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How to Care for Your Dumb Cane Plant

How to Care for Your Dumb Cane Plant

No, it's not a dumb houseplant. A lack of intelligence has absolutely nothing to do with the easy-to-care, lush, and vibrant Dumb Cane. Learn how to care for your Dumb Cane plant and the reason behind its weird name.

Dumb Cane is a really weird name for a plant, right? It somehow reminded me of the snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue. Well, there's a reason why it's called Dumb Cane. The Dumb Cane plant got its name from its poisonous sap that contains calcium oxalate. If ingested, it will burn your mouth, numb your throat, and can cause temporary loss of speech.

Plus, the word "dumb" was used before to describe someone who can't talk. So, if you're planning to add Dumb Cane in your plant collection, you need to keep your children and pets away from this plant and wash your hands after pruning.

Fun Fact: Well, not a fun fact, but a sad fact because Dumb Cane plant's been reported to have been given to slaves as a form of punishment. Really mean, huh.

Dumb Cane, also known as Dieffenbachia (deef-en-BOK-ee-uh), is a tropical houseplant that originated in Mexico, New World Tropics, South America, and West Indies south to Argentina. It's a recommended houseplant for beginners since it's easy to care and grow. A small variety of Dumb Cane plant can grow from 12 inches to 24 inches, while a tall variety can grow up to 6 feet tall.

After a few years, your Dumb Cane plant may lose its lower leaves. You might think that it's dying, but this is natural. However, it will begin to look awkward, leggy, and tall, like the boy who used to like you back in seventh grade. When this happens, don't throw away your Dumb Cane plant, but instead, we recommend you to propagate it by using the air layering technique or cane cuttings, so that new baby plants will grow.

Propagate Your Dumb Cane by Air Layering

  • Step 1: Choose a spot on the central cane of your plant where you'd like the new baby plants to grow. It must be at least six inches below your Dumb Cane plant's lowest leaves.
  • Step 2: Create an upward diagonal cut at your chosen spot. Then, insert a toothpick sideways into the cut to keep it open. You may apply a rooting hormone to the cut stem, which can cause roots to grow faster.
  • Step 3: Next is to tie a handful of moistened sphagnum moss around the cut with a twine or twist ties.
  • Step 4: Close off the moss ball with the plastic. Make sure to tie the plastic to the stem above and below the ball.
  • Step 5: It will take several months for new roots to form. If you see new roots on the stem of your Dumb Cane plant, remove the plastic but leave the moss around the roots. Carefully cut the cane just below the new root growth with a sharp knife and plant it in a new pot with fresh soil.
  • Step 6: For your old Dumb Cane plant, carefully cut the remaining stem a few inches above the soil line, then add fresh soil to promote regrowth.

Propagate Your Dumb Cane by Cane Cuttings

Cane cuttings are easier to do than the air layering technique. MyDomaine explained how to do this technique.

  • Step 1: Prepare a tray with a few inches of moist sand. Then, cut a six to eight-inch section of cane from a healthy Dumb Cane plant. 
  • Step 2: Next is to plant the section of the cane flat on the sand so that it is partly covered. Always make sure to keep the sand moist. After several weeks or months, it will begin to produce new plants. 
  • Step 3: When the new plants are around two inches in height, cut them from the cane and plant them in rooting medium.

Here's everything else you need to know how to care for your Dumb Cane plant.

Botanical Name Dieffenbachia
Common Name Dumb Cane
Plant Size A small variety of Dumb Cane plant can grow from 12 inches to 24 inches, while a tall variety can grow from 6 feet tall up to 10 feet.
Types of Dumb Cane Plants Dieffenbachia 'Camille'
Dieffenbachia 'Camouflage'
Dieffenbachia 'Carina'
Dieffenbachia 'Compacta'
Dieffenbachia 'Delilah'
Dieffenbachia 'Honeydew'
Dieffenbachia 'Mary'
Dieffenbachia 'Rebecca'
Dieffenbachia 'Sarah'
Dieffenbachia 'Seguine'
Dieffenbachia 'Snow'
Dieffenbachia 'Sparkle'
Dieffenbachia 'Star Bright'
Dieffenbachia 'Triumph'
Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Marianne'
Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Snow'
Dieffenbachia maculata 'Tropical Tiki'
Sunlight Dumb Cane plant prefers bright, indirect sunlight or partial shade. However, it can tolerate full shade, which is why it is perfect as a houseplant.
Water Keep the top inch of soil moist, but do not overwater your Dumb Cane plant. It can tolerate missed watering, but extended periods of watering neglect can make its leaves shrivel.
Humidity Dumb Cane loves moisture in the air. Place your Dumb Cane plant in an area with a 60% humidity level throughout the year.
Temperature It prefers temperatures between 62–80°F.
Toxicity Dumb Cane plant is poisonous, and should not be allowed near children or pets. Wash your hands thoroughly after pruning.
Food Feed your Dumb Cane plant once a month with a full-strength mixture of standard, balanced fertilizer.
Pests and Problems The two major pests that can destroy your Dumb Cane plant are aphids and mealybugs. To eliminate aphids, use a damp cloth to clean the leaves of your plants. Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and wipe it on your plant to eliminate mealybugs.
Omysa Plant Care Tip Your Dumb Cane plant loves being outside during the summer. They will flourish under the summer sun.

Dumb Cane Plant Care Tips

Aside from the fact that Dumb Cane is a relatively easy-care plant, it's also an effective air-purifying houseplant. Moreover, it belongs to the same family of Peace LilyPhilodendron, and Swiss Cheese plant or Monstera, so you may notice that there are similarities in their plant care guide.

Here's a detailed explanation of how to care for your Dumb Cane plant, from sunlight requirement to common problems and its solutions.

Sunlight

First, on our list on how to care for your Dumb Cane plant is to put it in a spot with bright, indirect sunlight or partial shade. However, it can tolerate full shade, as well. Avoid placing your plant under the intense, direct sun because its leaves will burn.

Common Problem: If your Dumb Cane plant is quickly growing leggy and tall, this means it’s in a very low light area.

Solution: Yes, your Dumb Cane is a perfect low light indoor plant since it hates getting too much light, especially direct sunlight. However, if the room is too dark, it will start to grow awkward, leggy, and tall.

Water

Next on our list on how to care for your Dumb Cane plant is to keep the top inch of soil moist, but do not overwater it. Your Dumb Cane plant can tolerate missed waterings, but extended periods of watering neglect can make its leaves shrivel.

Common Problem: If the leaves of your Dumb Cane plant are turning brown or the stem is discolored and soft, this means you are overwatering your plant.

Solution: To avoid this problem, we recommend that you water your Dumb Cane plant once or twice a week, depending on its size.

Humidity & Temperature

Adding to our list on how to care for your Dumb Cane plant is to put it in a humid environment. It's also best if you can mist it often, place it near a humidifier, or use a pebble tray.

It prefers temperatures between 62–80°F. One thing you should know about your Dumb Cane plant is it can't and won't tolerate cold temperature because it will likely lose lower leaves. So avoid placing your plant near air conditioning vents, doors, and drafty areas.

Toxicity

Yes, your Dumb Cane plant is poisonous because it contains calcium oxalate that can cause temporary loss of speech. It should not be allowed near children or pets. We also advise you to wash your hands thoroughly after pruning.

Food

Another on our list on how to care for your Dumb Cane plant is to fertilize it with a liquid fertilizer for indoor plants every two to four weeks during the growing season. Remember to dilute and apply the fertilizer according to the instructions to avoid fertilizer burn or plant burn.

Pests & Other Problems

Your Dumb Cane plant is prone to two major pests: aphids and mealybugs. Worst is both of these insects secrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which attracts ants and fungus, causing a secondary infestation.

To eliminate aphids, clean your Dumb Cane plant with a damp cloth and control the ants in your home. For mealybugs, dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and wipe it on the infected parts of your plant.

That's a wrap on how to care for your Dumb Cane plant. Easier than you expect, right? If you love a vibrant and architectural plant that's easy to care and grow, then Dumb Cane fits the bill.

Grow your plant knowledge. Check out our Plant Care blog to learn more about different houseplants and tips on how to keep your plants alive and healthy.

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