Euphorbia Mammillaris (Indian Corn Cob)

Euphorbia Mammillaris Image

Euphorbia Mammillaris has two common names that indicate its origin and appearance. It is known as the Indian Corn Cob or the Corn Cob Plant. Other common names include corkscrew and corncob euphorbia. It is dioecious and a member of the broad euphorbia genus. It is a native of South Africa, particularly the Southern Cape and Little Karoo area.

  • Other Names: Indian Corn Cob, Corn Cob Plant.
  • Sunlight: well adapted to staying in direct sunlight.
  • Watering: minimum water use.
  • Temperature: 18°C to 24°C.
  • Soil: requires well-drained soil.
  • Humidity: enjoys moderate moisture.
  • Propagation: propagated from stem cuttings, beheading, and offsets.

Morphological Characteristics

As the name suggests, the plant has a column and several branches at the base, and it grows upright. The plant’s constitution is such that the branches can grow as big as the stems, and they, therefore, are prone to break since the stem is unable to handle the weight. The additional weight also grows along the ground.

The name corn cob is descriptive of the morphology of the plant because it appears like the cob of corn, only with the long thick spines that look like toothpicks. The plant’s stem and branches have numerous stout spines. These spines are one of the main characteristics of the euphorbia plants, the vast majority of which have thorns. As a result of these spines, this plant is ideal for hedges to keep rodents and other pests outside.

Euphorbia Mammillaris bloom in spring to produce yellow cyathia. Each plant has either male or female flowers, so pollination doesn’t occur among flowers within a single plant. The fact that individual plants are sexed also means that fruits and seeds are few and far between.

Flowers

Each fruit attached to the branch is a heavy short stalk. The flowers are not showy, and they fall off easily, which is another reason it is difficult to find the plant’s seeds and fruits. When fruits appear, they are obtuse and small; they typically don’t grow beyond half a centimeter.

The flowers are about an inch in width, and each has a cup-like appearance. Besides yellow, which is the most prevalent flower color, you can have some that are white and yellow-green. Some can be pinkish-red on occasion. The plant blooms at the end of the stem, where flowers appear in clusters. Flowers bloom throughout the year apart from the fall.

The tubular stem has raised tubercles, which look somewhat like grains of maize. The tubercles are usually presented when the plant is well hydrated, diminishing in drought situations. They are a water reservoir for the plant, highly drought-resistant. The plant’s primary color is green which is necessary as a source of chlorophyll as the plant doesn’t have any more than vestigial leaves.

However, some varieties of the plant are pinkish-white and blue-green. The plant can grow up to twelve inches long, and the stem can be up to two inches. Some euphorbia mammillarias don’t grow beyond nine inches high. Seeing that it is a perennial plant, its height tells you that it is a slow grower.

Like other plants in the Euphorbia genus, this plant produces copious amounts of white sap, also known as lumber. This sap is toxic, and you should have this in mind when locating it in the house. Sap and the spikes make it relatively dangerous for children and pets.

euphorbia mammilaris flowers
Photo by @mariky80 via Instagram

Varieties

This plant has two main varieties.

  1. Euphorbia mammillaris L. It is characterized by a short stem that appears like a shrub that produces a mound.
  2. Euphorbia Mammillaris Variegata. A variegated version characterized by pale-green stems which also have cream-white stripes. If you keep the plant in full sun in winter, it can turn pink during winter. 

How to Care For Euphorbia Mammillaris

Euphorbia Mammillaris is a popular house plant, but you can also plant it outdoors. It would help if you considered the following when growing it for the best results.

Lighting and Placement

The Indian corn plant’s natural habitat has sunlight almost throughout the year. The plant is therefore well adapted to staying in direct sunlight. Adequate sunlight is necessary for the growth of this plant, and it has no problem with the typical sun. There could be unlikely events where the summer sun is too hot that the stem and branches get scorched, you can then move your plants, but such a scenario is improbable.

If you are keeping it in the house, position your Euphorbia mammillarias near somewhere it can access direct sunlight. The best position is in the western or southern part of the house. You can place the plants on a patio or next to a window. If on a window, keep it close, about one foot from the window, for maximum benefit.

The plant can also survive under indirect sunlight, but it isn’t easy to bloom under such conditions. When sunlight is reduced, you may notice it turning yellow in winter. Move it outdoors and where there is more possibility of getting some sun and leave it there for some hours before returning it indoors.

You should also note that this plant is not cold-hardy. Temperatures below 20oC affect it negatively. If your area gets too cold, you should only keep the plant indoors because too much cold for extended periods will kill it.

euphorbia mammillaris variegata
euphorbia mammillaris variegata
Photo by @house.plants.uncle via Instagram

Best Soil for Euphorbia Mammillaris

Euphorbia Mammillaris is a succulent, although it may be confused for a cactus due to its appearance. This means the plant requires light, very well-drained soil. Well-drained soil is necessary because waterlogging is the greatest danger to this otherwise easy-to-maintain plant. However, the grounds should be able to hold some moisture, and they, therefore, should have some organic matter in them.

When potting the plant for the first time, buy succulent mix and blend it with pumice or ground coconut shells. The pumice and coconut shells will create enough spaces in the soil to allow the water to float easily flow through while, at the same time, maintaining some moisture in the ground. You could also use a mix of loamy and sandy soils.

Plant this succulent in a pot with suitable drainage holes to allow the water to pass through. A breathable pot such as terracotta is always a good option because it allows water to evaporate while keeping the soil air.

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How Much Water Does Euphorbia Mammillaris Need?

As mentioned above, this plant is highly drought-resistant. Which means it doesn’t need too much water. You don’t need to water it in winter since it is dormant and the weather is cold. Not much transpiration occurs in winter, so the plant retains its water. Water it according to need from spring through the fall, only when the substrate is dry. You can tell the substrate is dry enough for the next drink by dipping your fingers in the soil. Don’t water if there is moisture in the first three inches but water if there isn’t. You will notice the plant needs more water in spring and summer due to the warmth in those seasons. Also, they are the plant’s growing season and require water to facilitate its growth.

Humidity

Unlike other plants in the Euphorbia genus, Mammillaris enjoys moderate moisture, especially in summer. It can grow in the humidity typically found in the house. Give it a little misting once in a while when the temperature is high. The additional moisture is not essential for the growth of this succulent but it can give the plant optimum beauty and health.

euphorbia mammillaris
Photo by @jardinana via Instagram

Fertilizer

The Indian Corn Cob doesn’t demand too many nutrients as a drought-resistant plant. It can survive in relatively bare soil. However, it needs some fertilizer, especially during the growing season. Feed it monthly on the half-strength cactus fertilizer in spring and summer. You can restrict the feeding to mid-spring to mid-summer to ensure maximum intake. Too much fertilizer can be harmful, so watch out for telltale signs of over-fertilization, such as discoloration and go easy on the fertilizer until the pigmentation normalizes.

Pests and Diseases  

Euphorbia Mammillaris is not too prone to pests and disease, but mealybugs can be a challenge. You will know your plant is infected when you see the appearance of tiny cotton balls hanging from it. A mealybug infestation is easy to manage if you catch it early. Then you can dislodge the bugs from the plant by spraying them with pure water under high pressure. Also, you can control infestation using a mixture of liquid detergent and water. The other alternative is to use pesticides; it is best to use organic ones such as those made of pyrethrum and neem.

The two primary diseases are root rot, which mainly comes from overwatering. You can manage it by watering the plant only when thirsty, and the roots can repair themselves naturally. If you reduce watering after noticing root rot symptoms, they will regrow if the damage is not too extensive.

Propagating Euphorbia Mammillaris

Propagation by stem cuttings

Stem cuttings are the most common and effective propagation for Euphorbia Mammillaris. This is mainly because the plant is dioecious, its flowers fall off easily, and it is hard to get a pollinated flower that survives long enough to produce viable seeds. Even in the unlikely event seeds are available, they are unlikely possible.

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. Planting pots depending on the number of plants you want to propagate
  4. A mixture of cactus mix and pumice
  5. Heavy gloves and goggles

Follow the following steps:

  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, whether a knife or pruner and wipe it with alcohol wipes. If you don’t have alcohol wipes, dip a piece of cotton wool into the spirit and swab the cutting tool with 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. With your now sterilized tool, cut one stem at the base. The stem will start oozing sap. Rinse the cutting with cold water to stop it from oozing. Cold water causes the sap to thicken fast.
  4. Allow the cutting to dry off by keeping it under a shade for seven days. The cutting would still root if you planted it without allowing it to callus. However, the cutting will be susceptible to rotting.
  5. Put your potting mix into one of the pots, and plant your Indian Corn Cob cutting.
  6. Build a shade for the cuttings by planting them outside, like a hedge. Place the cutting away from direct sunlight in a warm place and keep the soil moist. If the sun is scorching, remove it after the plants are established.

Propagation by beheading

As the name suggests, this method requires you to cut off the head of the plant to propagate it. Beheading your Indian Corn Cob doesn’t kill it; it allows the stem to sprout again. Beheading this plant may be another way of controlling its growth. Even when the original purpose of the beheading was to control the plant’s growth, you can still use the cutting for propagation. The following are the steps to take when beheading.

  1. Get a sharp knife or other cutting tool and sterilize it. It is critical to sterilize lest you infect the plant and the cutting with diseases or get harmful substances into them.
  2. Snip the plant just below the head and ensure that you cut it below a node. Having a node as part of the cutting is necessary because rooting happens on the node.
  3. Allow the head to callous for five to seven days.
  4. Put the cutting in an appropriate potting mix with well-draining soil that can support the growth of a succulent.
  5. Place the cutting in a well-lighted place under indirect sunlight. Keeping it under indirect sunlight will reduce transpiration which will help your plant to retain moisture.
  6. The time within which rooting occurs depends on the season. They appear faster during summer and spring than during winter and fall. It is always better to propagate these plants in spring because that is Euphorbia Flanaganii’s growing season. Even the mother plant will recover faster this season.
blooming euphorbia mammillaris
Photo by @succulentzoo via Instagram

Propagation by offsets

To be able to propagate from the mother plant, it might take several years for the main plant to produce an offset. Use a sharp knife and remove an offset from the main plant to start this process. When the offset is first removed, clean the extra soil out. Removing this extra soil is essential because such soil would be depleted of nutrients, and it may have lost the elements that make it porous. Repotting using new pottage give the offset an ideal environment for growth.

Before replanting, wait for a few days to allow it to dry off. Use well-draining soil for the new succulent plant. And do not forget to water when the soil dries out. Put some newspaper in the pot where you want to plant your offset. The newspaper will keep the soil from falling through drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. You should then add a little pottage and suspend the offset at the center of the pot.

Fill the rest of the pot with some soil around the offset’s roots and press it down. Water the new plant, keep it under bright indirect sunlight, and occasionally mist it to facilitate growth.

Pruning

The plant doesn’t need too much grooming. It is small, so you don’t need to manage its size even in the house. However, you might want to reduce the number of branches to make it lighter. You should also remove any dry, weathered, or broken stems. Remember always to wear protective gear to avoid poisoning by the plant’s sap. The best time to prune it is at the beginning of spring or late winter. It will recover faster in the growing season.

Troubleshooting

The following are some common indicators that something may be wrong with your Euphorbia Mammillaris and what they might mean.

  1. Yellowing of the stem: This might mean your plant is dehydrated, it is not common for the dehydration to be due to drought because it is highly drought-resistant, but a potted plant might get there. The other possibility is root rot because, with it, your succulent roots will not be absorbing water effectively.
  2. Tiny cotton balls: They show that the plant has a mealybugs infestation.

Conclusion

Like many euphorbias, this plant can be confusing for a cactus. Be careful when handling it due to its toxicity, and keep it out of reach of young children and pets. The beauty of this plant is that it is pretty attractive and straightforward to manage. A new or busy gardener will get beauty and convenience from this plant.

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Succulent City

Hey everyone! Welcome to Succulent City! We are all about succulents, cacti, and a bit about air plants. Ten years back, in 2013, we began the journey with succulents. It started as a simple hobby, crafting and selling charming succulent-themed pins and decorations. But as time passed, our fascination with these remarkable plants grew, and we gained extensive knowledge about them. Therefore, Succulent City is the blog as you see it is now. Enjoy your visit and happly planting!

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Posted in Perennial Plants