Dieffenbachia (pronounced dee-fen-BOK-ee-uh) is a tropical foliage houseplant that’s become popular due to the beautiful leaf patterns. What else is there to know about these plants?
Dieffenbachia is a tropical plant commonly grown as a low-maintenance ornamental houseplant. Capable of growing up to 5 feet tall indoors, they have gorgeous, large leaves with various patterns and colors. Because of their near-effortless care and beauty, Dieffenbachias are the perfect plant for any home or office space.
In this article, we’ll discuss proper care tips to make your Dieffenbachia not only the happiest plant in the house but the envy of everyone who sees it. These plants are easy to care for, but there are some things you should know before you get one.
Dieffenbachia: The basics
Known for being large and showy, Dieffenbachias, with their huge, patterned leaves and tall stalks are popular houseplants. The tropical foliage brings brightness to any room and acts as a stylish air purifier in your home. Dieffenbachia is native to South America, covering regions from Mexico to the West Indies to Argentina.
Dieffenbachia plants have high toxicity due to naturally-occurring poison in their foliage. When ingested, their leaves can cause swelling of the throat, temporary loss of speech (mute or dumb), and in more serious cases, suffocation in humans. Exposure can also be toxic to pets so make sure every member of your house understands to keep this plant out of their mouth!
There are many different varieties of Dieffenbachia, but a few types tend to be the most popular. Here are some common varieties of Dieffenbachia to consider for your indoor space:
- Dieffenbachia Perfecta – Variegated leaves with green spots and streaks
- Dieffenbachia Compacta – Smaller variety, leaves have white centers
- Dieffenbachia Camille – Creamy-white leaves edged with dark green
- Dieffenbachia Carina – Large variety of Dieffenbachia, medium green leaves speckled green
- Dieffenbachia Mary – Fast growing, light green leaves with irregular dark and creamy green stripes
- Dieffenbachia Tropic Snow – Large, dark green leaves sprinkled with silvery green and creamy white speckles
- Dieffenbachia Sparkles – Light green leaves splotched with dark green and white
- Dieffenbachia Delilah – Long white leaves with delicate green edges and specles
- Dieffenbachia Tropic Marianne – White leaves with no dots, and with dark green edges
- Dieffenbachia Camouflage – Pale jade leaves with random dark green spots
- Dieffenbachia Honeydew – Light golden yellow leaves edged in dark green
Light requirements for Dieffenbachia plants
Like many plants, Dieffenbachia plants love light. They just don’t love it enough to want to be placed directly in strong beams of light (especially direct sunlight). Dieffenbachias will thrive in bright sunlight, as long as it’s filtered and/or indirect.
Dieffenbachia grown indoors will likely benefit from supplemental lighting from am LED plant lightbulb. An important practice to use while caring for your Dieffenbachia is to rotate it regularly, so all sides of the large plant can get some light. If any variety of Dieffenbachia doesn’t get enough light, it will start to grow tall in an awkward and leggy way.
Watering Dieffenbachia plants
While watering your Dieffenbachia plant, the most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t want too much water. However, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t require water because it still does. Dieffenbachias will be happiest when watered once or twice a week, watering until it runs out of the bottom of the container (depending on what kind of container you have).
Another way to tell if you’re giving your Dieffenbachia the water it needs is to check the moisture of your soil. The top inch of your soil should be moist at all times. Remember, don’t overwater, or your Dieffenbachia may be subject to root rot.
Ambient temperature and indoor humidity for Dieffenbachia plants
Dieffenbachias, being tropical, enjoy warm temperatures and relatively high humidity. Most Dieffenbachias need to stay at an indoor temperature of around 62°-80°F, with about 60% humidity. Dieffenbachias will not tolerate cold temperatures. Like many other plants, cold temperatures will make them lose leaves!
If your Dieffenbachia doesn’t have enough humidity, you’ll see brown tips or edges appear on its leaves. To address this, run a humidifier in your home for a while. Don’t have a humidifier? Put your Dieffenbachia in a sunny bathroom (or in a bathroom right after someone gets out of the shower). A pebble tray can be used underneath the planter pot, but these are generally quite ineffective compared to humidifiers.
Potting mix for Dieffenbachias
The most important thing to remember about Dieffenbachia is that they need a well-draining potting mix and planter pot. Without these, Dieffenbachias can be prone to root rot. This condition is caused by fungi that grow when plants are either overwatered or don’t have the drainage that they need.
Use fresh tropical plant potting soil to repot your Dieffenbachias to avoid transferring soil-borne diseases. Another great option is to use an African Violet potting mix. Potting mix can also be used to propagate Dieffenbachia plants using stem cuttings.
Re-potting and planter pots for Dieffenbachias
Dieffenbachia plants are generally quite easy to repot. Once you’ve found a well-draining potting mix, double-check to ensure that your chosen planter pot has a drainage hole (or holes) to allow water to drain out easily. A saucer can be used underneath the plant pot if it is placed on a delicate surface or on the floor.
To start repotting, remove the Dieffenbachia plant’s soil and root ball from its existing planter pot. Loosen up any thick roots that look like they have been circling the outside of the root ball looking for extra space. Place the root ball in the new pot and surround it with fresh potting mix. You may need to put some potting mix in the bottom if the new pot is deeper in addition to being wider. Leave a 1/2″ to 1″ of empty space at the top of the planter pot to allow for watering.
Fertilizer for Dieffenbachia plants
Dieffenbachia plants grown indoors should be given regular applications of slow-release organic fertilizer. While Dieffenbachia growing in the wild have access to naturally-occurring mineral nutrients in the surrounding soil, container-grown plants are isolated from their natural ecosystem. Look for an all-round tropical plant fertilizer formulated from indoor plants.
Common pests and diseases affecting Dieffenbachia plants
Like most plants, Dieffenbachias are affected by a variety of common pests. The best way to avoid any pest infestation is to check regularly for problems with your plant: bugs or otherwise. If pests are visible, remove them as best as possible. You can also use a gentle organic insecticide spray if the problem continues.
The following tend to be the most common pests of Dieffenbachia plants:
- Mealybugs are small, sap-sucking, scale-like insects that commonly attach themselves to the bottoms of leaves and to the stems. They look white and fluffy and can be a serious problem if they aren’t treated. If you’re checking regularly, you shouldn’t have a problem with large infestations. The best way to treat a small infestation of these is to dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and wipe it on the plant.
- Spider mites are those annoying, red-orange, super-small bugs that you may see outside your house. Yes, these can get in your plant, and you’ll notice them primarily by the small, sticky webs they leave on your dieffenbachia. To treat these, use an insecticidal soap spray or neem oil.
- Aphids are another type of small, sap-sucking insect that may infest your plant. An easy way to prevent and eliminate these is to clean the leaves of your plant with a damp cloth regularly. This will also keep the leaves nice and shiny!
There are not very many common diseases that affect Dieffenbachia. You may notice browning bottom leaves and panic, but these are completely natural! Just snip them off to keep your plant looking healthy.