The Dumb Cane Houseplant—Why So Dumb?
I admit, I initially became interested in the Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia amoena) houseplant due to its name. It’s part of the Araceae family, often grown as a houseplant for its generally easy care and beautiful leaves. It has many relatives, including Philodendron, Pothos, Calla, Anthurium, and more. Native to South America, it’s commonly found in tropical jungles like in Brazil.
Killers Of The Rainforest?
Dumb Canes are known to be murderous serial killers, preying on your children and pets. The truth, however, is a bit different from the more fun and outrageous claims made by our family members during the holidays. Dumb Canes are poisonous, but they rarely kill.
Dumb Cane plants have a ton of microscopic calcium oxalate crystals. Calcium oxalate sucks for humans, many of whom have experienced pain and suffering from Kidney Stones. Ouch!
When someone accidentally eats a Dumb Cane plant (who would do that?) it will be a painful and swollen experience. Only in rare experiences will this swelling get so bad that it can cause inability to talk (how the plant gets its nickname!).
Moral of the story, don’t let your pets near the Dumb Cane House Plant!
Dumb Canes are great houseplants for beginners. As long as you don’t eat them, they will treat you well. They can be grown indoors for years and reach a height of 4 to 5 feet. In the correct setting, these plants can grow several feet in one year and thrive for years to come.
Lighting: The Dumb Cane thrives indoors, but don’t let the temperature drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in your home. If you are a penny pincher, and for some reason enjoy indoor temperatures below 60, don’t get a Dumb Cane houseplant. As far as lighting, don’t allow full sun, but indirect light works great.
Watering: These plants enjoy humidity and lots of water during growing season. During winter, you can reduce the amount of water needed. Use well-draining soil as you don’t want the plant sitting in water. African Violet soils will work well.
Fertilizer: During growing season (March through October) feed them every other week when watering. You can use complete liquid food. During winter months, no fertilizer is needed.
Pot: You don’t need a huge pot for the Dumb Cane, as it will do well in a relatively small pot. However, if it becomes top heavy, you’ll want to stabilize the plant. Great pot stabilizers are called Cachepots.
Brown Spots: If you have brown spots popping up over your plant during the winter months, don’t fret. Several things can cause these spots, but over fertilizing (which you shouldn’t do during the winter) or underwatering seem to be the two main culprits. The spots will look dry, not wet, and you can quickly change your watering habits to see if that will help.
So, how poisonous is this plant?
If you have kids or pets, make sure they can’t reach the plant. Also, while handling them, you may want to wear gloves as to avoid the sap. The sap is toxic and may cause painful rashes, allergic reactions or even the inability to speak. However, as long as you don’t go eating the plant or rubbing yourself up and down with the sap, you’ll be just fine. Use caution, but really, it’s no big deal.
Honestly, if you don’t want to deal with the toxicity, you can always get a fake Dumb Cane plant.
No more worrying about the safety of your pets and babies.