Dieffenbachia / Dumb Cane: Low care plants grown for their attractive foliage

Dieffenbachia / Dumb Cane: Low care plants grown for their attractive foliage
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Image Source: Mokkie / CC BY-SA

They are evergreen perennial plants grown for their attractive foliage. The leaves are green with white or yellow spots. The plants are easy to grow and maintain. They do not require much care. However, care should be taken to keep it away from kids or pets as the plants are toxic and the sap can cause irritation. Mild to moderate symptoms may occur if digested.

Quick Details of Dieffenbachia

Other Common NamesDumb cane, Mother in law tongue
TypeIndoor/outdoor ornamental plant
MaintenanceLow
FloweringLate spring/ early summer after maturation
LightLow to moderate bright indirect sunlight, can tolerate partial indirect light.
WaterRegular watering
TemperatureHumid moist conditions
SoilWell-drained soil
FertilizerAny house plant fertilizer
HabitatMexico, West Indies, Argentina
ToxicityToxic to animals and humans
Common DiseasesAphids, spider mites, root rot
Scientific name Dieffenbachia spp.

Dieffenbachia Buying Instructions

  • There are more than 50 species of Dieffenbachia are available, so take plant of your choice.
  • Leaves should be healthy and shiny.
  • Stem should be thick and strong.
  • Price can vary depending on variety and size.

Overview of Dieffenbachia

They are tropical perennial herbaceous plants belonging to the family Araceae. They are native to Mexico, the West Indies and Argentina. The plants have an erect stem with simple alternate leaves. The leaves are broad, thick green with white spots or flecks. The sap of the plant contains raphides which has a poisonous effect leading to temporary loss of speech. The plants can bloom ones they mature. The inflorescence is spadix and mostly white in colour. It is grown as an ornamental plant.

Special features:

The sap produced by the stems are poisonous and can cause irritations when exposed to skin. If ingested the sap can cause numbness in mouth thus making the person unable to speak. The tongue can also swell up. The plant gets its common name dumb cane due to the fact that the intake of sap can cause the person to lose his speech for a while. The intake or exposure of the sap to skin can have many side effects.

Usage and Advantage of Dieffenbachia

  • Grown as an indoor/ outdoor ornamental plant.

General Care for Dieffenbachia

Soil: Any well-draining nutrient rich soil can be used. The soil should have proper aeration to be able to get rid of excess water.

Light: During growing seasons, i.e., during summer and spring the plants prefer indirect bright sunlight or can survive in shade. During winters the plants prefer direct bright sunlight.

Water: They should be watered regularly to maintain the moisture in the soil. However, excess water in the soil should be avoided. Soggy soil can cause root rot. The plants can be deep watered ones in a week during the growing period and ones in a month during winters.

Pruning: The plant can grow tall leaving a bare base. The older plants can be chopped till the base, near to soil and the chopped stem/ upper portion can be re planted. This helps in maintaining a healthy and busy group of plants.

Fertilizer: Any house plant fertilizer can be added to the plant ones in a month during the growth period.

Pests and other problems for Dieffenbachia

They can be prone to household pests like aphids, mealybugs, white flies, spider mites etc. they are almost prone to all pathogens. Excess watering can sometimes lead to root rot. Over watering can also lead to yellow or brown leaf edges and leaf tips. Pale or scorched leaves are seen when the plant is exposed to direct bright sunlight.

Propagation of Dieffenbachia

The plants are mostly propagated through cuttings or division.

The top of the old dumb cane can be cut and planted in to a new soil. the cuttings develop new roots and the stump grows new leaves.

The plants produce young plants through suckers. The small new plants can be separated from the parent plant by uprooting the plants and cutting down the connection between the parent and the young plants. These small young plants can be potted separately.

The stems placed horizontally have an ability to develop new roots thus helping in easy propagation of the plant.

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