Euphorbia Trigona Care, Propagation, Watering & More – The Overall Picture of the African Milk Tree

Euphorbia Trigona, widely known as African Milk Tree, gets its name from its continent of origin (it is a native of Central Africa) and the fact that it produces a milky sap that is typical of euphorbia plants. The plant grows tall, can attain a height of nine feet, and grows fast. It can add two feet to its growth every year. Owing to its rapid growth, many people use it as a hedge.

A Brief Description Of Euphorbia Trigona

For the African Milk Tree to attain a height of nine meters, it needs to be grown outside because it produces much shorter when you grow it indoors. Even in the best conditions, it can only reach half its full height. Like most other euphorbia plants, the plant is thorny, with thorns that grow directly on the stem. This plant’s thorns and another aspect of its appearance can make the African Milk Tree appear like cactus, but it is not a cactus. It is succulent.

Euphorbia trigona stores its water reserves in its stem, just like the cactus. The similarities between it and cacti have given rise to one of its common names; friendship cactus. Other folk names include the good luck cactus and good luck plant. It is also referred to as the cathedral cactus. The names given indicate that it is a popular gift plant among friends.

The lumber (sap) that flows from the African Milk Tree is toxic to pets and humans when ingested and even on the skin. This plant also produces flowers where several male flowers usually surround one female for pollination purposes. This arrangement of flowers is another common characteristic of plants in the Euphorbia genus.

Trigona’s flowers are white and only produced when planted outside because adequate sunshine is a critical factor for the blooming of this plant. The fact that it needs abundant, direct sunshine to bloom is confirmed by the fact that it flowers in spring and summer when there is some sunlight.

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Lighting

Direct sunlight can be problematic for this plant. It originates in Central Africa, the land of thick forests. Although tropical grounds enjoy abundant sunshine, these plants are usually protected from direct sunlight by more giant trees in the woods. The protection can be partial or total. Thus if you are growing the plant at home, you should keep it next to the eastern window so that light can hit the plant indirectly. If you are growing it outside, ensure you provide some shade to protect the plant.

Soil

This plant doesn’t require much fertilizer, so the soil doesn’t require too much organic matter. However,  the ground on which you plant this succulent needs to be well-drained. If it has too much clay, the roots will stay in a wet environment, leading them to rot.

Therefore, if you are planting in a pot, buy cactus mix and then add gravel to it to make it easier to drain. If you want to grow it outside, ensure the soil drains quickly. You can mix loamy with stone for the same reason.

Watering Euphorbia Trigona

As we mentioned when talking about the soil, well-draining soil is necessary because Euphorbia Trigona doesn’t need a lot of water. If you are growing the plant outside, you don’t need to give it any extra water; the rainwater and humidity in the atmosphere should be enough. Unless you are experiencing an uncommon, long-term drought in your area, you can see to water the plant.

Your indoor plant can’t rely on natural watering. You have to give each a moderate drink once in a while. You should, however, ensure the soil is dry before you give it the next drink. Since the ground, as a growing medium, is supposed to have the same drainage level for every Arizona plant, the area’s temperature determines how much water you should give it. If it is hot, the water will evaporate fast, and you will therefore need to water the plant more often and vice versa.

Temperature

Temperature is not a big problem for Euphorbia Trigona as it is drought resistant. It does well in arid climates, often characterized by high temperatures. The only safeguard you might need to make in this regard is if you live in a place with hot sun. It is advisable to protect the plant from direct sunlight by providing partial coverage from the sun. Too much humidity might work against this plant as it causes stress and makes it susceptible to pests and fungal infections.

Feeding

The African Milk Plant knows how to survive. It doesn’t need too much additional feeding. How much you feed depends on the season. Give it fertilizer in spring and summer, its growth seasons, and leave it unfed for the rest of the year. You should give it a water-soluble fertilizer that has been mixed to half-strength and only once a month. Avoid fertilizers with boron as many euphorbia plants react badly to it.

Pruning Euphorbia Trigona

Euphorbia trigona, like other plants in the genus, can survive a fantastic amount of pruning. You can cut off up to 75% of the shoot, and it would bounce back. Pruning is an essential part of this plant’s husbandry.

It has a shallow root system, yet, as we saw earlier, it grows up to nine feet tall, and its trunk is water storage, which means a high center of gravity and weight. This combination is why old African Milk Plants tend to topple over. It would help if you pruned it to reduce weight on the plant’s upper body to reduce pressure on the roots.

It is also vital to ensure you prune it evenly on all sides. Else, there will be too much weight on one side that can cause the plant to keel over. When pruning, please remember the sap produced by this plant is toxic, and wear the appropriate protective clothing.

euphorbia trigona placed next to the window
Photo by @somuchgreen_ via Instagram

How To Propagate Euphorbia Trigona

There are two ways of propagating Euphorbia Trigona. Through seeds, and stem cuttings.

#1. Propagation by Stem 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.  Four-inch pots depending on the number of plants you want to propagate
  4. Cactus mix and coarse gravel
  5. Heavy gloves and google

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 arm at the base. The plant and the component will start oozing sap. Rinse the cutting with cold water to stop it from bleeding. Coldwater causes the fluid to thicken fast. You can also spray the mother plant’s injury with cold water to keep it from oozing.
  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 cutting in it, and add some gravel on the top to keep the cutting stable. The additional support from stone 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.

#2. Propagation by Seed

It is possible to propagate the African Milk Tree using seeds, but it is difficult, and its outcome is uncertain. First, it is difficult to get the roots, and when you find them, you will find it difficult to break their dominance. If, however you see the seeds, put them in a potting mix similar to the one you use in cuttings. Water it and keep it under the shade where the temperature is between 65oF and 75oF.

three euphorbia trigona plants in pots
Photo by @wegrowplants via Instagram

Repotting

The African Milk Tree grows relatively fast, as we have seen. You will need to repot it from time to time for optimum performance. How can you tell your Euphorbia trigona is underpotted? Answering this question is the first step, as it allows you to determine whether potting is necessary.

You need to repot if you see roots protruding from the pot’s drainage holes. It is also necessary for you to repot your plant when you find that the stems are growing too tall and heavy for the pot in which you have planted them to support their weight sufficiently.

Spring and summer, the plant’s growing season, is the best time to repot the plant. The timing is appropriate because your Euphorbia trigona will grow immediately after repotting and cure any injuries it may have sustained when repotting.

You need the following.

  1. Cactus mix
  2. Pumice or perlite
  3. Compost
  4. Knife
  5. Twine
  6. Gloves
  7. Goggles
  8. Bigger pot

Steps

  1. Put on the protective gear (goggles and gloves)
  2. Tie the various stems of the Euphorbia trigona together at different points to make them easier to handle.
  3. Take the knife and run it along the circumference of the pot. This 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. 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 when you place the root bulb in, it will fit nicely in the pot.
  7. Fill in the remaining space in the pot with the remaining potting mix and press it down.
  8. Water it and place it in a suitable location with lots of light.

Pests, Diseases, and Common Problems

The toxic sap in Euphorbia Trigona makes it unpalatable for most pests. Mealybugs, however, are still a problem. You can tell your plant is infested when you see your otherwise bright green plant develop white threads that look like cotton. Mix some water with a mild detergent and spray the infected parts of the plant. You can also remove the bugs by rubbing alcohol on the infected legs. You can dislodge the bugs by spraying them with water under high pressure.

The plant scale is as hardy as mealybugs. Their control is made difficult by the covering shell they have and the fact that their females lay hundreds of eggs, and they can make the pest challenging to manage when they hatch.

Fungal diseases such as cork disease infect the plant due to overwatering. It is also possible to have the plant suffer from root rot. Cut off the infected parts of your Euphorbia trigona as the cork plant. Yellowing leaves are often an indication of overwatering, and they can get back to color if you reduce the water. This plant’s leaves are the most delicate and are the best indicator of its health.

Conclusion

Fin conclusion, it is easy to take care of the African Milk Tree. The main things to take care of include pruning to help the roots bear the weight of the stem and branches. Keep the plant under a shade or partial shade, and you will rarely need to water it except in severe drought conditions. This beautiful plant only grows in spring and winter, and it is then that you give it fertilizer. If you have planted it indoors, spring and summer are when you intensify watering but within the correct level to keep the root rot, cork disease, and other fungal infections at bay.

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