Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) Indoor Care, Propagation and Common Problems

Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) is a popular plant with large and highly decorative leaves, easy to grow and a good air cleaner. The stems are straight and may grow to a height of 5 ft under room conditions.

The leaves are simple and alternate containing white spots and flecks which make it an attractive houseplant. The lower leaves in Dumb Cane will normally fall to give the plant a False Palm effect.

The common name, "Dumb Cane", is derived from the unpleasant effect of its poisonous sap on the mouth and throat.

Dieffenbachia is poisonous to both humans and pets if ingested. Always wash hands thoroughly after handling.

Dumb cane, Dieffenbachia

Botanical name: Dieffenbachia
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Aroideae
Common names: Dumb Cane


Dieffenbachia is native to the New World Tropics from Mexico and the West Indies south to Argentina.

Air Purifying

According to the NASA Clean Air Study, Dumb cane was found to remove common VOCs like formaldehyde, toulene and xylene from indoor air.


There are many varieties of Dumb Cane available with varied leaf patterns and not all are easy to grow. The Dieffenbachia amoena and Dieffenbachia picta varieties are fairly tolerant and easy to grow.

Dieffenbachia amoena has dark-green foliage with white bars, the stems can reach a height of 5 ft and the leaves are 1.5 ft long at maturity.

Dieffenbachia picta is the most popular, bearing oval leaves with ivory white blotches or markings.

Other varieties include Dieffenbachia oerstedii which bears all-green leaves with a prominent white mid-rib, the yellow-green Dieffenbachia bausei and the giant-leaved Dieffenbachia bowmannii among many others.

Dieffenbachia are among the best large-leafed plants that will make a statement in any space due to their large size and decorative leaves.


Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) are toxic to both humans and pets as outlined by ASPCA.

If the leaves are chewed or ingested, they may cause temporary swelling of the tongue and the throat which may lead to a temporary loss of speech and hence the common name dumb cane. In severe cases suffocation may occur.

Where to Buy

If you are looking to add Dieffenbachia to your plant collection, they are available online.

Dieffenbachia Care Indoors

Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) flourishes in bright indirect light, warm and humid conditions and moderately moist, fertile, well-drained soils coupled with fortnightly feeding during the growing season.

Dieffenbachia requires pruning to keep it neat, to minimize pest and disease infestations and to rejuvenate growth. Repotting is done annually at the beginning of the growing season. Keep reading for the best growing conditions and how to provide them.

Dumb cane, Dieffenbachia


Water Dumb Cane liberally during the growing season and allow the top 1-2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to keep the soil consistently moist.

Reduce watering in the cold season to maintain the soil slightly moist but do not let the soil dry out completely.

Make sure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to stem-rot and eventual death of the plant. Learn more on how to water houseplants the right way.

Light Requirements

Dumb Cane grows best in bright indirect light away from direct sunshine. Direct sunlight will lead to leaf scorch while too bright light causes loss of leaf color.

Rotate the pot regularly to ensure that the plant gets light on all sides, which prevents it from bending towards the light source.

Dieffenbachia can also grow under a grow light where natural light is not sufficient. Take a look at these full spectrum grow lights on Amazon.

Temperature and Humidity

Average to above average warmth with a minimum of 150C is ideal for Dumb Cane. Keep it away from cold draughts as it is very sensitive to cold temperatures which may lead to yellowing and wilting of the lower leaves.

Average room humidity is ideal for Dumb Cane. When the temperatures are very high causing the air to become too dry, the plant with respond with brown leaf tips.

To increase humidity to prevent brown leaf tips, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Regularly clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and discourage pest infestations.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed Dumb Cane every 2-3 weeks during the growing period with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer to encourage foliage development.

Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn.

Potting Mix

The best potting mix for Dieffenbachia should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.

Most multi-purpose potting mixes are ideal for this plant. Buy quality Potting Mix online from Amazon.


Repot Dumb Cane annually at the beginning of the growing season. Use a pot 1-2 sizes larger and one that has drainage holes. Never allow the roots to sit in soggy soil as it can lead to stem-rot and death of the plant. Check out these Pots with Multi Mesh Drainage Holes on Amazon.


Pruning Dumb Cane involves removal of dead and yellow leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy as well as discourage pests and diseases.

With age, Dieffenbachia becomes leggy and unattractive. Cut off the cane, leaving a 4 in. stump. Use the crown for propagation. The stump will resprout to produce a new plant.

Dumb Cane, Dieffenbachia


Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from stem cuttings, from offshoots and from the top crown of leaves.

How to propagate Dumb Cane from stem cuttings

Take 2-3 in. long stem cuttings from a healthy Dumb Cane. Ensure each cutting has at least 2-3 leaf nodes as this is where new growth will come from.

Dip the lower cut-end of the cutting in a rooting hormone and insert it in moist, free-draining rooting soil.

Place the set up in a warm, well-lit place away from direct sunlight. Roots will develop in about 3-6 weeks.

Once there is new growth, the rooted Dumb Cane cuttings can be transplanted into individual pots.

How to propagate Dumb Cane from offshoots

Some varieties of Dumb Cane produce daughter plants (pups or offshoots) at the base.

Seperate the pups from the mother, with some roots when at least 10 in. tall and pot them in individual pots.

Place the pots in a warm, brightly-lit place and maintain the soil moist through out until new growth emerges.

Allow the new Dumb Cane to be well established before transplanting.

How to propagate Dumb Cane from the top crown of leaves

Remove the top crown of leaves of Dumb Cane bearing about 3 in. of stem.

Apply a rooting hormone on the stem of the crown of leaves and insert it in moist, free-draining, rooting soil.

Place the set up in a warm, well-lit place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges.

Allow the new Dumb Cane to be well established before transplanting after which routine care begin.

Dieffenbachia Common Problems with Solutions

Dieffenbachia indoor growing problems include yellow leaves, soft mushy stems, brown leaf tips, brown leaves, leaf spots, leggy growth, pests and diseases among others. Read more on Dieffenbachia Common Problems Indoors and their Treatment

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