Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane)
Dieffenbachias are poisonous, and the leaves or stems should not be chewed or eaten. An old legend says that chewing the plant causes dumbness for several days, and that it was given to slaves as a punishment.
Dieffenbacbia amoena, origin: tropical America. A good free-standing specimen plant with large, nearly oblong leaves varying from 6 to 10 in. in width and from 14 to 20 in. in length, and branching alternately from a thick stem. The leaves have irregular yellow and cream markings along the lines of the lateral veins on a mid-green background. This species is “tougher” than all other dieffenbachias. It will withstand temperatures down to 50° F. (10° C.) or lower if dry at the roots. Ideally this plant prefers humidity and warmth to maintain growth. It will shed its lower leaves from time to time with age, but this loss is more than compensated by the production of new leaves at the top. Will probably develop into a palm-shaped “tree”.
D. picta, origin: Brazil.
This is strictly aplant, as warmth and humidity are essential. Provide a constant temperature of 50° F. (10° C.) or ideally, 60° F. (16° C), and a semi-shaded or shaded position. Lance-shaped leaves grow from a thick stem or trunk. The dark green leaves, about 6 in. wide and 12 in. long, have cream markings between the side veins which form an almost completely cream area towards the centre vein. The bottom leaves will turn yellow and fall off naturally, but will be compensated by growth at the top, making an interesting tree-like plant. Related varieties include D.p. Var. liausei, D.p. Var. Jenmanii, D.p. Var. memoria corsii, D.p. Var. Oerstedii and D.p. Var. Roe-hrsii. These and other varieties are similar to picta, but they have different markings ranging from grey on a green back-ground to dark green and white spots on a bright yellowish-green background, though the very striking D.p. Var. Oersledii has a dark green, almost black, leaf with a white centre vein.