Getting To Know the African Spurge ‘Euphorbia Resinifera’

Besides African Spurge, this plant is also known as the Resin Spurge, Moroccan Mound, or Staghorn Coral. Before you know much more about Euphorbia resinifera care, it is essential to mention that it has pretty severe poison characteristics. Resinifera’s toxicity is not unique. It is a common characteristic across the entire Euphorbiaceae genus. Plants in this genus are characterized by a toxic sap that makes them harmful to the skin, eyes, and ingestion. We shall see later that this toxicity has its advantages where care is concerned.

Morphological Characteristics Of Euphorbia Resinifera

This plant looks like a cactus in the first instance, owing to its upright succulent stems. An individual plant is characterized by multiple branches and clumps that look like cushions. A stem in the African Spurge can attain the height of two feet and spread up to a considerable six and a half feet.

The shoots that tend upwards are the plant’s branches, and a blue-green color characterizes them. Each of them has four edges that give it a column’s appearance. The shoots usually grow close together. The band tightly so that the plant might appear in a single shot with a compound appearance. Also, the trunks have spines which are usually short and brownish. The spines in this plant are another one of the common characteristics you are likely to find in the vast majority of euphorbia plants.

The plant has a mounding appearance and thus its name, the Moroccan Mound. It has no leaves, and its metabolism occurs on the stem; chlorophyll on the branch enables it to facilitate photosynthesis. It flowers only rarely; when it flowers, the flowers are tiny and bright yellow. If it blooms, it produces these flowers towards the end of winter and the beginning of spring. This plant grows in the wild in Morocco, its native land, but you can grow it as a house plant. It originally developed on the foot of the Atlas mountain. The following is how you care for it if you decide to domesticate it.

Placement and Lighting

The African Spurge grows best in partial or complete sunlight. Its native environment is quite sunny, and you should endeavor to give it the same domain in which it is used. If you plant it in a pot and keep it indoors, keep it next to your western and southern windows to get some sunlight. This position is ideal because it will get direct sunlight at some point in the day and indirect sunlight at other times. The interplay between direct and indirect sunlight will give the plant an ideal environment to thrive. As you may have assumed, the African Spurge is not cold hardy, and it can die under temperatures below 200F. Move the plant to more controlled environments, such as in the house, if the temperature is too low.

Soil

The most important consideration where the soil on which you grow this plant is concerned is drainage. The plant can be grown on any ground, provided it is well-draining. Depending on the type of soil in question, how well it drains is a factor of its location. If, for example, this plant is growing on clay soil, which is notoriously difficult to drain, drainage will occur if it is located on a steep slope. There is adequate sunlight to help with drainage through evaporation.

While the above is true, you are unlikely to plant your euphorbia resinifera on a steep slope. This means you have to find other ways to assure the plant of drainage. The best way to do this is to plant it on soil that has a lot of gravel so that water can pass through easily, leaving just a little moisture necessary. If you want to grow the plant in a pot, you can buy some commercial cactus mix and mix it with pumice at a ratio of 1:1. This mix will ensure the water will pass through easily. If you want to plant it outdoors, like along the driveway, as some people are wont to do, ensure the soil has a high percentage of gravel.

One other important factor for your plant’s drainage is the pot you plant it. The first thing about the bank, regardless of the material from which it is made, is that it should have drainage holes. These should be at the bottom, and they should be many enough to ensure the soil doesn’t get waterlogged. The whole point of getting the ground to drain is that wet soil causes this plant’s roots to rot.

The pot’s material may also factor in how well-drained your soil will be. Breathable pots provide more avenues for water to evaporate, and they are better for this plant that requires just a little water. Terracotta pots are such breathable pots.

Watering Euphorbia Resinifera

This plant, like other succulents, is drought resistant; it doesn’t need too much water. When Euphorbia resinifera grows outside, you are unlikely to need to water it. This attribute endears it to landscapers; it is ideal for xeriscaping owing to its beauty.

When you keep this plant in the house, you need to water it from time to time, especially during hot summers. Watering the plant only when the soil is arid is advisable. You can tell whether the soil is dry enough to need another drink by poking your fingers into the pottage. This shouldn’t be too hard because the ground will have quite a bit of gravel. Water if the soil is dry up to three inches; otherwise, hold off watering and check again after two days.

Fertilizer

Since the Euphorbia resinifera grows on the sandy, dry atlas plateau, you may have deduced that it doesn’t require too many nutrients. It is hardy and can use whatever little it gets in the soil. Thus, when growing it outside in a garden, you don’t need to give it any extra fertilizer. The nutrients that come to the ground through natural processes and cycles are enough, no matter how little.

However, you will need to water the plant if you grow it indoors. It would help if you watered house plants because the soil gets depleted without the benefit of natural replenishment due to its isolated position. Feed the plant with a balanced succulent fertilizer at a half-strength every month during the plant’s growing season of spring and summer.

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Grooming

Euphorbia resinifera is a slow-growing plant that doesn’t require too much grooming. Dead leaves are one of the reasons plants need grooming, and we have already established that this doesn’t have leaves.

spikes of euphorbia resinifera
Photo by @ave_gardens via Instagram

Pests and Diseases

One of Euphorbia’s toxicity benefits is that many pests don’t like it. It is entirely deer resistant, and even more minor pests don’t like it. The only pests you are likely to find are mealybugs. You can deal with the mealybugs by spraying them with plant-based pesticides such as the ones made from pyrethrum and neem. You can also dislodge the pests by spraying them with water under high pressure. They will fall from your plant and leave it healthy. Your plant can be affected by mildew if you keep it in a high humidity area, so you should avoid too much humidity.

Root rot is another serious menace to these plants. It mainly occurs when you allow the roots to stay on waterlogged soil. You can deal with this condition by ensuring the ground is well-drained, and the pot where you have planted the succulent has holes to let out excess water.

Troubleshooting

You can tell your euphorbia resinifera has mealybugs if you see white cotton thread-like substances hanging from it. If you find the mealy bugs, go ahead and deal with them as above. The other possible indicator of a problem is the yellowing of the stem. The stem typically has a blue-greenish appearance. If it starts yellowing, it could mean that the plant has been attacked by root rot or is malnourished. Please find out the exact cause and act on it accordingly.

Propagating Euphorbia Resinifera

In theory, there are two propagation methods for this plant, seeds and stem cuttings. Seeds work, but they are rare. The reason why Euphorbia resiniferous seeds are rare is that the plant rarely produces flowers. Propagation with seeds is made even more difficult because they are seldom viable when you find them.

Stem cuttings are, therefore, a better option. It is improbable that propagation by cutting will fail if you follow the correct procedure. The following is how you should go about it.

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.  Four-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, 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. The plant has branches referred to as arms. 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 bleeding. Coldwater causes the lumber 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. However, the cutting will be susceptible to rotting.
  5. Put your potting mix into one of the pots, plant your Euphorbia resinifera cutting in it, and add some gravel on the top to keep the cutting stable. The additional support from gravel is necessary because you shouldn’t bury the cutting more than one inch below the ground.
  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.
  7. Transplant it into a bigger pot when it roots. Remember you embed it in a 4-inch pot, so you should move it to a pot at least 6 inches wide.

If you want to grow the cutting outdoors, you can root the cutting in the permanent position where you want the plant to grow. Only be sure to provide it with the conditions described above.

euphorbia resinifera in a pot
Photo by @elemro via Instagram

Final Thought

This plant is relatively easy to manage. It doesn’t require too much feeding or grooming. All you need to do is ensure the plant grows on adequately drained soil and that you keep it safe from overwatering. Also, remember that this is a highly toxic plant when positioning it. Keep it out of reach of children and pets. Use protective gear when working on it.

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Posted in Succulents