Introduction to Euphorbia Succulent – Euphorbia Varieties, Care, Propagation & More

Euphorbia is a cactus-like genus with plants that fall under it originating from most of the continents in the world. They originate from Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, and South America. Spurge is the common name for the entire genus, but one of the most popular species, Euphorbia Milii, has several interesting common words. They include Crown of Thorns, Christ Thorn, and Christ Plant. Latin America and other Spanish-speaking regions are Corona de Cristo or Corona de Espinas. If you are familiar with the Bible, you may have already connected the names and the crucifixion of Christ. Legend has it that this plant’s thorns were used to make the crown of thorns put on Christ’s head during his crucifixion! You’ll learn more about Euphorbia milii and other varieties of the Euphorbia genus, just keep on reading!

Attributes

There are many different varieties of euphorbia, as we shall see in the next section. The different types vary in their appearance, but all plants in the family have some common attributes. Firstly, they are succulents that look like cacti; they are thorny like cacti. The one difference between them and cacti is that they have a poisonous milky sap. This sap makes all euphorbia varieties deer-safe.

It also has a polyandrous flower structure with a female flower surrounded by several male flowers. The flowers are sexed because the single female flower only has the pistil, the female reproductive structure for flowers. Male flowers surround the female flower. Each has the stamen, the male flower’s reproductive part. Pollination in euphorbia can either be self or cross if other euphorbias are nearby.

The flowers are covered in cyathium, a cup-shaped leaf-like structure, whether female or male. The system protects these flowers from the windy conditions that usually grow euphorbia. Many euphorbia varieties and drought resistant, though there are still others that are short-lived. Perennial euphorbias do well. 

euphorbia milii
Euphorbia Milii
Photo by Flavia Crasta via Unsplash

Euphorbia Varieties

Euphorbia has numerous varieties. Below is a table of the most common of them.

Common NameBotanical NameUSDA Zones
PoinsettiaEuphorbia Pulcherimma10a – 11b
Desert CandleEuphorbia Abyssinica9b -11b
Pencil CactusEuphorbia Tirucalli10 – 12
African Milk TreeEuphorbia Trigona9 – 11
Dragon Bones TreeEuphorbia Lactea10a – 11b
Crown of ThornsEuphorbia Milli9 – 11
Wood SpurgeEuphorbia Amygdaloides6 – 8
Donkey Tail SpurgeEuphorbia Myrsinites5 – 9
Basketball EuphorbiaEuphorbia Obesa9 – 11
Cushion SpurgeEuphorbia Polychroma4 – 8

Euphorbia has over 2100 varieties, making it the most diverse flowering plant in the world. The number also makes it impossible to list all the varieties. One thing about this genus is that the plants under it are highly diverse and many of them hardly look alike apart from the common characteristics discussed earlier.

Check out some Euphorbia species, for example Euphorbia Ammak.

How To Care For Euphorbia

#1. Positioning & Light

The many euphorbia varieties don’t all have the exact requirements. Some may be more tolerant to direct sunlight than others. However, all of these plants do well under bright light. Keeping them in the dark place weakens them. Their natural habitat is usually hot, and they are best suited for sites with bright and even hot sun.

Virtually all varieties of euphorbia can survive under indirect sunlight, and it is, therefore, possible to grow them both indoors and outdoors. Just ensure you keep your plant next to a window from which it can get some sunlight.

#2. Soil

The best soil for euphorbia varieties should be mildly acidic or mildly alkaline. Its ideal pH ranges from 6.1 to 7.8. Euphorbia is a desert plant that grows in conditions similar to cactus. The soil should be well-draining, and it doesn’t have to be very fertile. When planting it, therefore, make sure you buy a cactus mix. You can enhance the pottage’s drainage by adding some pumice to it. If you are planting it outside, ensure the soil is a good mix of sandy and loamy soil. Gravel may be suitable for these plants because they enhance the soil’s drainage and keep off too much soil fertility.

#3. Watering

How often do water Euphorbia? Like cactus and other succulents, euphorbia doesn’t do well when the soil is too wet. Waterlogged soil leads to root rot. Having suitable soil is the first important step toward adequately watering the plant. The next thing you need to do is only water the plant when the plant has exhausted water from the previous drink. The type of pot you use for these plants is also a key factor where watering is concerned. It often determines how much water the soil will retain and how long. Ensure the pot you use has drainage holes to get out extra water. If you can find a breathable pool like one made of terracotta, that is even better because any additional water will evaporate through the pot.

#4. Feeding

Euphorbia doesn’t require too much fertilizer, but each species has its unique needs. Some barely require any fertilizer, while others require a little more. The recommended fertilizer for euphorbia is the one developed for cacti. None of the domesticated varieties of euphorbia can handle the fertilizer that is stronger than half strength.

You can try to apply the fertilizer every two weeks during your plant’s blooming season and observe. If, after feeding, you notice the leaves turning yellow, increase the intervals between feeding by waiting until the leaves normalize. You will catch your plant’s rhythm on when to feed through this method.

#5. Grooming

Many of the plants in the Euphorbia genus can grow quite large. If you have planted one in a pot, it might grow too big for the pot. You should, therefore, cut the different branches of the big euphorbias. The plants are so resilient that they can be described as almost impossible to kill. The significance of this is that you can cut off up to three-quarters of the plant when pruning and still have it survive.

As earlier mentioned, this plant has a toxic milky sap which can cause you to itch and be poisonous when ingested. Therefore, you should wear protective gear such as gloves and goggles to protect your eyes. Googles are particularly important when the plant is significant and can splash the sap into your eyes.

euphorbia poinsettia
Euphorbia Poinsettia
Photo by gwendoline63 via Pixabay

How To Propagate Euphorbia

There are three ways of propagating euphorbia. Through seeds, stem/branch cuttings, and leaf cuttings.

#1. Propagation by Seeds

Propagation through seeds is the least effective method as the sources can be rather tricky to grow. You can buy certified seeds from dealers and nurseries to increase the possibility of germinating. You can sow the seeds in a bed or a pot with a commercial seeding mix and gravel or coarse sand. Sow the seed about half an inch in the soil and cover them. Water them so that the earth is moist.

The best time to sow these seeds is during spring or summer because they will germinate within a week or two due to the relative heat. If you plant them during winter, they can take two to six months before growing.

#2. Propagation by Stem or Branch Cuttings

This is the simplest and quickest propagation method across euphorbia species. The punning we talked about that is the part of keeping the plant in shape 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 euphorbia species has branches, pick one branch from the base and cut it off; you can cur 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.

#3. Propagation by Leaf Cuttings

Some varieties of euphorbia, such as Euphorbia Millotii, Euphorbia Ankarensis, Francoisii, Cylindrifolia, etc., can be propagated using leaf cuttings. The best way to kick off the propagation process is by pulling the target leaf from the plant, don’t cut it; remove it with your hand.

Take a tray of course sand, put it in a tray, and ensure the sand has some moisture. Cover the now planted leaf with a polythene cover to keep the water and increase humidity. The plant will sufficiently develop for potting about forty days after planting. It is also advisable to put rooting hormone on the lower side of the leaf.

euphorbia myrsinites
Euphorbia myrsinites
Photo by snibl111 via Pixabay

Common Problems (infections, diseases, pests) of Euphorbia Plants

One of the main advantages of parenting euphorbias is that they are generally beautiful, and you will have fewer pests and diseases to worry about when growing them. Root rot is the most common disease, and it is easy to avoid by planting on well-draining soil and watering cautiously. Also, it can be affected by the cork disease if you expose its leaves and stem to too much humidity. The humidity makes it easy for fungus to grow on the plant, and it is the fungus that causes the cork disease.

The pests affecting this plant are much fewer than what affects many other plants. Many Euphorbias are toxic and, therefore, deer resistant. You are left to contend with smaller pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, and plant scale. Like with every other menace, the easiest way to deal with the pest is prevention.

You can keep the pests off your plant by feeding it well. Healthy plants are usually able to repel attacks from pests. Pruning your Euphorbia is another way of keeping the pests at bay. Dead leaves are a favorite hideout for the pests. Removing the leaves makes it harder for the pests to find a base to launch their attack.

Keeping the plant dry is another way of keeping pests at bay because humidity makes them more vulnerable to these pests. You can use systemic pesticides like neem oil to make the plant unpalatable to these pests and, by so doing, keep the pests from attacking your succulents.

If your succulents have been attacked, remove the infected plant. Keep it away from the rest of the plants from cross-infection.

You can cure the infected plant using organic pesticides such as hot pepper spray, garlic spray, and biological controls such as introducing predators that eat the pests. Other simple ways of getting rid of these pests include rubbing the infected areas with cotton swabs dipped in alcohol. The alcohol should have at least 70% concentration. Spraying the infested plant with a water mixture and liquid soap or pesticide soap also helps.

Snails and Slugs

Some Euphorbia plants, especially tree varieties with broad leaves, can attract slugs. Euphorbia Lambii is one such favorite of snails and slugs. Slugs enjoy eating succulents, but the small leaves usually prove problematic outdoors since they can’t protect them from exposure. You can get a severe slug infestation when the leaves are big enough.

To many people, these pests, slimy, disgusting appearance is a good enough reason to get rid of them. However, besides their appearance, snails can destroy flowers and spread parasitic warms such as Schistosomiasis, which are harmful to you and your pets.

You can get rid of the slugs by using beer as bait. The yeast in beer is irresistible to slugs, and if you place some anywhere in your garden, the slugs will drown in it. You will need to trap them continually. This way until you get rid of all of them. The other option is to introduce predators. Virtually all domestic birds are predators of slugs. If you bring in chicken, geese, ducks, or turkey, they will get rid of the slugs.

Other Questions About Euphorbia

1. What do you do if you get Euphorbia sap in your eyes?

Euphorbia sap has a certain amount of toxicity. It’s not a good situation when your eyes accidentally get Euphorbia sap. Immediately, you should wash your eye with water to quickly balance the oscular surface. Then, go to the nearest medical center for treatments if you don’t have any topical antibiotics nearby. The best way is to wear protection when gardening or watch if your kids are playing around the Euphorbia area.

2. Why is my Euphorbia turning brown?

There are several reasons for Euphorbia to turn brown, such as strong sunlight, shaded areas, or maybe it’s a sign of rotting. You need to investigate further to see the leading cause and then come up with the appropriate solution.

Conclusion

Taking care of euphorbias is easy. It is a plant for a beginner gardener because even pruning doesn’t need to be precise; it will rise again if you cut it wrongly. However, it is essential to remember that euphorbia is an extensive genus, and different species will have different needs. This outline is a general representation of what euphorbia needs.

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Posted in Succulents