A boldly variegated plant that can create quite a dramatic display in the home. However, it should be positioned and handled with care as the sap is very poisonous. The Dieffenbachia tends to lose its lower leaves, which first become yellow and then turn a soft mushy brown. Before this occurs, any fading leaves should be removed with a sharp knife. Wear protective gloves, as the sap can cause chronic inflammation. Where the atmosphere is drier, the fading leaf may simply dehydrate, but it should still be cleanly cut off to prevent any rot from spreading. When the plant becomes top heavy, with a long, bare stem, it may be worth cutting it back. The material removed can be used for propagation and the stump should produce new shoots in time.

Plant type : Foliage plant with shrubby growth
Season of interest : All year round
Size : 100-150cm (39 — 59in)
Flower : Arum-like, 5-7.5cm (2—3in), greenish white; produced in spring/summer
Leaf : Oval, 20-45cm (8—18in) long, 10-20cm (4—8in) wide, boldly variegated
Temperature : 19-2TC (66-70°F)
Aspect/Light : Well-lit situation, out of direct sunlight
Humidity : high
Watering : Evenly moisten compost in spring and summer, allow to dry a little in autumn and winter
Feeding : Once every two to three weeks with houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer
Propagation : Plant 10-12.5cm (4—5in) tip cuttings in or lay 7.5cm (3in) sections of stem on seed and cutting compost in mid spring to early summer at 22-24°C (72—75°F)
Potting : Houseplant potting compost
Problems : Mealy bug, root mealy bug, red spider mite, stem rot and leaf yellowing due to draughts, cold or over-watering
Availability : Commonly available throughout year
Uses indoors : Close to window on table or floor, but take care with positioning as it is very poisonous
Other varieties : D. exotica - green and white, D. picta - greenish yellow, D. 'Tropic Snow'-white