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Dumb Cane Houseplant

Dumb Cane - Dieffenbachia, if you please, is certainly not dumb!

But there is a highly specific reason why it is called so. It so happens that this plant, if accidentally taken in the mouth and chewed, can cause the tongue and lips to swell and cause temporary speechlessness. In other words, it can render one dumb for quite some while. This is because of the presence of calcium oxalate crystals in the plant juice. 

However, despite this mild toxicity, especially to children, dogs and cats, Dumb Cane plant or Dieffenbachia has been a globally popular house plant. Despite its native range from Mexico to western South America, Dumb Cane has spread the world over, given its low light requirement, ease of maintenance and attractive big foliage. In addition, the NASA Clean Air Study found that Dumb Cane was a good indoor air purifying plant that could absorb formaldehyde, xylene and toluene, apart from generating oxygen and sequestering carbon dioxide like other plants that perform photosynthesis. Clearly, dumb cane benefits are many! It has even naturalized in some of the geographies it was introduced into as an ornamental.

Dumb Cane plant care is easy - prevent overwatering, that is, water 2-3 times a week and provide a well-balanced fertilizer or manure every one month. Overwatering can turn the leaves brown and soft. Low nutrition can cause the plant to start turning yellow. Plants acclimatized to low-light conditions, if suddenly exposed to bright sunlight, can burn and turn yellow. Pest attacks can also cause leaf discoloration. Hence, there can be several reasons for dumb cane leaves turning yellow or brown, and the plant parent must carefully analyse the plant itself and its care regime to understand the true cause.

Dumb Cane propagation is not too difficult either. 1-2 inch thick horizontal slices of its stem when placed in rich organic soil develops into the full plant within a few months. 

Dumb Cane flowers are borne on a long structure called the spadix - the male flowers are at the top while the female flowers are below - a row of sterile flowers separate the two sexes. Dumb Cane fruits are red-orange berries.  

Fun Fact 

While we understood that Dumb Cane is not cane, it needs to be mentioned that it is not a cane either. It is called so merely because it resembles one externally!


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