidity.


  • Growing season 15-24 °C (60-75 °F)
  • Minimum winter 15 °C (60 °F)

Soil: A soil-less compost.

Where to position: In the lightest position possible, protected from sun.

Watering requirements: Tepid water. Ensure that the soil stays moist. It is a high humidity plant. Mist-spray daily in hot weather, twice weekly at other times, using tepid water.

General care: Little feeding necessary; very weak liquid feed once or twice in the growing season. Maintain warmth and humidity. As it ages, the leaves will tend to drop. When this occurs, cut it back to one-third of its original height. Tend carefully and new shoots will form.

Rest: No marked resting period – no special routine.

When it looks sick:

Leaves droop and may drop : You are probably using too much water which is too cold.

Leaves get dry brown borders : Mist-spray regularly and increase the humidity.

Plant loses colour : It needs better light, though not full sun.

Leaves droop : Check that soil is moist. If not, water to correct condition.

There are many exciting plants to be found in this genus of outstanding foliage plants, but only very few are suited to other than warm greenhouse conditions. Warm, moist and shaded conditions suit them best, protected from draughts. Use a rich loam-based compost.

By far the best one for indoor use is D. Exotica, which has a compact habit and superbly variegated cream, white and green leaves. The variety ‘Tropic Snow’ is an even bolder plant attaining a height of some l·5 m (5 ft) with larger leaves and darker green colouring a fine plant if space is not a problem.

Another species likely to be encountered is D. seguina. As plants age, typical arum inflorescences are produced from the topmost leaf axils, but as these do nothing for the plant they should be removed.

You should always wash your hands after cutting any part of dieffenbachia plants, as the sap contains a poison that could render you Dieffenbachia - Dumb Cane speechless if enough of it gets on to your tongue.

Dieffenbachias can be propagated by removing young plants from around the base of the stem of the parent, or the main stem of mature Dieffenbachia - Dumb Cane plants can be put into 5 cm (2 in) sections and partly buried in moist peat in a propagating case that is kept at around 20°C (70°F).

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