How to Plant and Grow Dieffenbachia

This popular houseplant doesn't need much care for its lush foliage to look beautiful.


BHG / Juli Lopez-Castillo

Dieffenbachia (also known as dumb cane) is a popular houseplant grown for its large, showy leaves. These perennials are generally green with splashes or blotches of creamy white, although cultivars have expanded the palette to include yellow. Hardy in Zones 10-11, this plant can grow quite large in the right tropical setting (6 to 10 feet tall in its native Brazil, for example) but offers smaller sizes, too. As lower leaves naturally drop off over time, the plant's cane-like stems become visible.

It should be noted that the leaves, roots, sap, and stalk of dieffenbachia are all considered toxic to both humans and pets. The leaves, in particular, contain needle-like calcium oxalate crystals and proteolytic enzymes. Avoid handling the plant without gloves and wash your hands after touching it.

Dieffenbachia Overview

Genus Name Dieffenbachia seguine
Common Name Dieffenbachia
Plant Type Houseplant
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 2 to 3 feet
Flower Color White
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11
Propagation Stem Cuttings

Where to Plant Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachia is native to the tropical regions of the Americas such as Mexico, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. It can grow 6 to 10 feet tall in its natural habitat, but when grown as a houseplant—as most people do—dieffenbachia will typically only reach 1 to 3 feet tall. In zones 10 and above, you can grow it outdoors. In these warm climates, dieffenbachia is best suited for a shade garden where it can have protection from harsh sunlight.

For the rest of the world, dieffenbachia makes an excellent houseplant because it doesn't need much sun. Just place it in a north or east-facing window with morning sun exposure where it will be protected from drafts and vents. If you only have south or west-facing windows, use a gauzy curtain to diffuse the sunlight exposure.

How and When to Plant Dieffenbachia

Since dieffenbachia is native to tropical regions, it thrives in most indoor temperatures and can be grown at any time of year indoors if your space is kept between 60°F and 75°F and has moderate to high humidity. You can take advantage of dieffenbachia’s natural growing season (from March to October) by planting in the spring.

Plant dieffenbachia outdoors in the spring (in zones 10 and above), by preparing a hole approximately twice the size of your plant’s root ball and mixing in some blood and bone meal. Place the plant in the hole and backfill the hole with soil, gently tamping it down as you work. Water your dieffenbachia well and keep the soil moist (but not soggy), as the plant establishes itself. If you like, you can add a layer of organic mulch to help the soil retain moisture.

Dieffenbachia Care Tips

Dieffenbachia doesn't require much care to thrive. It needs minimal light and occasional watering.


Although it tolerates low light, it does best in bright, indirect light with protection from sun. Filtered light is especially important in the spring and summer when dieffenbachia is putting out new leaves, which may suffer from sunburn if exposed to bright light that shines directly on the plant.

Soil and Water

If planting your dieffenbachia outdoors, look for a spot with fertile, moist, well-drained, well-ventilated soil that has a pH of 6-7.5. When planting in a container, use a general-purpose potting mix with plenty of peat moss to help retain moisture.

This plant likes consistently moist, well-drained soil that is allowed to dry out to an inch or so below the surface between waterings. Soggy soil can be fatal, so make sure your potted plant doesn't sit in water. The larger the dieffenbachia, the more it may need watering. In winter, reduce watering frequency.

Temperature and Humidity

Whether inside or outside, high humidity is a plus for dieffenbachia. If your plant's foliage develops brown edges, it's not getting enough humidity. For indoor plants, you may need to move the potted plant to a more humid spot, like the bathroom. You could also boost the humidity level by keeping the pot on a saucer filled with wet pebbles. For outdoor plants, consider grouping them in close proximity to create a more humid microclimate. You can also add shallow trays of water around the plants. As the water evaporates, it will lend a little more moisture to the air.

It does best in temperatures between 60ºF and 75°F. Below 60 degrees, growth will slow. If temperatures drop below 40ºF, the plant may suffer damage or die.


Use a well-balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer every month or two. Dilute the fertilizer according to the product's label.


If your dieffenbachia is getting too tall, cut the upper stem back to a leaf node. Some older plants may have tougher stems and require pruners to cut. The plant will grow bushier when pruned.

Potting and Repotting Dieffenbachia

If you see dieffenbachia's roots starting to poke through the top of the soil, or its leaves start to fall off, it's time to repot. Usually, these plants need repotting every year. Wearing gloves, pull the plant from the container, being careful not to get any of the plant's sap on your skin.

Pests and Problems

Common pests like mealybugs and aphids can be a problem for dieffenbachia. If you catch them early, you can use a bit of diluted rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to remove them. Otherwise, blast them with water from a hose. For indoor plants, take them outside and hose them off or use an insecticidal soap safe for houseplants.

If leaves turn yellow, you may be overwatering or underwatering your plant, or it may need nitrogen. Whatever the reason, cut off the yellow leaves. If plants are drooping, they're getting too much light. Move them to a shadier spot.

How to Propagate Dieffenbachia

Propagate dieffenbachia in one of four ways—division, stump propagation, stem cuttings, or air layering.

Propagating Via Division

To propagate via division, separate your dieffenbachia in the spring. For indoor plants, this may be done when you are repotting. While wearing gloves, divide some offsets from the parent plant without damaging its root system. Moisten the end of each new division and plant in a pot (at least 6 inches in diameter) filled with a moist, well-draining potting mix and water thoroughly.

Propagating Via Stump

Stump propagation is done by cutting off the top of an older, leggy plant, dipping it in rooting hormone, and planting it in fresh potting soil. Once new leaves appear, cut off the old ones.

Propagating Via Stem Cuttings

To propagate with stem cuttings, use sharp, sterile pruning shears to cut several 3 to 4-inch sections of cane. Remove any leaves and leave the canes in a sunny spot to dry overnight. Next, dip the canes in a rooting medium and place them horizontally in a pot filled with a moist well-draining potting mix with the leaf buds slightly above the surface of the soil. Place the pot in a plastic bag and keep the soil warm and moist for 5 to 8 weeks until the cuttings take root. Once they are established, you can transplant them to the garden or another pot.  

Propagating Via Air Layering

Propagating via air layering is a more complicated method, but can be done if the parent plant is well established. You will need to find a cane that is at least 12 inches long and thick enough to support a little weight. Strip off the leaves from the bottom two-thirds of the cane and make a long, diagonal cut about halfway up (about 2 inches long, but not all the way through the cane). Use a small wedge (like a broken toothpick) to hold the cut open and sprinkle the wound with rooting medium. Wrap the cut with a moist piece of sphagnum moss and secure it with floral or electrician’s tape. Wrap the moss-covered wound with plastic wrap and secure it in place with a small piece of wire or a twist tie. In a few days, you should see roots begin to emerge from the moss. Once they emerge, use a sharp, sterile knife to cut the new plant from the parent plant and place it in a pot (at least 4 inches in diameter) filled with moist, well-draining potting mix. Place the pot in a plastic bag and put it in a spot where it can get bright, indirect sunlight as it continues to grow. Keep it moist, but not soggy.

Types of Dieffenbachia

'Camilla' Dieffenbachia

'Camilla' dieffenbachia maculata
Dean Schoeppner

Leaves with a broad band of white, edged in green make this variety of Dieffenbachia maculata unique. Leaves turn more solidly green in low light conditions.

'Camouflage' Dieffenbachia

'Camouflage' dieffenbachia
Denny Schrock

Dieffenbachia 'Camouflage' has eye-catching light green leaves speckled and splashed in dark green and cream. Outdoors, it is hardy in zones 10 or higher.

Dieffenbachia Maculata

Dieffenbachia maculata
Dean Schoeppner

Dieffenbachia maculata usually remains under 3 feet tall with multiple stems and shrubby growth. Medium green leaves are irregularly splashed with creamy white variegation.

'Tropical Tiki' Dieffenbachia

'Tropical Tiki' dieffenbachia
Jay Wilde

This variety of Dieffenbachia maculata has leaves with a band of silvery green splotched with cream blotches.

Dieffenbachia Seguine

Dieffenbachia seguine
Dean Schoeppner

Dieffenbachia seguine has a canelike stem and arching leaves up to 12 inches long. They are usually marbled with white or cream.

'Tropic Marianne' Dieffenbachia

'Tropic Marianne' dieffenbachia
Denny Schrock

Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Marianne' is a large variety sporting broad creamy-white leaves variegated with green. Outdoors, it is hardy in zones 10 through 12.

'Tropic Snow' Dieffenbachia

'Tropic Snow' dieffenbachia
Marty Baldwin

Dieffenbachia seguine 'Tropic Snow' has pale green and cream variegation on extra large leaves.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does dieffenbachia grow quickly?

    Sometimes dieffenbachia plants will grow 2 feet in a year.

  • How do I improve the humidity for my dieffenbachia?

    Place the potted plant on a plate with pebbles and water to improve humidity, and mist the leaves regularly.

Was this page helpful?
Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Dieffenbachia Seguine. Dieffenbachia seguine (Dieffenbachia, Dumbcane, Gold Dieffenbachia, Spotted Dumbcane, Variable Dieffenbachia) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.

  2. Dieffenbachia. ASPCA.  

Related Articles