Most of us have “inherited” houseplants from friends or relatives at some point in the past. Years ago my mother-in-law asked me to take her Dieffenbachia off her hands as it was getting too large for their living room. Well, in the few years I had it I twice had to cut it down as it reached the ceiling of our living room! These natives of the tropical forests of Costa Rica and Columbia thrive in the warm, dim conditions of our living rooms, and happily there are now varieties that won’t grow skyward.

NUTS AND BOLTS
Dieffenbachias like a warm location, so don’t place them near cold drafts. They will tolerate low light but do best with some bright, but indirect exposure. Let the soil dry out between waterings somewhat but try to keep the humidity high by placing them on a humidity tray or misting them regularly. Leaves are large and showy, green splashed with varying amounts of white. Depending on the variety they can mature from .5 to 1 metre tall.

THINGS TO CONSIDER
Dieffenbachia has an unusual common name, Dumbcane. It comes from the fact that the plant’s leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals. This is a defence for the plant against browsing by animals, as these crystals cause painful burning and stinging in the mouth and throat, and will restrict speech in humans. Obviously keep children and pets away from this plant. There are a host of colourful variegated foliage patterns available now and as I mentioned the plants are much more compact than they were a decade ago. ‘Camille’ and ‘Tropic Snow’ both have creamy yellow/white leaves with dark green borders. There aren’t many tropical houseplants easier to grow than the dieffenbachia.

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