Dieffenbachia is a genus that includes about 30 species of perennial tropical plants that are native to North and South America. It is mainly grown as a houseplant for its beautiful variegated leaves. This plant is a member of the family Araceae, and is also known as dumb cane. It got this name due to its poisonous sap, which can cause pain and swelling of the tongue and the throat, if it is ingested and even when the leaves are chewed.
As a Houseplant
Dieffenbachias are mainly grown for their large and beautiful foliage. The reason for growing them as houseplant is that these plants love shade. There are several species of dieffenbachias, of which Dieffenbachia Camille, Dieffenbach Amoena, Paradise, and Dieffenbach Maculata are more commonly preferred for growing as houseplants. Usually, they reach a height of 5 feet or more with a single thick trunk, which eventually unfolds into several trunks, when the plant matures.
The leaves of this plant are large and glossy, and they can be oval, oblong, or elliptical in shape. They are gradually tapering towards the apex. The leaves are usually 15 to 40 cm in length, and are green in color with yellow or white spots and bands along the lateral vein. Both the size and the color or pattern of the leaves can differ to an extent, depending on the specific variety. One of the most common species, Dieffenbachia Camilla is characterized by oval shaped leaves with a pointed apex. The leaves of this plant are small, and they are creamy yellow in color with a green border. On the other hand, the Maculata variety has oval-shaped leaves, which are glossy and are marked with pale green or almost white-colored spots.
How to Take Care of Dieffenbachia?
It is one of the easiest to grow indoor plants. However, one is expected to have some preliminary knowledge about the favorable growth conditions for this plant, in order to grow it successfully. This plant is a shade loving plant and so, it grows well if kept in a place that receives bright, but filtered sunlight. So, for ensuring its proper growth, you have to keep them in a bright, but shaded areas. In the winter, when there is less light available, it can tolerate direct sunlight. These indoor plants can be placed within 5 to 7 feet of a north or east window with transparent curtains. In winter, you can remove the curtains to maintain the consistent level of light.
The ideal temperature range for this plant is 70 to 80 degree Fahrenheit during the day, and 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The plant may not survive at temperature less than 40 degree Fahrenheit (5 degree Celsius). This plant prefers lose, well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. So, you can use rich, loam soil as a potting soil. The root of dieffenbachia can rot easily, if it is allowed to sit in standing water. Therefore, it is very important to avoid over watering, and allow the soil to dry a bit between watering. So, before watering the plant, be sure to check the soil. If the soil has dried partially, then water your plant thoroughly.
In addition to these, this plant requires moderate to high level of humidity to grow properly. So, regular misting is another important part of plant care. As far as fertilization is concerned, it can be carried out during the growing season. Usually, the ideal time for fertilizing dieffenbachias is spring and summer, an all purpose regular or liquid fertilizer can be used for this purpose. However, keep in mind to dilute the fertilizer.
As this plant grows, it would drop some of the lower leaves, just to make way for new leaves. But, the plant might lose its usual attractiveness because of it. To solve this problem, you can cut the stem back to about 6 to 7 inches. Occasionally, you can observe the leaves turn yellow. This is a sign that it not getting adequate amounts of nutrients for proper growth. On the other hand, too much fertilization can cause the leaves to curl. Similarly, irregular watering can cause the leaf tip of the plant to turn yellow, while scorched leaves are an indicator that it is receiving too much of strong and direct sunlight.
These are some of the common problems that you might face while growing this plant, which can be however, avoided with proper care. Pests like, aphids, mealybugs, mites, thrips and two-spotted spider mites can also be some other problems, that you may encounter with this plant. For these problems, you should better take the help of a professional. Lastly, if you have pets, then be sure to keep them away from this plant, as it is toxic to animals. Its sap contains calcium oxalate crystals, for which its ingestion can cause inflammation of the tongue, mouth and throat, along with diarrhea and vomiting.