Is Dieffenbachia An Air Purifier: The Why’s, How’s and What’s Of This NASA Super Plant

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The cityscape and corporate life have unwittingly gotten to most of us, and unless you are a millionaire with a few extra to spare on a weekend island getaway, there is no escaping the concrete jungle anytime soon. However, not all is lost and the jungalow lifestyle trend that has taken over social media’s interior aesthetic pages proves that point really well.

Inspired by tropical modernism, the trend advocates green living through the very space you live in. Think, of a mini indoor jungle: houseplants artistically arranged in every room, nook and cranny, draped on walls, and arching sunlit windows.

Truly glorious! Wonderfully beneficial, too!

We say that because houseplants are an amazing addition to any interior space and have several benefits. Not only do they improve the appearance of your home, but some of them are also known air purifiers.

If you have a green thumb already, then you must have read some science post answering a query like, ‘Is dieffenbachia an air purifier?’

Yes, houseplants like the dieffenbachia are scientifically proven air purifiers. But what sets apart dieffenbachia from other indoor plants is the relative ease and comfort of growing and maintaining it.

Also known as the dumb cane, with its lush blue-green, chartreuse-gold variegated foliage the dieffenbachia is the perfect tropical shrub, décor element, and easy style quotient improver. Its voluminous presence lights up any room with a tropical and modern vibe, whilst cleansing the air too.

Little to no care, happy lighting, and space to grow are all that are required for this tropical air purifier to thrive.

If you are an avid plant enthusiast, an interior aesthete or someone completely new to gardening, read on to find out the benefits of dieffenbachia as an air purifier, its characteristics, and additional tips on why you should be adding it to your collection or home, now!

What is the Dieffenbachia Plant?

Dieffenbachia is a houseplant usually seen in homes and office spaces around the world. These plants add a tropical vibe to any interior they are made a part of. Commonly known as the “Dumb cane” or “Mother-in-law’s tongue” because of its toxic sap, if ingested the sap can cause temporary muteness because of its effect on the vocal cords.

A tropical evergreen plant from the Araceae family, the dieffenbachia plants are native to Mexico, the West Indies, and the South of Argentina. With several variations of the Dieffenbachia plant, it is usually known for its variegated creamy white and green foliage, and its rare lily-like flowers.

Some of the leaves can be striped, other speckled or splashed in appearance. Usually taken as a plant for all spaces and sizes, the dieffenbachia can grow from 12 to 14 inches to up to 6 feet tall depending on its type.

Characteristics

Genus Name:Dieffenbachia Seguine
Plant Type:House Plant
Height:1 to 3 feet 3 to 8 feet 8 to 20 feet
Width:2 to 3 feet
Flowers:White
Foliage Color:Blue- Green, Chartreuse
Light:Artificial light, Partly Sunny, Shady

Types of Dieffenbachia

Types of Dieffenbachia
Image of the dieffenbachia plant in a home lowering pollution levels

1. Dieffenbachia Camille

Dieffenbachia Camille plant
Dieffenbachia Camille plant

Camille grows wide leaves with a neon center and dark green palette. It thrives in complete to partial shade in drained loamy soil. It needs to be well- watered with ample time required for drying between watering turns.

2. Dieffenbachia Camouflage

Dieffenbachia Camouflage Plant
Dieffenbachia Camouflage Plant

Camouflage has light colored leaves, with white veins that give it a striking appearance. It grows well in scattered sunlight or a little shade, although it can survive in full shade too.

3. Dieffenbachia Macula/Tropical Tiki

Dieffenbachia Macula plant
Dieffenbachia Macula plant

Dieffenbachia macula has upturned dark green leaves with cream splotches. It has shrub like features such as leaves growing from several stems and can grow to a height of 4-7 feet.

4. Dieffenbachia Seguine

Dieffenbachia Seguine
Dieffenbachia Seguine

Dieffenbachia seguine is a decorative variation with a thick cane-like main stem and large creamy white and green leaves. The leaves can grow up to 12 inches in optimum conditions and show white peace lily like flowers too.   

5. Dieffenbachia Carina

Dieffenbachia Carina
Dieffenbachia Carina

Carina has medium-sized green leaves with light green spots. It can grow up to a height of 15 to 20 inches.

6. Dieffenbachia Compacta

Dieffenbachia Compacta
Dieffenbachia Compacta

Compacta is a small popular variety with light colored leaves, with a creamy yellow center.

7. Dieffenbachia Delilah

Dieffenbachia Delilah
Dieffenbachia Delilah

This dieffenbachia variety has big pointy leaves with usual green edges and lovely greenish-white patches in the center.

8. Dieffenbachia Honeydew

Dieffenbachia Honeydew
Dieffenbachia Honeydew

The beautiful honeydew grows neon-yellow leaves with dark green edges, making it a very striking variety to own.

9. Dieffenbachia Mary

Dieffenbachia Mary
Dieffenbachia Mary

A fast growing variety with mottled green leaves, it is prized for its unique appearance.

10. Dieffenbachia Tropic Snow

Dieffenbachia Tropic Snow
Dieffenbachia Tropic Snow

One of the most common types of dieffenbachia, it has oval shaped green leaves streaked with white or yellow. It is a medium sized variety that grows well anywhere.

11. Dieffenbachia Snow

Dieffenbachia Snow
Dieffenbachia Snow

A bigger variety than Tropic Snow, Dieffenbachia Snow can grow up to 4 to 5 feet tall. It produces dark green leaves with creamy white or silvery green spots.

12. Dieffenbachia Sarah

Dieffenbachia Sarah
Dieffenbachia Sarah

Sarah is a tall thick stemmed variety with heavily variegated leaves in creamy white against a green background.

13. Dieffenbachia Sparkle

Dieffenbachia Sparkle
Dieffenbachia Sparkle

Sparkle has chartreuse leaves blotched with deep green and white spots like a pothos. It can grow to a height of 3 to 4 feet.

14. Dieffenbachia Star bright

Dieffenbachia Star bright
Dieffenbachia Star bright

This variety has narrower leaves compared to the other dieffenbachia types. It has chartreuse gold leaves mottled with dark green patches, and can grow well in damp places like the bathroom!

15. Dieffenbachia Triumph

Dieffenbachia Triumph
Dieffenbachia Triumph

One of the thick stemmed dieffenbachia varieties, this one has leaves with a white streaked, lime green center against a dark green background.

16. Dieffenbachia Tropic Marianne

Dieffenbachia Tropic Marianne
Dieffenbachia Tropic Marianne

Tropic Marianne grows leaves similar to the Hosta plant. The oblong almost creamy white leaves are bordered with a very thin green lining. In optimal growing conditions, the leaves can grow to a width of 12 inches.

17. Dieffenbachia Rebecca

Dieffenbachia Rebecca
Dieffenbachia Rebecca

A compact variety compared to its counterparts, it grows bright variegated neon leaves that have a green border.

Is Dieffenbachia An Air Purifier?

The short answer is ‘yes’. Dieffenbachia is one of several house plants that have been scientifically proven to control and improve indoor air pollution. It is always on the list of top 10 plant air purifiers and as per a Malaysian research study, it can absorb carbon dioxide really well.

In the experiment, it was seen to reduce initial CO2 levels of 436 ppm down to 332 ppm, and also reduced levels of other toxic compounds like xylene and toluene.

Both these compounds are known to play a part in a phenomenon called a sick-building syndrome, which results from spending too much time within a polluted structure. Symptoms of the syndrome and of toluene toxicity include feebleness, insomnia, fatigue, and even kidney and liver damage as per the United States Department of Labor.

To amplify the air purifying benefits of your dieffenbachia, you are best advised to place it within your personal breathing zone or your most frequented home space. This would ideally be a 6 to 8 cubic foot area where you spend most of your time. The age-old adage ‘the more the merrier’ goes really well here because the more plants you group together or strategically place all over your home or office, the better the results.

The NASA Study on Dieffenbachia

Apart from an Australian and a Malaysian study proving the effectiveness of Dieffenbachia as an air purifier, a 2013 study by NASA on environmental pollution also confirmed the same. Dieffenbachia was one of several air purifying house plants used in an experiment to understand how landscape plants help in indoor air pollution abatement.

In the study, parts of the plants such as leaves and roots as well as, its microorganisms were evaluated in their effectiveness to reduce indoor pollution. It was noted that plant roots and their relevant microorganisms absorb large volumes of pollutants including cigarette smoke, solvents, and even radon, and then destroy them. Eventually, the pollutants are converted into new plant tissue.

Other NASA tests confirm findings of the Malaysian study which claims that Dieffenbachia can absorb toxins from the air. They help purify formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from our surroundings. We produce formaldehyde in our homes from paper towels, trash bags, tissues, carpet liners, and floor covers.

The Best Dieffenbachia Varieties for Your Home

There are so many types of dieffenbachia available that most homeowners and plant enthusiasts often wonder which one is the best amongst them all in terms of air purifying or easy management etc.

However, there is no best variant of the plant; ideally, you should go for a type that suits your spatial needs. Because as far as air-purifying is considered all the different types of dieffenbachia are excellent at fulfilling that purpose.

The most common variants available in the US are often chosen because of their size, appearance or aesthetic appeal. The Dieffenbachia seguine is one such popular variety, known for its height of up to 10 feet and clusters of large green ovate leaves. This type is often used as an interior element to ass a tropical vibe to any place.

The dieffenbachia maculate is another variation known particularly for its big variegated leaves that can be grown up to 8 inches long. The ‘Rudolph Roehrs’, is another variant that is prized for its yellow leaves with ivory splotches.

Dieffenbachia amoena is another common variety that grows to 6 feet in height and has huge 20-inch leaves. The Tropic Snow’, on the other hand, is popular for its smaller leaves and relatively more compact size.

Benefits of the Dieffenbachia Plant

Benefits of the Dieffenbachia Plant
Benefits of the Dieffenbachia Plant

Improves Indoor Air Quality

As discussed earlier, the dieffenbachia improves air quality by acting as an air purifier and absorbing harmful toxic compounds like acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene from the home. Exposure to these compounds can cause several adverse symptoms over time.

Best Co2 Absorber

Dieffenbachia is also an excellent carbon dioxide absorber and can greatly reduce its levels in the air. In a Malaysian study, dieffenbachia was top of the list amongst houseplants that could cleanse CO2 from the air.

Best Low Light Plant

Dieffenbachia can grow in all sorts of lighting. This makes it a popular choice in office settings where artificial lighting and enclosed spaces create a feeling of stuffiness. It can grow equally well in partial sunlight, open sunlight, and even full shade.

Easy To Maintain

Dieffenbachia is one of the most low maintenance houseplants that can survive in very minimal conditions related to lighting and watering. It can even be grown in the water!

Big Foliage

The big leafy appearance of the dieffenbachia has made it a popular choice for aesthetic reasons since the Victorian Era. Apart from adding a tropical vibe, it can also be used in formal office settings, or in casual home spaces. It all depends on perspective!

Care and Feeding

watering can to water indoor plants
Image of watering can to water indoor plants

Watering

Since the Dieffenbachia is a tropical plant, it is sensitive to soggy soil. It’s is best watered slowly, so that it absorbs as much is required. It is important to check that the soil has dried out before each watering schedule.

Humidity

Dieffenbachia loves humid weather, and if such weather conditions are not available where you live then you can always recreate them. Using a humidifier, keeping a pan of water close to the plant or placing the plant in a try filled with pebbles and water all help to maintain air humidity. You can even keep your dieffenbachia in the bathroom and it should do just fine with the humidity there.

If nothing else, then you should try to mist the plant once a week to help it grow.

Fertilization

These plants do need to be fed with fertilizer often to help them grow well. The most convenient way to add fertilizer to the plant is by dissolving a few drops of it in water. The easiest way to fertilize these plants is to add a few drops of water-soluble fertilizer in the water when watering it. However, make sure not to fertilize the plant during the winters.

Warnings

Dieffenbachia is commonly known as dumb cane because of the temporarily mute effect it can have on your vocal cards, if ingested. The oxalic acid and asparagines proteins found in the plant cause this reaction and are also responsible for the burning sensation when the juice of the plant touches the skin.

Although the toxic effects of dieffenbachia ingestion are temporary, the plant is still placed in the medium toxic range, and therefore, care is required especially around children and pets.

Symptoms of Dieffenbachia Poisoning in Humans

Image of upset and sick child
Image of upset and sick child

Mouth Symptoms

If the juice or leaf is chewed or swallowed:

  • Swelling of tongue and blistering of the mouth and/or tongue
  • Burning in throat
  • Nausea
  • Wheezing
  • Trouble Swallowing

Eye Symptoms

If the juice comes in contact with the eye:

  • Cornea damage
  • Eye redness

Skin Symptoms

If the juice comes in contact with the skin:

  • Rashes
  • Burning
  • Itchiness

Ingestion Symptoms

If the juice or leaf is swallowed:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble breathing

Symptoms of Dieffenbachia Poisoning in Animals

If the juice or leaf is chewed or ingested:

  • Pawing at face
  • Drooling
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble Eating
  • No appetite
  • Unconsciousness

In some one-off cases where the pets were already ailing or had other complications, ingestion was the cause of death.

Dieffenbachia First-Aid

Wipe the mouth with a cold wet cloth, wash contact area thoroughly with running water. If ingested then drink cold milk to ease symptoms.

Dieffenbachia poisoning is usually easily remedied within a day or two using antihistamines, or analgesics. However, it is always a good idea to consult the doctor or call poison control if symptoms are severe or seem to get worse.

Should I Get A Dieffenbachia Plant?

Yes, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment for your health through its air-purifying benefits and it adds character to any room that it’s placed in. Although caution is required for children or pet-centric environments dieffenbachia is otherwise a relatively safe houseplant with very few casualties reported, and its noteworthy benefits far overweighting its dangers.

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