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Euphorbia aphylla (Leafless Spurge)


Scientific Name

Euphorbia aphylla Brouss. ex Willd.

Common Names

Candelabra Cactus, Leafless Spurge, Milk Hedge


Tirucalia aphylla, Tithymalus aphyllus

Scientific Classification

Family: Euphorbiaceae
Subfamily: Euphorbioideae
Tribe: Euphorbieae
Subtribe: Euphorbiinae
Genus: Euphorbia


This species is native to the Canary Islands (Gran Canaria, La Gomera, and Tenerife).


Euphorbia aphylla is a densely branched succulent shrub with slender, leafless stems that arise from a short trunk. The fleshy stems are light grayish-green, blue-green, or yellowish-green. They are cylindrical, up to 10 inches (25 cm) long, and about 0.2 inches (0.5 cm) in diameter. The trunk and older branches are woody with brown bark. Leaves are tiny, scale-like, ephemeral, and only present on young growth. Flowers are yellow and produced in small clusters at the end of the stems, almost year-round, but mainly in spring and fall. Fruits are very small, light brown, or reddish with small brown seeds.

The specific epithet "aphylla" derives from the Greek words "a," meaning "without" and "phyll," meaning "a leaf," and refers to the leafless stems.

Euphorbia aphylla (Leafless Spurge)

Photo by Juanillo

How to Grow and Care for Euphorbia aphylla

Light: Most Euphorbias are sun lovers, but some will tolerate partial shade. Place your indoor Euphorbias on windows with southern or southeastern exposure.

Soil: Euphorbias require well-drained soil. They even thrive in poor, dry soils. Use a commercial mixture formulated for cacti and succulents or make your own potting mix.

Hardiness: Euphorbia aphylla can withstand temperatures as low as 25 to 50 °F (-3.9 to 10 °C), USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b.

Watering: Succulent Euphorbias can survive drought, but do not mean that they need it. From spring to fall, water when the top inch of soil feels dry. Reduce watering in winter, give them just enough water to prevent wilting.

Fertilizing: Every Euphorbia will benefit from fertilizer. Apply a balanced fertilizer in a 10-10-10 NPK formulation, diluted to 1/4 strength once a week during the growing season.

Repotting: Euphorbias do not need to be repotted every year. When your Euphorbia is outgrowing its pot, it is time to repot the plant in a larger pot and give it a fresh potting mix.

Propagation: The easiest and fastest method of propagation for many species is by using cuttings. Euphorbias can also be grown from seeds, but they can be difficult to germinate, even hard to find.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Euphorbia.

Toxicity of Euphorbia aphylla

All Euphorbias produce a white milky sap that is toxic and can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. It is best to keep the plants away from children and pets.


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