Dieffenbachia Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#18
Updated: Jan 1
The Dieffenbachia is a very underrated plant in many ways! The pattern and variegation is striking and very diverse! So many people are fighting to get a Pink Princes Philodendron or a Thai Constellation Monstera but honestly, go check out the crazy patterns these guys come in! They are a lot cheaper and very easy to take care of! I've seen them at almost every garden center, plant shop, or greenhouse I have been to.
Dumb Cane- see where this name came from below in Other Facts.
And there are MANY out there, but here are some common ones...
Amy (my Mom's name!), Camille, Camouflage, Carina, Compacta, Delilah, Exotica, Green Magic, Hilo, Honeydew, Mary, Rebecca, Rudolf Roehrs, Sarah, Sequine, Snow, Sparkles, Star Bright, Sterling, Tiki, Triumph, Tropic Honey, Tropic Marianne, Tropic Snow and more!
Based on the variegation, I originally thought this planted needed bright light. But actually, the leaves start to burn during the summer months! I had it in a southeastern (mostly east) window and moved it away from the
window. It is doing much better now that it isn't getting direct sunlight. All that being said, the plant needs medium to bright indirect light!
This guy needs slightly more moisture. If you aren't providing enough moisture the leaves will droop a bit and the tips of the leaves may start browning. Now to make it even MORE confusing, you don't want this plant to be over watered. They tend to bounce back a lot better if under watered than over watered.
I typically water my Dieffenbachia once a week during peak growing season and maybe every 3 weeks during the winter. Take this with a grain of salt because it all depends on the environment you have it in! For example, if you put your plant in a shaded spot outside during the summer, you will need to water much more because of the heat and humidity.
Higher humidity is preferred by Dieffenbachia but it can adapt and survive on lower humidity. Misting it, placing a humidifier near by or placing a tray full of pebbles below the plant are all ways to help increase humidity. If you are like me, misting your plant is therapeutic and a super easy way to help your plant thrive!
As I say every time with fertilization, there is really no wrong way to do it! Here are a couple recommendations I found and what I typically do...
The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant says to feed "in spring and summer, high-nitrogen foliage plant food or balanced plant food every 2 weeks. In fall and winter, feed monthly" (check the Fun Facts at the bottom for more info).
I have always used a slow release fertilizer simply because it is much less maintenance. Lately I have started using a liquid all purpose fertilizer to see how that compares. I only have to use it when watering, approximately every 4 weeks.
There are a couple ways to do it...
Cut the top few inches of the plant off and leave in water. It will take a few weeks to root and be ready to repot. You can also put that cut off part of the plant directly in soil. Just make sure you keep the soil evenly moist while it is producing new roots.
Pups (which are basically mini versions of the plant) can form on the lower part on the stem. You can cut these off and put them directly in soil to grow a brand new little Dieffenbachia!
White flowers may appear! They will look insanely close to a smaller version of a Peace Lily flower. They do not bloom very often, but if you are providing your plant with an ideal location and care, it can happen!
My Dieffenbachia actually formed a flower when it was in front of the southeastern window. Since I have only had this guy for a year, I haven't experimented to find out if it will grow more flowers in the new space I have it in.
Part of the Araceae Family
Native in Central and South American rainforests
These guys can grow anywhere from 1ft to 5ft depending on it's environment and the cultivar you have.
Dieffenbachia are poisonous and is actually where its common name, Dumb Cane, came from. It's not the nicest common name, but it is what it is!
The plant's sap contains calcium oxalate crystals that can burn your mouth and throat, potentially causing temporary paralysis of the vocal chords. So keep them out of reach of children and pets!
Earlier I talked about underwatering causing leaf tips to brown but it can also be from inconsistent watering. Here are a few ways to stay consistent...(1) Learn what the weight of the pot is after its been watered versus needs to be watered. We used to do this all the time in the Garden Center I worked at! (2) Get a moisture meter reader! You can find these anywhere including Amazon. (3) Try a plant care app! My friend, Sierra uses Vera: Plant Care Made Simple created by Bloomscape on her phone. It can track your watering, fertilization, your plants growth and more!
The plant loses its leaves pretty frequently. If you are noticing the lower leaves turning yellow and dropping, this is natural. Just cut those puppies back! Now, if they are dropping without turning yellow this could be a sign that the plant is a little chilly. Dieffenbachia need to be in a space that is always above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
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In reference to the fertilizer section...
High nitrogen fertilizer is recommended when plants are known for their foliage, and not their flowers. Nitrogen gives the Dieffenbachia plant an extra boost of green and healthy foliage. Urea, Dried Blood and Blood Meal are all examples of organic high nitrogen fertilizers you can find in common brands like Espoma or Jobes.
What if you can't find those fertilizers but still want to buy a higher nitrogen fertilizer? On any fertilizer it should have a number sequence that looks like this, 0-0-0. This indicates Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium. As long as that first number is the highest, it is a higher nitrogen fertilizer. If the middle number is highest this helps root stimulation and blooming growth by providing the plant with more Phosphorus. If the last number is highest it is providing Potassium to help with strong stems and faster growth. Cool. right?!
Always written with extreme plant passion!