The genus Dieffenbachia was named in 1830 in honor of the German botanist J. F. Dieffenbach who was the gardener at the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. It dervies its common name, Dumb Cane, from the calcium oxalate in its sap. Chewing any part of the plant causes temporary numbness of the tongue and vocal chords. D. Exotica is one of the most strikingly beautiful foliage plants and quickly became the most popular of the species. The Compacta is the dwarf variety and features wide, blotched green and white (cream) leaves. Variegated leaves will lose their color if there is not enough light. It usually grows to a maximum height of about 2 feet (0.6 meters). Its broad, lance-shaped leaves spread outward from unbranched stems and arch downward, making it one of the most showy foliage plants. Its main drawbacks are fast growth and a tendency to grow toward a light source. If the plant becomes too large or has lost leaves, it can be cut back. It will quickly put out new growth. Its large leaf surface helps to make it an effective plant for removing indoor contaminants.
Family: Araceae (arum)
Origin: Central America and South America
Care: Keep moist with soft, tepid water. Water more sparingly in winter. Apply diluted liquid fertilizer from March to August. Mist the leaves often. Avoid drafts.
Ideal Temperature: 48-80°F (9-27°C)
Challenges: Spider mites, aphids, and thirps. Root rot from overwatering.