Free Ebooks


Professional plant rental service by Aztec for businesses.

Dieffenbachia Overview

Scientific name:

Dieffenbachia spp.



Water requirements:


Light requirements:

Indirect Sun


Air Purifying, Low Maintenance, Toxic

Table of Contents

Introduction to Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachia, commonly known as dumb cane, is the perfect office plant. With its lush, tropical foliage and easy care requirements, it brings natural beauty to any indoor space. This introduction will highlight what makes dieffenbachia an ideal office plant and provide some background on this popular houseplant.

Highlight unique qualities of Dieffenbachia

  • Dieffenbachia features large, oval-shaped leaves that can grow over a foot long. The leaves display unique and eye-catching variegation patterns in shades of green, white, and cream.
  • This plant is an excellent air purifier, removing toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from indoor air.
  • Dieffenbachia requires little maintenance and can thrive in low natural light conditions, adapting well to office environments.
  • Its lush tropical foliage has calming psychological effects, helping to reduce stress and increase productivity.

Common and scientific names of the plant

Dieffenbachia’s common names include dumb cane and mother-in-law’s tongue, referring to the loss of speech that can occur if its toxic sap is ingested. Its botanical name is Dieffenbachia, named after Johann Dieffenbach, a 19th century German physician who specialised in tropical plants. There are over 30 known Dieffenbachia species. Some popular varieties for offices include:

  • Camille – A compact variety with thin white and green leaves.
  • Sparkles – A small plant with attractive upward-facing leaves.

Detailed Description

Dieffenbachia is a popular houseplant known for its lush, tropical foliage. It has oval-shaped leaves that can range in colour from bright green to variegated patterns of white, yellow, or cream. The leaves have a striking midrib that starts out white or yellow at the base of the leaf and transitions to green towards the tip.


Dieffenbachia typically grows 2-4 feet tall indoors, with a spread of 2-3 feet. It has an upright, bushy growth habit. The stems are smooth and reddish-green in colour. Leaves emerge directly from the central stalk, growing in an alternating pattern along the stems. New leaves start out rolled up and gradually unfurl over a day or two.

Growth Habits

Dieffenbachia is considered a low maintenance plant when it comes to its growth habits. It grows at a moderate pace, putting out new leaves throughout the growing season. Growth may slow down in winter. Pruning is not necessary but older, yellowing leaves can be trimmed off to encourage new growth. It does best when slightly pot bound.

Distinctive Features

One of the most distinctive features of Dieffenbachia is the sap inside its stems and leaves, which can cause skin irritation and numbness if touched. That’s why it has the common name “dumb cane.” The sap contains raphides – needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate. So it’s best to wear gloves when handling and avoid getting sap on bare skin.

Other distinctive features include:

  • Tropical, showy leaves that add vibrant colour
  • Easy care – tolerates low light and inconsistent watering
  • Pet safety – toxic if ingested so keep away from pets and kids

With its exotic foliage and hardy nature, Dieffenbachia makes an excellent choice to add visual interest to any indoor space.

Optimal Care Guide

Light Requirements

Dieffenbachia prefers bright, indirect light. Place it near a sunny window, but out of direct sun which can scorch its leaves. In an office setting, dieffenbachia can adapt to fluorescent lighting over time, though it may take a few weeks to adjust. Rotate the plant occasionally so all sides get adequate ambient light for even growth.

Watering Schedule

Water dieffenbachia thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil is dry. Allow the excess water to drain freely from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. In most indoor environments, this means watering about once a week. The soil should not be allowed to completely dry out between waterings.

Temperature and Humidity

Dieffenbachia thrives in average room temperatures between 18-24°C. Keep it away from cold drafts from windows or air conditioning vents which can damage its foliage. These plants also appreciate high humidity. Consider placing your dieffenbachia on a pebble tray or investing in a humidifier to maintain humidity around 40-50%.

Soil and Potting Tips

Use a well-draining potting mix for dieffenbachia, such as a blend of peat moss, perlite and bark chips. Add a little compost or worm castings to enrich the soil over time. Choose a pot with drainage holes and repot every 2 years in early spring when the plant becomes rootbound. Wear gloves when handling dieffenbachia as the sap can cause skin irritation.

Benefits in the Office

Having a Dieffenbachia plant in your office can provide some great benefits for you and your coworkers. One of the best benefits is that Dieffenbachia is excellent at purifying indoor air. According to research from NASA, Dieffenbachia is highly efficient at removing pollutants like formaldehyde and toluene from the air. Since office environments often contain traces of these harmful chemicals from furniture, carpets, and cleaning products, a Dieffenbachia can help filter them out.

In addition to air purification, Dieffenbachia also helps increase oxygen levels through photosynthesis. This can boost energy, focus, and productivity in your office. The large, lush leaves of the Dieffenbachia also have an appealing aesthetic that can liven up any workspace.

Having plants in an office has also been linked to lower stress levels and improved moods. Interacting with nature, even indoors, triggers positive psychological responses.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Dieffenbachia plants are generally easy to care for, but they can develop problems if their needs are not properly met. Here are some of the most common issues that arise with Dieffenbachia plants and tips for resolving them:

Yellowing Leaves

Yellow leaves are usually a sign of overwatering. Dieffenbachia prefers soil that is evenly moist but not soggy. Check the soil before watering and allow the top inch to dry out between waterings. Improve drainage by adding perlite or small stones to the soil. Move the plant to a spot with more sunlight. Other causes of yellow leaves include:

  • Low humidity – Mist the plant daily or use a pebble tray
  • Temperature extremes or drafts
  • Nutrient deficiencies – Apply a balanced liquid fertiliser monthly

Drooping Leaves

If the leaves are drooping, the plant likely needs more water. Check the soil moisture before adding water. Dieffenbachia also droops if it’s getting too much sun or dealt with a recent temperature change. Move it to a shadier spot and maintain consistent temperatures.

Root Rot

Overwatering can lead to root rot. Allow the soil to dry between waterings. If the roots are already affected, remove the plant from the pot and cut away any mushy roots before repotting with fresh, sterile soil. Water less frequently while it recovers. Add perlite to the soil to improve drainage.


Check regularly for common houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybugs and scale. Treat with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. Maintain proper care to keep the Dieffenbachia healthy, as stressed plants are more vulnerable to pests. Prevention is key! Provide optimal care and your Dieffenbachia is unlikely to have issues. Respond promptly if any problems arise to get your plant thriving again.

Fun Facts and Trivia

Dieffenbachia plants have some fascinating history behind them. The genus was named after Herr Joseph Dieffenbach, a gardener in 19th century Vienna who brought the Dieffenbachia seguine species to Austria from Brazil. He helped popularise this previously little known tropical plant in Europe.

These plants also have an interesting symbolic meaning in plant language, representing prosperity and abundance. This makes them popular houseplants for their decorative appeal as well as their positive connotations.

Some fun facts about Dieffenbachia include:

  • There are around 30 known Dieffenbachia varieties originating from Central and South America.
  • The plant occasionally produces a long white flower similar to that of the Peace Lily.
  • The toxic sap was traditionally used by indigenous peoples in the Americas for various medicinal purposes, like treating gout and rheumatism, and even as an arrow poison.
  • The sap can cause temporary numbness and loss of speech if ingested, leading to the plant’s common name of “dumb cane.”
  • In the West Indies, the plant has been used to temporarily sterilise males.
  • The decorative varieties with colourful variegated leaves are popular houseplants today.

So in addition to being an attractive indoor plant, Dieffenbachia has some unique properties and a fascinating backstory. It continues to decorate homes around the world today as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.

Conclusion and Call to Action

It is clear that the Dieffenbachia plant makes for an excellent addition to any office space. With its lush green foliage, air purifying abilities, and low maintenance needs, the Dieffenbachia brings beauty and health benefits that can reduce stress and increase productivity.

Some key reasons to incorporate Dieffenbachia plants into your office include:

  • They purify indoor air by removing toxins like formaldehyde and benzene
  • Their large leaves and vibrant patterns boost aesthetic appeal
  • Caring for plants can lower anxiety and improve moods
  • Dieffenbachia is easy to grow even in low natural light offices

When situated correctly in bright, indirect light near an east or west facing window, Dieffenbachia thrives with minimal care. Water about once a week allowing the soil to partly dry out between waterings. Wipe leaves periodically to prevent dust buildup and fertilise a few times a year. Repot when rootbound every couple years.

For those looking to bring Dieffenbachia into their office landscape, Aztec Plants can help you out. Contact them today to get started designing a healthier and more inspiring workspace!

Share this plant with your friends

Grab a Free Ebook

How Plants Effect Profitability In The Workplace

Enter your details below to receive your free guide.

Specifiers Guide to Interior Planting

Enter your details below to receive your free guide.