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Dieffenbachia: Popular, Low-Maintenance Houseplant

Dieffenbachia is a popular houseplant because it is simple to care for and has unique leaf patterns that will stand out in any room. Take caution when placing this plant in your home since it is toxic to humans and pets.

Other names for this plant...

Dumb cane Leopard lily

About Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachia is one of the easiest indoor plants to grow. It is also among the most common houseplants because it is perfect for beginners and has distinctive leaf patterns.

It is a tropical plant with lush leaves marked in cream, yellow, or white shades. On larger types of Dieffenbachia, individual leaves can be more than a foot long. As Dieffenbachia grows and ages, its lower leaves may fall off to reveal a thick, bamboo-like stem.

Botanical Name

The botanical name for dieffenbachia is Dieffenbachia spp. Dieffenbachia plants are part of the Araceae, or aroid, family.

Other Names

A common name for dieffenbachia plants is “dumb cane.” It got this name from the effects of the toxins in the plant. Sometimes the swelling of the mouth from the poisonous plant can be so severe that the victim cannot speak. Another common name for dieffenbachias is “leopard lily.”

Plant Type

Dieffenbachias are perennial herbaceous plants. These types of plants do not have wood parts. Instead of wood parts, they have flexible, green stems. Their above-ground parts usually die into the ground each year. Perennials are different from annuals because when they die in the winter, they enter a dormant period and will come back to life in the spring.


Dieffenbachia is native to the tropics of South America, Mexico, and the West Indies. The genus Dieffenbachia was named after Herr Joseph Dieffenbach, the head gardener and administrator at the Royal Palace Gardens Schönbrunn, Vienna during the 1830s.


Dieffenbachia is easily identified by its large, green, and uniquely patterned leaves. Various cultivars are available; most have variegated white and green, cream and green, or all-green leaves. The shadings can be speckled, splotched, or striped. Each plant features leaves that are a green-yellow near the vein and turn a dark green toward the edge of the leaf.

The plant occasionally bears calla-type flowers but rarely flowers when raised as a houseplant. Dieffenbachia flowers have a unique structure containing a spathe and spadix. The flower is beige and off-white with no fragrance. The bloom is often compared to a peace lily.

Dieffenbachia variegation can take different forms, such as spots, splashes, or distinct stripes, depending on the specific cultivar.

Types Of Dieffenbachia

There are 24 different types of dieffenbachia species. Dieffenbachia seguine is the most popular type of Dieffenbachia sold in stores. Dieffenbachia maculata is another popular type of Dieffenbachia used as a houseplant. Other commonly used types of Dieffenbachia for indoor plants are listed below:

  • Seguine

  • Compacta

  • Maculata

  • Golden sunset

  • Camilla (aka Camille)

  • Amoena

  • Tropic snow

Dieffenbachia Styling 

The light colors on dieffenbachia leaves make it a good option for brightening dim corners. This plant adds color even though it might not flower. Since it grows upright, it looks nice in a floor pot placed along an empty wall or near a large piece of furniture.

You can also group dieffenbachia with plants like spider plants, ferns, or Pothos for varying color and texture.

Smaller Dieffenbachia plants are perfect for shelves and desks.


Dieffenbachia plants live best when given bright but indirect light. The plant will do fine in partly shaded areas, too, but it may lose some of its colors.


Maintain a regular watering schedule for Diffenbachia. On average, water it once a week. Make sure the soil does not feel soggy between waterings and allow the top layer to dry out. The amount of water it needs depends on the season. In warm months, it will need to be watered more frequently, while in cold months, you can water it less regularly.


Keep dieffenbachia plants in warm areas. The plant suffers if temperatures get too low. An area with a temperature between 60°F - 80 °F is ideal for this type of plant.


Dieffenbachia thrives in areas with high humidity, but it will survive in lower humidity as well. If your house is very dry in the winter, consider using a pebble tray or humidifier.


Use a fast-draining and well-aerated potting mix. Ensure the plant gets good drainage to avoid root rot.


Brown or yellow leaves should be removed from the plant at any time. Pruning also helps the Dieffenbachia to grow bushier. Cut dying leaves back down to the main stem. You can even prune leaf tips by following the natural shape of the leaf with your garden shears. Regularly prune out new growth at the top to keep the Dieffenbachia from looking leggy.


Use a balanced and diluted houseplant fertilizer once per month during the growing season. Water the plant first and apply the fertilizer directly to the soil, not the leaves.

Height & Growth

Most dieffenbachia plants grow from 3-6 feet tall to 1-3 feet wide. Individual leaves on the plant can grow 18 inches long and 12 inches wide. Large and well-grown dieffenbachias could reach 10 feet tall with leaves 20 inches long, but this is rare.


Dieffenbachia is poisonous, but it seldom causes serious harm. All parts of the plant have microscopic needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals. If ingested, the plant can cause a painful and swollen mouth.

Avoid coming into contact with the sap. If you do, quickly wash it off and be careful not to rub your eye or put your fingers near your mouth.


Dieffenbachia is toxic to animals. Keep it out of reach of pets.

Common Problems 

  • Spider mites - Like many indoor plants, Dieffenbachia can be susceptible to pests like spider mites. These pests can be treated with horticultural neem oil or a pesticide.

  • Yellow leaves - Yellow leaves on your Dieffenbachia are a sign of under-watering or over-watering. Green leaves that have turned yellow could also signify a lack of nutrients, such as nitrogen.

  • Drooping leaves - If your dieffenbachia plant is drooping, it might indicate too much sunlight or not enough water. Bright light with partial shade is ideal for dieffenbachia plants.

Dieffenbachia needs a consistent watering schedule.

How To Propagate Dieffenbachia

To propagate Dieffenbachia:

  1. Cut one or more canes at the soil level.

  2. Slice it into chunks that are about 2 inches long.

  3. Push each piece halfway into a free-draining compost mix.

  4. Water it well and keep it in a warm area.

After several weeks, new growth should be visible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Dieffenbachia an air purifier?

A benefit of having a dieffenbachia plant indoors is that it purifies the air. The plant’s foliage helps remove toxins from the air and reduces toxic compounds such as xylene and toluene.

Does dieffenbachia like being misted?

Dieffenbachia doesn’t require misting, but doing so won’t hurt the plant. These plants love humidity, so misting helps the plant retain moisture in dry winter months.

Why is water dripping from my dieffenbachia leaves?

A little water dripping from dieffenbachia leaves is normal and doesn’t indicate an issue with your plant. Dieffenbachia may begin to “cry” or “weep” to regulate its balance of moisture and minerals.

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