Dumb Cane

By Plant Liker •  Updated: 06/25/14 •  2 min read

Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia “Exotica Compacta”)

dumb cane dieffenbachia compacta purifies indoor air of toxic gases

Main Points:

Dumb cane derives its name from the numbness-inducing calcium oxalate in its sap which renders the chewer of the plant temporarily unable to speak. (All parts of the plant are poisonous — keep out of reach of animals, children, and those inclined to taste-test green things.)

The D. “Exotica” is a beautiful and popular houseplant, named in honour of the German botanist J.F. Dieffenbach, resident gardener at the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. The “Compacta” is the dwarf variety; it grows to about 2 feet in height and features blotchy green and cream leaves. These leaves will lose their colour if given insufficient light. 

One of the most showy foliage plants, Dumb cane grows quickly and tends to grow toward a light source. Cut the plant back if it grows too large too quickly or if it loses its leaves. 

Place the plant about 6 feet from a window, out of a draft and out of reach of children. 

Its large leaf surface area helps it to quickly remove air contaminants from indoor spaces. 


Semi-sun to semi-shade.

Pests and problems: spider mites, aphids, and thrips may infest Dumb cane, and overwatering leads to root rot.

Keep the soil moist with tepid, soft water (rainwater). Water sparingly in winter. Mist the leaves often and avoid drafts. Feed with diluted liquid fertilizer from March to August.

Grow in peat mixes or a compost of loam, peat, leaf-mold and sand. Grown in hydroculture, it thrives.

Plant Liker