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Dumb Cane Care

Looking for dumb cane care tips? I’m going through everything you need to know about how to care for dumb cane plants (aka Dieffenbachia), including what light it likes, how much water it needs, the best soil for dumb cane plants, and more!

Dumb Cane Care: Caring for Dieffenbachia

Let’s talk about the dieffenbachia plant! Today’s post is all about dumb cane care. Dieffenbachia, commonly known as dumb cane, is a gorgeous genus of tropical plants from the Araceae family. Native to Mexico and the West Indies down to Argentina, dumb cane has become common, classic houseplant.

The plant’s large, beautiful leaves can vary in color, including shades and specks of green, yellow, and white. It’s an air-purifying plant for the home and does flower, but it will rarely flower indoors. Dumb cane plants can typically be kept looking healthy and lovely with just a bit of care. Although it isn’t as patient as a snake plant, for example, I’d classify it as easier than a fiddle leaf fig. 

plants on a table with a pretty kitty
new leaf unfurling on a dumb cane plant

How Large Does a Dumb Cane Plant Get?

Dumb Cane can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 12—so they are usually only houseplants in much of the United States. If you can grow them outdoors in the ground, they can grow to over 10 feet tall! In a pot, dumb canes don’t get nearly as tall, but they can still be impressively sized accent plants in your home.

When dumb cane plants are smaller, the leaves are very compact and busy, obscuring the plant’s stem. However, as the plant get larger and taller, the lower leaves begin to fall. This gives the dumb cane a bit more of a “tree” look by exposing the stem. Here’s a look at what I mean.

dumb cane

How much light does a dumb cane need?

One of the reasons dumb cane plants make such fabulous additions to houseplants collections is that they tolerate low-light conditions very wekk. Mine gets only indirect sunlight for part of the day, and it’s quite happy. It can even grow from indoor lights in an office like pothos can. Like a lot of plants, though, it will thrive with bright ambient light. No direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time—the leaves will burn. 

Much like peperomia plants, it’s best to rotate the plant every few weeks or so, especially if it’s by a window or in a lower-light environment. If you don’t, the plant could begin to grow unevenly and lean to one side reaching for a light source. Rotating will help everything sprout and unfurl perfectly. 

dumb cane plant

How often do I water a dieffenbachia plant?

The dumb cane plant is easy to keep thriving if you understand the plant’s watering requirements. I currently have mine sitting on a plant stand with a ZZ plant, a pothos plant, and a small snake plant. I grouped these plants together because they all tolerate low light well, so they are all happy where they are.

However, I initially made the mistake of watering these plants at the same time as well. The dumb cane does need a bit more water than the pothos, snake, and ZZ plants. And that became evident pretty quickly when the dumb cane’s leaves began to wilt a bit. Luckily I caught it before the leaves began to dry out and fall off, and it perked right back up the next day!

wilting dumb cane that needs water
plants on a table

Dumb cane plants thrive in soil that is lightly moist. But don’t overwater your plant! It does NOT like to be soggy. Water when the top 2 inches of soil is dry, in general. If you let the soil dry out totally, you’ll end up with a wilted mess like I had (sorry, I didn’t grab a pic). 

You need to be especially careful not to overwater the plant. It will drop its leaves and begin to rot in the wet soil, ding a slow and painful death. So if your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, add some rocks or perlite in the bottom of the planter and pay extra attention to your plant’s watering needs. 

If your pot has a drainage hole in the bottom of it, which I recommend for this plant, water the plant thorough and completely until the water drains out of the hole. Then put it back in its spot to get happy and thriving again. In the winter when your plant isn’t actively growing, you can and should water less. 

dumb cane care

How to Care for Dumb Cane Plants: Fertilizer Needs

I tend to fertilize all of my houseplants during their active growing season. Even if fertilizing them doesn’t do much. I’m a bit hard-headed like that—as long as the fertilizer won’t hurt them. But dumb cane plants really appreciate fertilizer!

Fertilizer will simply help an already healthy plant kick things up a notch. During the active growing season, use a regular liquid houseplant fertilizer once or twice a month. That means spring and summer. Never over-fertilize—more does not necessarily mean better in this case!

dumb cane care

Dumb Cane Care: Temperature and Humidity Needs

Dumb cane plants do well in normal household temperatures. However, they don’t love cold drafts or temperature fluctuations. So try to keep them in a relatively stable spot. Don’t let it get below 50 degrees, though. They also like humidity, which makes sense given where they are from. 

To increase humidity for your plant, you can mist the leaves with water in a spray bottle. You can also set your plant on top of rocks and water in a tray. Or, of course, you can run a humidifier! This works for all plants that need higher humidity, not just dumb canes. 

dumb cane care

When should I repot my Dieffenbachia?

It really depends on how happy your plant is and therefore how quickly it’s growing. If your plant is becoming too rootbound, repot the plant to a pot that is 1–2 inches larger. Do this during the active growing season so the plant can rebound quickly and easily. 

You can stunt your plant’s growth and keep it smaller—which is often done with tabletop plants—if you’d like to. First take the plant out of the pot. Then loosen the entire root ball and trim the roots with a clean pair of scissors. Repot with fresh potting soil and you’re good to go.

roots on a dumb cane plant

Like my dumb cane care tips? You’ll love my guides on how to take care of monstera plants, the ponytail palmsnake plantselephant ear plantspothos plantsrubber plantsfiddle leaf figscape ivypeperomia plantssucculents, and philodendron.

What’s wrong with my Dieffenbachia plant?

There are a few problems you might encounter with your dumb cane plant. Here are some of them, including signs they might be occurring and what to do to help your plant.

  • Pests: Dumb cane plants are pretty resilient when it comes to pests. They can be victims to mealybugs and aphids, much like a lot of houseplants. Mealybugs are gross but can be combated easily with a bit of rubbing alcohol. Aphids can leave a sticky layer on the leaves, attracting ants. Wipe the leaves down with a clean water-soaked cloth. Then treat the plant with neem oil or another soap designed to rid plants of insects. 
  • Brown spots: If your plant’s leaves have brown spots at the center of a yellow ring, your plant could have a disease called anthracnose. Anthracnose is a common fungal disease that you can prevent by watering the plant’s soil, not its leaves. Sitting water on the leaves isn’t great.
  • Brown tips: Brown tips on dumb cane leaves can be a sign of underwatering. Are the leaves crinkling or wilting as well? It’s probably due to underwatering. 
  • Yellow leaves: If your plant has yellow leaves that aren’t part of the plant’s natural pattern, it could be a few things. Wilting leaves probably need water. If the entire plant just looks drab, yellow, and droopy, try repotting the plant to fresh potting soil and giving it some houseplant fertilizer. 
yellowing leaf on a dumb cane plant

Is the Dumb Cane Plant Toxic to Cats, Dogs, or Kids?

Yes, yes, and yes. And adults, too. But I’m less worried about you eating your houseplants than I am your kids and pets. Like some other houseplants, dumb canes contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause a burning sensation if chewed.

In pets and kids, chewing the leaves of the plant can cause numbing, irritation, excessive drooling, and localized swelling. So if you have kids or pets, you need to keep this plant away from them.

dumb cane plant

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image collage of dumb cane with text Everyitng you need to know about caring for a dumb cane plant

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