The Dieffenbachia belong to the arum family, a plant family represented worldwide with the tropics as the focus of species development. There are a total of 115 genera of arum family with around 4,000 mostly very decorative species. Only a few of them have their home in Central Europe. These are the arum sticks and three genera of duckweed. The beautiful marsh calla or dragon arum, which is under nature protection, and the threefold pine tree, which has been released from our botanical gardens.
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Diversity of species and varieties
The genus Dieffenbachia has spread in around 50 species in tropical America. There they grow in a friendly tropical climate with year-round temperatures of over 20 degrees. The “seasons” are not expressed by serious temperature differences, but by decisive variances in the available humidity. In the rainy season from November to May there is plenty of water from above for a plant every day. In the dry season from April to December only occasionally, but then also quite a lot of water.
It is not uncommon for them to be extraordinarily attractive plants that stand out with their opulent growth and varied patterned leaves. Because they also have the advantage that they grow well even in shady locations, some varieties have become popular ornamental plants. In tropical countries they adorn the parks and gardens and in temperate zones they are cultivated as indoor plants.
The evergreen plants show persistent growth. It is not uncommon for them to be as large as bushes, although the stems, which are usually very strong, grow upright in some species and can develop in all directions in others. Some Dieffenbachia develop side shoots at every height, some are only leafy in the upper area as older plants.
The Dieffenbachia available from us almost always go back to one species, the Dieffenbachia seguine. This is also the type species, i.e. the species after which the genus was named. This Dieffenbachia is eagerly bred. That is why “Dieffenbachia seguine var. Seguine” is the valid botanical name for a large number of varieties which, however, are sold under very different botanical names: Dieffenbachia amoena, Dieffenbachia baraquiniana, Dieffenbachia exotica, D. maculata, D. picta, D. lineata, D. lingulata, D. ventenatiana and many more.
These breeds sometimes differ slightly in their properties:
- The Dieffenbachia senguine amoena is probably the largest Dieffenbachia for the room. It can grow up to 1.5 meters high and has distinctive gray-green leaves with striking white markings.
- Dieffenbachia x bausei is a hybrid that stands out for its marbled petioles and speckled leaves.
- Dieffenbachia maculata or D. picta is probably the easiest Dieffenbachia to cultivate. There are many varieties of this cultivation, with yellow and white accents in the leaves and with a wide variety of leaf patterns, all of which are 1 meter high.
There are also several other varieties of Dieffenbachia that are cultivated and traded all over the world. However, it will not necessarily be possible to determine whether it is a separate species or a descendant of Dieffenbachia. Because all Dieffenbachia developed in the same area of origin, and many look very similar, and the breeders eagerly breed beautiful varieties with specially colored leaves and give them the names across the world that appear appropriate for marketing purposes.
An “own” variety could e.g. B. be the Dieffenbachia humilis, also known as Dieffenbachia alliodora. It actually has completely green leaves and the advantage that it also grows in the deepest shade, but there are also many D. humilis sold that look like D. senguine and are most likely created with at least one D. senguine …
If you can buy from a specialist dealer, you could have fun clicking through the list of 73 Dieffenbachia pages at http://de.hortipedia.com/wiki/Kategorie:Dieffenbachia . In the majority of cases, the nice addition to the name only leads back to the page about the Dieffenbachia senguine. If not, then you know it is a species of its own. Then maybe you can explore the small differences that qualify a Dieffenbachia for extreme housing conditions.
If you just want to have a nice Dieffenbachia in your apartment, you don’t need to go into this hassle. Because the different varieties are equally easy to care for in normal surroundings.
Care of the Dieffenbachia as a houseplant
The Dieffenbachia is robust, persistent, evergreen and undemanding. Most species can grow to a height and a considerable diameter in the room, the maximum is a good 2.5 meters high and a circumference of just under 1 meter. The leaves are just as voluminous, they can be up to half a meter long and about half as wide.
The plants with their home in tropical South America naturally need a lot of warmth, and in the summer in the sun they also need a lot of water. Otherwise it is surprisingly undemanding, and that on almost every pitch.
The best location
The Dieffenbachia is happy to stand in every south-facing window, preferably with direct sunlight, but please without constant drafts. They also like to be in partial shade, and some species even thrive in an environment that can actually only be called dark. Here you will best cope with your own observation. It is reported that the hybrids moved somewhere in Europe no longer like direct sunlight and generally feel most comfortable in a partially shaded location. It is better to test carefully whether a Dieffenbachia really belongs to the variety that is satisfied with shade.
She only likes high humidity, so the Dieffenbachia is one of the few plants that feel right at home in a bright bathroom. Or in the kitchen, in a household in which it is also used.
If the Dieffenbachia is in the living room, it is best to place the planter in a saucer filled with water to increase the humidity around the plant. If this is deep enough and you add some gravel, excess water can drip off into this coaster.
The room temperature is almost irrelevant to a Dieffenbachia, it grows without problems at any temperature between 18 and 24 degrees. She just doesn’t want it colder than 15 degrees.
The right earth
With regard to the potting soil, the Dieffenbachie is not very demanding. A mixture of two parts of loose leaf earth, two parts of expanded clay or perlite and one part of sand will completely satisfy you.
Water and fertilize Dieffenbachia
During the growing season from spring, the Dieffenbachia would like to be watered evenly and regularly with the softest possible water at room temperature. From the beginning of autumn you should reduce the irrigation a little, in winter even more, now the plant only needs water when the surface of the earth in the pot feels completely dry.
If you spray the Dieffenbachia with water more often during the growing season, it will also help to provide it with the much-loved increased humidity.
During the growth period, you should mix your Dieffenbachia with a little moderately concentrated liquid fertilizer into the irrigation water about every two weeks.
Dieffenbachia grow quite vigorously, after a year they can sometimes “blow up” the pot in the root area, as older plants they usually have to be repotted every 2 years in a new soil mixture composed as described above.
If your Dieffenbachia is doing really well with you, it could quickly reach sizes that you can no longer use in your living room. Then you can slow down the plant by simply shortening it to the desired length, ie “cutting off the middle”, so to speak. The shortened plant will most likely sprout again pretty unimpressed.
The cut-off parts can be used straight away: Make the cut in early spring. You can then quickly grow several from a Dieffenbachia by cutting the cut parts into head cuttings of around 15 cm and growing new Dieffenbachia from them.
Propagation from trunk parts could also work. Now cut the piece of trunk that you cut off into slices that are a little thicker than your thumb. These discs are allowed to dry for a few days. They are then put upright to about the middle in fairly moist potting soil and placed by the window. The vigorous Dieffenbachia will most likely produce a new small plant from each disc.
When your dieffenbachia is in bloom and producing fruit, you could let them ripen and plant the seeds. Sometimes it comes to something. However, Dieffenbachia do not bloom very often here.
The leaves and plant parts of the Dieffenbachia contain calcium oxalate crystals, and these are neither beneficial for humans nor for nibbling pets. In the past, Dieffenbachia was also called “Schweigrohr” because it was used as a means of torture among slaves on the Caribbean islands in the 17th century. When people are forced to chew parts of the Dieffenbachia, they become temporarily silent because calcium oxalate contains tiny needles that dig into the lining of the mouth and throat. These needles are bundled in so-called shooting cells and are released for firing when chewing.
A few glycosides, alkaloids, and saponins are also included. A “nibble” of Dieffenbachia can also cause diarrhea and nausea, cardiac arrhythmias and paralysis. So it is definitely not the right houseplant for a household with pets or small children.
You will certainly chew less on your plants, but you should really be aware of the threat when handling the Dieffenbachia, especially because of the calcium oxalate needles. The shooting cells can be injured if you just dust the leaves a little coarsely, and in the worst case scenario you will have calcium oxalate needles in your eye, which burned your conjunctiva.
The Dieffenbachia is an easy to care for, willing and vigorous indoor plant. She plants her apartment in a very short time with lots of decorative, air-purifying plant matter. Because of the toxic plant components, however, it is not suitable for households with children and animals. When handling her, caution and protective gloves are always required.