Mother-in-law's tongue is sometimes also called dumb cane -- both unflattering names that allude to this house plant's tongue numbing sap.
The dumb cane is so named because its toxic sap, if ingested, can cause a painful loss of speech. It forms a thick, green, canelike stem topped off by a cluster of large, fleshy, oval to lance-shaped leaves lightly to heavily marbled in white or yellow. The greenish flowers are of little interest.
When the dumb cane becomes too tall, air layer the top of the plant, then cut the stem into three-inch sections, and lay them sideways in a potting mix. They will soon produce new plants.
Mother-in-Law's Tongue Quick Facts
Scientific Name: Dieffenbachia sp.
Common Names: Dumb Cane, Mother-in-Law's Tongue
Light Requirement for Mother-in-Law's Tongue: Bright Light to Light Shade
Water Requirement for Mother-in-Law's Tongue: Drench, Let Dry
Humidity for Mother-in-Law's Tongue: Average Home
Temperature for Mother-in-Law's Tongue: House
Fertilizer for Mother-in-Law's Tongue: Balanced
Potting Mix for Mother-in-Law's Tongue: All-Purpose
Propagation of Mother-in-Law's Tongue: Air Layering, Stem Cuttings
Decorative Use for Mother-in-Law's Tongue: Floor, Table
Care Rating for Mother-in-Law's Tongue: Very Easy
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Larry Hodgson is a full time garden writer out of Quebec City in the heart of French Canada where he grows well over 3,000 species and varieties. His book credits include Making the Most of Shade, The Garden Lovers Guide to Canada, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, Houseplants for Dummies, and Ortho's Complete Guide to Houseplants, as well as other titles in English and French. He's the winner of the Perennial Plant Association's 2006 Garden Media Award.