Dieffenbachia seguine (Dumb Cane, Mother-in-law Plant)

Native to Brazil, members of the Dieffenbachia genus are extremely common houseplants. Reaching usually one meter tall in homes, these are prized for their unique foliage and tolerance of low light levels. Although they prefer high humidity, room temperature meets their heat requirements (of 65-75 degree Fahrenheit) year-round. These reproduce asexually once mature, sending up new plants identical to their parent. They have few devastating insect and disease issues, making them an all-around promising choice for a house plant.

Dieffenbachia seguine (Dumb cane, Mother-in-law’s tongue, Mother-in-law plant)
Family: Araceae
Subspecies: var. ‘lineata’, var. ‘lingulata’, var. ‘seguine’, var. ‘ventenatiana’, var. Camilla
Hardiness Zones: 10-12
Height: 1.8-3 meters in native habitats, rarely exceeds 0.6 feet tall indoors
Diameter: to 1 meter wide
Growth Rate: moderate in part-shade, slower in full shade
Age: perennial
Root System: taproot system with small lateral roots
Deciduous: no
Monoecious/dioecious: monoecious, bisexual inflorescence
Monocot/dicot: monocot

Tolerates: dense/thick shade, drought
Problems (major): none
Problems (minor): Spider mites, scale, aphids, blight (bacterial rot) and mealybugs are all potential problems. Over-watering leads to yellow leaves.
Poisonous: The sap often burns the mouth, tongue, and throat if ingested. It may also lead to vocal cord paralysis and other health problems. The sap can also irritate the skin and eyes. These also contain Oxalic acid. The primary damaging agents are “raphides”, which are expelled from the cells when the cells are broken.

Soil requirements: prefers loamy, well-drained soils (appreciates a water-filled tray underneath the pot to increase humidity)
Air requirements: prefers high humidity
Watering requirement: moderate to low, water once the soil begins to dry
Sun requirement: part-sun to full shade required (bright indirect light for optimal growth)

Leaf shape: ovate-oblong or oblong with splashes of cream/white colors in the center of mature leaves (absent on small foliage)
Leaf size: to 30 centimeters long in its natural habitat, rarely exceeds 20 centimeters in length and 13 centimteters in width
Flower structure: Dumb canes produce inflorescences similar to Calla lilies. The spadix is typically 14-17 centimeters tall, hidden inside the green spathe usually 12-25 centimeters long (resembles a typical leaf). The spathe is a light green while the spadix is a creamy white. The peduncle is reduced since the inflorescences grow between the leaves.
Flowering frequency: rarely indoors, year-round
Fruit: Small, red-orange berries are produced post fertilization, although flowering alone is rare indoors.

Notable characteristics:
These are extremely easy to asexually propagate by sections of stem alone. Roots are able to grow into mature plants if removed their parent plants. Some plants may produce offspring by sending up new plants through their root systems. The stem appears to have “rings”, areas where previously leaves grew and fell off. This stem is fairly prominent, especially with older specimens, with several buds visible as old leaves die off. All dumb canes produce substances called “raphides”, which are shot through cell walls when individual cells are damaged. This effective defense against grazing herbivores, however, means that these must be grown cautiously.

Primarily used as an ornamental house plant. Caution must be used when handling to avoid raphide expulsion.

Sources used:

New sprout (grown from a broken off root)

Older foliage


Female flowers

Several plants produced by natural underground root divisions

Male flowers

The images provided were taken by me (the plants, also, were grown by me). They are D. seguine var. Camilla. They may be used for educational and informational purposes only, provided that this online journal or article is cited correctly.


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