How To Care For The Crested Green Coral Succulent ‘Euphorbia Flanaganii’

The Euphorbia flanaganii, a dwarf succulent, is a short member of the extensive Euphorbiaceae family. This is a genus made up of over two thousand species. Euphorbia is one of the most diverse genera of flowering plants on earth. Its species is Flanaganii, a name given to Henry George Flanagan, the first species collector.

Among the familiar names this plant has is the Medusa’s Head about the stems that proceed from the short stem in all directions, like the snakes that adorned the head of Medusa, the goddess of Greek mythology. The cylindric orientation of these branches is why some consider them like Medusa’s snakes. It is also referred to as the head of a jellyfish due to its similarity in appearance and jellyfish. The plant is also knowns as the Dwarf Succulent since it is one of the shortest in a family where plants can grow even six meters.

euphorbia flanaganii planted in black soil
Photo by @cactus_andes via Instagram

Morphological Characteristics

Euphorbia flanaganii is characterized by a swollen underground stem and cylindrical branches that grow flat on the ground spreading horizontally up to 40 cm in diameter. The leaves are small, about 10mm long and 1mm broad. They have a nearly acute shape. This species is a native of South Africa in and around Johannesburg.

The flowers of the Europhobia flanaganii are cyathia clustered on the central branches, each cyathium with a single 4mm flower per flower stalk. The flowers are typically yellow, and they have 6mm bracts arranged to form a covering around the ovary, 6mm in diameter. The sepals, petals, and stamen are joined to the base of the superior ovary, and the ovary is attached directly to the flower stalk. Flowers are usually formed at the central part of the plant, on the apex of the stem, and at times the inner young branches.

This arrangement of flowers coupled with the presence of a bract is one of the typical characteristics of Euphorbias. Several male flowers will typically surround one female flower.

The pollination of these flowers can be self or cross. Each plant and cluster of flowers has everything it takes to pollinate itself. The fertilized flowers form capsules, and when the fruits are ripe, the capsules dry and split open to release the seeds, which are dispersed in the late summer. After dispersal, the seeds are banked in the soil during the winter months. Remember the plant species’ flowers between summer and autumn. The flowering period is continuous and, as you can see, quite long. Seeds that come from the flowers that bloomed at the beginning of the flowering period disperse as the last batch is blooming.

bloomed euphorbia flanaganii
Photo by @kjy_kn via Instagram

Uses

The plant is commonly used as an ornamental plant, but the whole plant is collected for medicinal purposes and sold in traditional Muthi markets in Durban, South Africa. The latex is used during pregnancy as a laxative and is applied o wounds and skin lesions.

Euphorbia Flanaganii Cristata

This is a crested form of Euphorbia flanaganii and its crest can manifest in one of two ways. The shoot that hoists the crest in this plant can either be central or cylindrical lateral. The variety with lateral shoots is the most common for cultivation. Its appearance is markedly different from normal Euphorbia flanaganii due to its flat and crowded cluster. The cluster often grows to form a cushy mass that is usually 6-12 inches wide. The velvety mass has a beautiful emerald-green hue which is its main attraction. Some of these plants crest from a caudex creating a wavy ridge that appears like a fan further enhancing the plant’s overall beauty.

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Care of Europhobia Flanaganii

Where Should You Place Euphorbia Flanaganii

The euphoria Flanaganii is a very delicate plant in that it requires bright light for at least 6hours, but sunlight needs to be indirect for the plant to grow and mature healthily. A lot of direct sunlight scorches the plant’s flowers, which, in turn, bleaches the bracts and causes them to wither.

Scorched leaves mean no chlorophyll, and the plant is thus unable to facilitate photosynthesis. Unless the leaves are restored, the plant will die of malnutrition. Fortunately, your Euphorbia flanaganii doesn’t have to die of scorching. Moving it from direct sunlight to a more sheltered place ad giving it the right environment for growth will cause the leaves to heal fast.

Adequate sunlight makes Euphorbia flanaganii a beautiful thing. It causes variegation on the leaves, and if they don’t variegate, they acquire a lushness that is a great attraction for most people. These colors are the reason many people consider it an excellent decorative plant.

Best Soil for Euphorbia Flanaganii

We have already seen that this plant’s natural habitat is dry sandy or rocky soil. The soil should be easy to drain away any extra water. You should plant this plant on the same type of soil if you want to domesticate it in a pot or a garden. You can buy a cactus mix as pottage but ensure you mix it with gravel or pumice at a ratio of 80% gravel and 20% cactus mix. The pot where you grow the plant should also have enough drainage holes to keep it safe from waterlogging, which could be the greatest danger to its health.

If you are planting this succulent outdoors, you can keep the soil well-drained by introducing sandy soil into the planting hole. The introduction of well-draining earth is essential if the naturally occurring soil doesn’t drain. You can also make French drains to get water off the ground and drain away.

Watering

The Euphorbia flanaganii is native to semi-arid and rocky areas, and it is therefore adapted for long periods of drought. As a result of its hardy nature, the plant doesn’t need much water for most of the year.

However, it needs water during its growing season. The growth season starts at the beginning of spring and continues till the end of the fall. As a succulent, however, too much water is poisonous. You should ensure that the soil is sufficiently dry before giving it another drink. How do you know that the earth is dry? You should always ensure the top two inches have no moisture before giving the plant another drink. The best time to water the Euphorbia flanaganii is in the morning during all seasons except for winter. In the winter, the plant is only to be watered when it starts to wilt. It is necessary to see that the soil is dry between drinks because waterlogging causes roots to rot.

Fertilizing

You may feed some organic compost to a young growing plant to ensure it is healthy. To an already grown Europhobia flanaganii, the fertilizer to the plant is to be liquid form. You should dilute the fertilizer to half strength. Feed to the plant during the summer and spring. These are its growth seasons, and it needs a boost of nutrients. You don’t need to feed it in winter since it is dormant.

If the plant is an indoor plant and is planted inside a container, it needs to be more fertilized. The need for more fertilizer for an indoor plant is because the soil on which you have planted it is isolated. It doesn’t have the benefit of the natural cycles that replenish fertility after the plant has depleted it over time. Give the plant some fertilizer at least once per month when in the house. You can tell that your plant needs fertilizer if the leaves start yellowing from the bottom.

Pruning & Grooming Euphorbia Flanaganii

This plant doesn’t require too much pruning, but you need to position it so that your beauty is most visible. The nature of this plant makes it great to show off from a hanging basket. Also, you may want to trim the branches to keep them from growing too long. If you place your Euphorbia flanaganii on a hanging basket, you can train the plants slithering branches downwards to keep the plant beautiful.

When the plant grows on the ground, Grooming might mean moving the branches around to form a beautiful pattern.

Pest and diseases

These plants are generally vulnerable to mealy bugs and spider mites. The mealybugs suck the sap from the Europhobia flanaganii’s roots, leaves, and fruits. They excrete honeydew which leads to the growth of sooty molds around the plant. When the plant has been severely infested with these bugs, the leaves turn yellow and gradually dry out. Severe infestation can result in the shedding of leaves.

You can tell that your plant is infested with mealybugs by the presence of tiny white balls that appear like cotton balls. You can remove the mealybugs and spider mites by spraying the infested plant with liquid soap mixed with water. The other way you can get rid of these pests is by applying pesticides. You should use pesticides made from plants such as neem or pyrethrum. Other methods include dipping a piece of cotton wool in alcohol and dabbing the infested areas. You can also spray the affected areas with high-pressure water and dislodge the bugs physically.

Propagating Euphorbia Flanaganii

There are two types of propagation using seeds and using cuttings. You can use either for your Europhobia flanaganii.

Propagation by Seeds

Coarse river sand mixed with ordinary commercial sand is the ideal medium for the seeds. Collect mature, well-dried seeds and sow them on the soil we have described above. It would help if you didn’t bury the seeds too deep. It is vital to ensure the soil is moist throughout the period to facilitate germination.

 Also, keep the seeds warm; the best way to do this is to keep the soil you have planted them in warm. This often means heating it with an electric map because you want to keep the seed away from direct sunlight as they germinate. If kept in the right conditions, your seeds will germinate within about two and a half months. If, on the other hand, the soil is too cold, germs can take up to six months to germinate.

Propagation by Stem Cuttings

 Propagating Euphorbia flanaganii is possible using seeds, but as you have seen, it can take a very long time for the seeds to germinate and eventually become established plants. Cuttings take much shorter. You can have a cutting root around eight weeks after planting. The following are the steps to take when propagating by cuttings.

It would help if you had the following things, so put them together before starting.

  1. A sharp cutting tool such as a knife or hand pruner
  2. Alcohol wipes, methylated or surgical spirit, and cotton wool
  3. Five-inch pots depending on the number of plants you want to propagate
  4. Cactus mix and coarse gravel
  5. Heavy gloves and goggles

Take the following steps for successful propagation.

  1. Put on your gloves and goggles to protect your skin and eyes from the toxic milky sap that will run from the plant.
  2. Take your cutting tool, and wipe it with alcohol wipes or otherwise sterilize it. Sterilizing the instrument is an integral part of the process as it ensures neither the daughter nor mother plant gets infected with any disease that might be on the tool.
  3. Cut one of the spreading branches at the base with your now sterilized tool. Rinse the cutting and the wound on the mother plant to stop them from oozing sap. Coldwater causes the liquid to thicken fast.
  4. Allow the cutting to dry off by keeping it under a shade for seven days. Please note that the cutting would still root if you planted it without allowing it to callus, but it will be susceptible to rotting.
  5. Add your potting mix into one of the pots, and plant the cutting in it.
  6. Water the cutting and put the pot away from direct sunlight, within a temperature range between 65 and 75oF. This cutting should root within eight weeks. Water it regularly to keep it growing.

Note: Be Wary of the Crested Medusa Head

Like the Greek legend of Medusa, this succulent comes with a word of caution. The leaves of the Crested Green Coral succulent produce a milky sap that can be poisonous. The sap has been known to cause adverse reactions when it comes into contact with your skin or eyes. Plant owners with curious pets should be cautious as this succulent can be toxic if ingested. The plant rarely needs pruning or maintenance, but one should be cautious and wear gloves and goggles when handling this succulent.

Final Words

It would help if you never forgot that Euphorbia flanaganii is toxic. Pruning, obtaining cuttings, and any other activity requiring you to contact the plant can only be done safely with protective gear on. However, this plant is relatively easy to grow, mainly when you have dealt with the question of your soil’s drainage.

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Posted in Succulents