Herbs & Plants


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Botanical Name:Dieffenbachia
Subfamily: Aroideae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Alismatales
Tribe: Dieffenbachieae
Genus: Dieffenbachia
Common Name: Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane).It is also called “Mother in Law Plant” as a result of the effects of the milky sap it contains.
Habitat:It is a house plant but can grow outside in tropical climate.It is most easy to grow and that may be the reason it is grown as house plant throught the world.

This group consists of about 30 tropical perennials native to Costa Rica, Columbia, Brazil, Puerto Rico and the West Indies. These plants are popularly grown as houseplants because of their beautiful foliage; however, care must be taken, as they are very poisonous (*See Note below*). Dumb Cane (the common name) is one of the easiest plants to grow. They have cane-like stems and can grow about 4 feet high. Their large leaves may be oval with pointed tips or long and narrow and their bases encircle the stems. Their colors also vary. Some have dark green leaves with creamy white markings, while others have dark green, light green, yellowish and white markings. Many of the fancy hybrids where developed from D. maculata and D. Seguine.


Dieffenbachias are not hard to grow as long as you keep them away from drafts and cold temperatures. Anything below 60 degrees will cause the plant to suffer and possibly die. It also needs a good amount of humidity so mist regularly or keep on a humidity tray. They are happy in anything from bright, indirect light to partial shade. Keep out of direct sunlight though as the leaves burn easily. Dieffenbachias tend to be vigorous growers, so annual repotting is usually necessary.

Propagation is fairly easy. If the plant has gotten leggy due to age or improper care, the crown can be cut off and potted up. The remaining cane can be left alone and new sprouts will appear, or it can be cut into three inch pieces and placed in individual pots. Some types even produce offshoots which can be removed and potted up.
Click to see:How to Propagate Dieffenbachia:
.Dieffenbachias come in several varieties, only one of which is all green (Dieffenbachia oerstedii). D. pictais the most common variety found in stores, and sports long, deep green leaves with white splotches. The Camile, Marianne and Rudolph varieties of D. picta are almost entirely ivory. One of the largest varieties available isD. amoena, which reaches five feet tall at maturity with leaves over a foot long. This type makes an outstanding specimen plant.

Selected species:
Dieffenbachia amoena –
Dieffenbachia maculata –
Dieffenbachia seguine –

The cells of the Dieffenbachia plant contain needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals called raphides. If a leaf is chewed, these crystals can cause a temporary burning sensation and erythema. In rare cases, edema of tissues exposed to the plant have been reported. Mastication and ingestion generally result in only mild symptoms. With both children and pets, contact with dieffenbachia (typically from chewing) can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, including oral irritation, excessive drooling, and localized swelling.  However, these effects are rarely life-threatening. In most cases, symptoms are mild, and can be successfully treated with analgesic agents,  antihistamines,  or medical charcoal.  Gastric evacuation or lavage is “seldom” indicated.  Jennifer S. Boyle, MD, PharmD, and Christopher P Holstege, MD, note that, “In a large retrospective study of 188 patients with plant oxalate exposure, all cases were determined to be minor and all resolved with minor or no treatment.”   They also note that, “In patients with exposure to toxic plants, 70% are children younger than 5 years.”

The milky sap it contains. If ingested it causes a burning sensation in the mouth, swells the tongue, and paralyzes the vocal cords, literally taking one’s voice away. It has the same affect on cats and dogs, so it’s important to keep this plant out of reach. The sap can also cause mild skin irritation so be sure to wash hands after handling.

Calcium oxalate crystals, a protein and a N-free compound have been implicated in the toxicity of Dieffenbachia. The plants have been used as medicine, stimulants and to inflict punishment.


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