The Q&A Archives: diffenbachia house plant

Question: I got a small diffenbachia plant how do I care for it?

Answer: Dieffenbachia are named in honor of Herr J. F. Dieffenbach who was a German botanist who oversaw the imperial gardens at Schonbrunn Castle in Vienna in the 19th century. Here are some general care guidelines:

Water: Water regularly and deeply but allow the soil to dry 1?-2? deep between waterings. Water less frequently in the winter.

Soil: A rich but well-draining soil is best. Add a bit of pumice to your potting soil to improve the drainage and make sure you have holes in the bottom of your pots!

Light: Dieffenbachia will not do well in direct sun and their colors will fade if they are in intensely bright light. The best spot is a med/bright indirect spot. They will do okay in a low light situation for a while but eventually they will grow long and spindly as they stretch toward a distant light source.

Ideal Temperature: Average to warm home conditions. Dieffenbachia lose their lower leaves more readily under cold conditions. The cooler the temperatures the less you will probably have to water so pay attention.

Humidity: Humidity is a good thing for dieffenbachia as it is for most tropicals. They?re native to tropical America (Costa Rica and Colombia for example) as well as the West Indies-very muggy places! Mist the foliage often, place on a pebble tray or both.

Maintenance: If the plant becomes too tall or leggy some cutting back may be in order. See text for details. Also, dieffenbachia can grow pretty fast in the right conditions so annual or bi-annual up potting in the spring may be in order. Check the roots every spring to see how much room they have.

Pests and Diseases: They may get scale or spider mites but are not especially prone to infestations. Stem and root rot may occur with poor drainage or over-watering especially if temperatures are low.

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