Euphorbia Milii – The Ultimate Guide On Caring For The Crown Of Thorns Succulent

Euphorbia Milii belongs to one of the most diverse genera in the world. It has more than 2100 species under it with many different characteristics. Euphorbia genus has the common name spurge, and it originates from all over the world, and they, therefore, can grow in various environments.

Euphorbia Milii Origin

Euphorbia milli is one of the most common plants in this genus. It is a native of Madagascar with a historical presence in the Middle East. Its presence in the Middle East has given it an exalted position in Christian oral history. Its common name, the Crown of Thorns, derives from the narrative that it was the plant used to make the crown that the Romans placed on Jesus’s brows.

This narrative tells you something about Euphorbia milli; it is thorny. The thorniness of this plant is not unique to it. Having thorns on the stem and all over the plant is one of the few characteristics virtually all plants in the Euphorbiaceae family have in common; there are a few without thorns.

thorns, leaves and flowers of euphorbia milii
Photo by Suanpa via Pixabay

Characteristics Of Euphorbia Milii

The crown thorn plant has a blackish stem densely covered with thorns. These thorns are straight, sharp, and long; one can attain the length of three centimeters which is substantial considering milii is one of the shorter Euphorbiaceae.

It can attend a maximum height of 1.8 meters in the wild or, if left unattended, in a genus where some plants can grow up to ten meters high. Its leaves are bright green and small. They can grow to be 3.5 cm long and 1.5 cm broad. Like its counterparts in the genus, the plant doesn’t have branches, and its leaves grow directly from the stem. It is the only known euphorbia plant with natural, green, and fleshy leaves that remain on it for most of the year.

The crown of thorns has flowers with small petals, and they come in various colors, including red, yellow, orange, salmon, and bicolor. A Crown of Thorns plant typically has many angular shoots growing from one plant. The flowers grow in sets consisting of one female flower surrounded by several male flowers; this is another characteristic of plants in the Euphorbia family. It can produce flowers throughout the year if the conditions are right.

The flowers are surrounded by a rigid leafy-leathery cup known as a cyathium which is evolutionary protection for the flowers against the wind that blows hard in the dry, bare lands where most of the euphorbias occur naturally. Cyathium is another characteristic that occurs naturally in all euphorbia plants.

Besides the flowers, Euphorbia milli has inherited the euphorbia family trait of having copious amounts of a milky sap that flows easily when the plant is injured. This sap is poisonous to your eyes, skin, and when ingested.

euphorbia milii pink flowers
Photo by ignartonosbg via Pixabay

Euphorbia Milii Care

This is a hardy plant adapted for the harsh, desert-like conditions, and it isn’t much you can do to keep it from thriving. It is, therefore, an excellent plant to save for a novice gardener or one who doesn’t have the time. It will still look good if you neglect it, and much of the work you will need to do will be focused on keeping it in check to prevent overgrowing.

#1. Lighting and Positioning

Due to its adaptation, this plant can do well when planted outside exposed to the sun. Direct sunlight is especially essential for the production of flowers. It is heat tolerant, but it can’t survive frost. The best place to plant the soil on the outside is on a rock garden. Temperatures below 50oF are stressful too, and the lower the temperature, the harder it is for the Crown of Thorns to survive.

You can choose to grow it outside in a garden if the weather in your area is warm, and this would ultimately guarantee you the best results. Its ideal temperature is above 90oF, but it will survive with varied results in any temperature above 50oF. Having it grow outside allows it to form shrubs as it would form in its natural habitat. The formation of shrubs can be an attraction for some people. This plant’s milky sap is poisonous and entirely unpalatable to deer and other animals. Some people use it as a hedge because it is deer resistant.

On the other hand, if you live in a place that experiences freezing winters, you can keep plant it in a pot and keep it indoors. You can control it near southern and western windows to enjoy direct sunlight for at least three or four hours a day. Remember that this plant is toxic to humans and pets and position it accordingly.

Ensure the room temperature where you have kept this plant falls between 65 and 75o F. The pottage you use as you plant the milii inside should have excellent drainage to prevent root rot. Any loamy soil you use should have at least 50% pumice to enhance drainage. If you don’t buy commercial pottage, ensure you mix your loamy soil with gravel on a ratio of 1:1.

#2. Watering Euphorbia Milii

This plant is drought-resistant, and it, therefore, doesn’t need too much water. If you are growing your euphorbia milii indoors, water it from spring to late fall. You should only give it a drink when the first inch of the soil is dry, and you can determine if it is by sticking your finger inside the earth. It is time to water if you find that your finger encounters dry soil up to the first knuckle.

Add water to the plant and allow any extra water drains off (your pot should have drainage holes to keep the water out). You will likely have placed the pot where you have planted your plant on a saucer or some other place to keep extra water from dripping to the ground. Drain the water from the saucer because it remains there. Your plant’s roots will be sitting on the water, and they will rot.

Water the same way in winter but only water when the first two inches of the soil are dry. In winter, the heat is not as much, so the plant isn’t losing as much water through transpiration. It is also important to note the water intake for this plant through the leaves is limited.

It takes in much of the water it needs through the leaves also. This evolutionary detail means that the plant works well in high humidity areas. Seasides are some places you are likely to find the Crown of Thorns doing well. This means that it is adapted or the salty seawater. To give it conditions that are most similar to its natural home, spray it with a weak saline solution to supplement its water needs that it can’t meet through the roots.

euphorbia milii
Photo by ignartonosbg via Pixabay

#3. Feeding

Lack of fertilizer doesn’t affect the plant’s survival, but essential fertilizer can enhance the plant’s health, especially concerning blooming. The fertilizer you give it should be at half strength, and it should have absolutely no boron as this plant is allergic to the element. Also, the fertilizer should be slow-release since the Crown Thorn doesn’t grow fast. Feed the plant once a month in the main blooming seasons of spring and summer. The amount of fertilizer should be four tablespoons for every 10 square feet.

#4. Pests and Diseases

Euphorbia milii isn’t too susceptible to pests and diseases. However, if you are growing it indoors, it can be infested with spider mites and mealybugs. Scale insects of different types may also attack it. You can get rid of these insects by spraying the plant with soapy water or dipping a cotton swab and rubbing the infected sections. Also, you can get rid of the bugs by spraying them with high-pressure water to dislodge them physically.

You can prevent the infestation by spraying the plant with water mixed with tea leaves, salt, and soap. It is advisable to spread them if you notice some infected plants to keep the infestation at bay.

Root rot is the primary disease affecting this plant and other succulents. It occurs when the plant’s roots stay in water for some time. You can, therefore, avoid it by ensuring your plant is well-drained. If you see an infection, which yellowing leaves can indicate, drain the water in the pot or on the saucer, and the plant will recover if the condition is too advanced. There are levels it might have gone that would force you to decapitate the plant and use the remaining cuttings as seed for another lot of plants.

#5. Pruning and Grooming

One characteristic of euphorbia is the ability to spring back to life after severe pruning. However, you should try to maintain the plant’s shape in your grooming. Remove the weathered leaves in autumn to make room for new foliage in spring and summer when it grows most vigorously. You should have protective gear when grooming it to avoid contact with the sap.

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flowers of euphorbia milii
Photo by katja via Pixabay

Propagating Euphorbia Milii

There are two ways of propagating euphorbia. Through seeds and stem cuttings.

Propagation by Stem Cuttings

This is the simplest and quickest propagation method across euphorbia species. The pruning we talked about is the part of keeping the plant in shape that also provides an excellent opportunity to propagate because the pruned parts become cuttings. You should, therefore, prune your euphorbia with a sharp, sterilized knife. Sterilization ensures neither the mother nor the daughter plant gets an infection from the tool.

If your plant has several stems growing from the main, pick one of the stems from the base and cut it off; you can cut many depending on how many daughter plants you want. If you have a solitary plant, behead it as this leads to the production of side shoots that later become cuttings from which you can propagate your euphorbia. White latex will flow from where you have removed the cutting. You can stop it by spraying some cold water on the wound.

The growth of euphorbia occurs in summer and spring, which is also the best time to propagate using cuttings. If the cutting has left, remove any leaves on its bottom half. Also, allow the cutting to dry off a bit before planting.

You can apply some rooting hormone on the lower part of the cutting to expedite rooting and then stick it into a medium similar to the one you use for propagation through seed. Don’t keep the cutting away from direct sunlight after planting, as direct sunlight can cause the cutting to dry up. Ensure the soil is around twenty-five degrees Celsius to facilitate fast rooting. You can warm the ground using an artificial warming mat because sunlight is detrimental.

Propagation by Seeds

Propagation by seeds is complex, and it is usually less viable. There is no reason to go for it when you can propagate by cuttings.

Repotting 

It is advisable to repot your Crown of Thorns plant every two years. There are three reasons why repotting is necessary for two years.

  • Your plant will have grown so much that the pot can no longer comfortably accommodate the roots. This is the case if some sources appear above the surface or protrude through drainage holes.
  • The pottage will have been substantially depleted of nutrients after nourishing the plant for two years, and it may be unable to sustain the plant into the future.
  • After some time, the pumice, sand, and other components that keep the soil porous will have depleted, making your soil harder to drain. This can cause root rot.

How to Repot

Euphorbia milii’s growing season starts in spring, so the best time to repot is the end of winter or early spring. The timing is suitable because your plant will grow immediately after repotting and cure any injuries it may have sustained when repotting. 

It would help if you had the following:

  • Cactus mix 
  • Pumice or perlite 
  • Compost
  • Knife 
  • Twine 
  • Gloves 
  • Goggles 
  • Bigger pot 

Steps

  1. Put on protective gear (goggles and gloves) to protect you from the sap and your plant’s spines. 
  2. Tie the various stems of the plant together at different points to make them easier to handle without breaking. This plant is relatively short, so you might have to tie it only once. 
  3. Take the knife and run it along the circumference of the pot. This step helps you to loosen the root ball. 
  4. Lay the plant on its side and pull the plant out. The soil on which the succulent is planted is usually loose, and it should be easy to remove the plant. 
  5. Take the new pot and cover its drainage holes with cactus newspaper, coffee filter, or light paper to prevent the potting mix from escaping through it. The cover should be permeable enough to allow water to pass through as necessary. 
  6. Remove as much of the previous pottage on the roots as possible without injuring the roots.
  7. Fill the pot partway with the cactus mix and pumice on a 50:50 ratio, add some compost, and mix. You should put just enough to ensure that it will fit nicely in the pot when you place the root in.
  8. Put in the roots and hold them up in the most natural position.
  9. Fill in the remaining space in the pot with the remaining potting mix and press it down. 
  10. Water it and place it in a suitable location with lots of light. 

Final Words

In conclusion, the critical take-home about this plant is that it is easy to maintain and poisonous. To enjoy its beauty, you need to handle it with care.

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Posted in Succulents