Dumb Cane – Dieffenbachia spp. (mostly D. amoena and D. maculata)

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Dumb Cane – Dieffenbachia spp. (mostly D. amoena and D. maculata)

Common Name: Dumb Cane, Spotted Dumb Cane, Dieffenbachia

Botanical Name: Dieffenbachia spp. (mostly D. amoena and D. maculata), dee-fen-BAHK-ee-a

Decorative Life: Years.


Harvest Instructions:

With D. maculata ‘Camille’, any form and combination of nitrogen fertilizers seem to work equally well in producing high quality and long lasting plants.

Family Roots:
  • Member of Araceae (arum family).
  • Native to the Tropical Americas.
  • Common relatives include philodendron, aglaonema, anthurium, calla and pothos.
  • Leaves to 12 inches long and 6 inches wide occur along thick stem.
  • Leaves are also often variegated with yellow or white patches or blotches.
  • Leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid. If chewed, this acid can cause swelling of the tongue to the point that breathing and talking are hindered, the latter point relates to one common name, dumb cane.
Storage Specifics:

Chill sensitive, store above 50 degrees F. Does well if transported in 14 days or less at 60F. Storing in either fiber or paper sleeves for two weeks at 65F did not alter plant quality.

  • Dieffenbachia was named after the German physician and botanist, J. F. Dieffenbach, 1794-1847.
  • Several arum family members (including taro) are grown in tropical regions for their edible tubers, representing starch staples for large populations. Many other species are grown as ornamentals for their beautiful foliage.
  • Chill damage as measured by a 70% reduction in photosynthesis can be measured within three hours but visible chilling damage only began to appear at 27 hours. Thus, plants can be chill damaged during shipment but visible symptoms might not be apparent upon arrival.
  • Will grow well in light levels bright enough to read a newspaper in comfort. Do not purchase if yellow leaves are present and if the leaves do not go down to the base of the plant (unless a tree form is desired).
  • Older plants tend to loose their bottom leaves, which to some make them less appealing. To others, a nice looking tree effect is formed.
Recent Research Findings:

Poole and Conover (1993) stored D. maculata ‘Camille’ at 36-46F from 1-4 days and subsequently noted total or partial leaf death within a few days. Chen et al. (2000) determined that ‘Snowflake’ performed better than ‘Panther’ and ‘Sport Lynn’ under common interior environments.