Euphorbia tirucalli L.
African Milk Bush, Finger Euphorbia, Finger Tree, Firestick Plants, Indian Tree Spurge, Milk Bush, Milk Hedge, Naked Lady, Pencil Bush, Pencil Cactus, Pencil Euphorbia, Pencil Tree, Petroleum Plant, Rubber Euphorbia, Rubber Hedge Euphorbia, Rubber Hedge Plant, Sticks on Fire, Fire Stick Plant
Arthrothamnus tirucalli, Euphorbia geayi, Euphorbia laro, Euphorbia media, Euphorbia rhipsaloides, Euphorbia scoparia, Euphorbia suareziana, Euphorbia viminalis, Tirucalia indica, Tirucalia tirucalli
Euphorbia tirucalli is a succulent shrub or small tree that usually grows up to 16.5 feet (5 m) tall but occasionally may reach up to 33 feet (10 m). Stems are fleshy, smooth, green, cylindrical, up to 0.3 inches (0.8 cm) in diameter, and often produced in whorls. When new, the stems bear up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long leaves that soon drop. Flowers are yellow, inconspicuous, and carried in clusters at the apex of the short branches or in the angles of the branches. They appear during the cooler months of the year. Fruits are tripartite capsules, pale green with a pink tinge, up to 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) in diameter, and covered with soft hairs.
USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11b: from 30 °F (−1.1 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Euphorbias are very easy to care for. These plants require a little pampering to become established, but once they are, they are self-sufficient. More die from too much care and watering than from neglect. Euphorbias need well-draining soil and lots of sunlight. They are not particular about soil pH, but they cannot tolerate wet soil. Unlike most succulents, Euphorbia does not handle long periods of drought well. It may need weekly watering during the summer. Water whenever the soil is dry several inches below the surface. Water deeply, but don't let them sit in wet soil, which can cause root rot. Add some organic matter or fertilizer to the planting hole. Feed with a half-strength fertilizer monthly if you are growing them in containers or your soil is poor.
These succulents can be grown from seed, but they can be difficult to germinate (or even find). They are usually propagated by cuttings. This can be tricky because of the exuding sap. Rooting hormone is recommended with Euphorbias. They tend to grow problem-free, but a few pests and diseases are to be alert for.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Euphorbia.
E. tirucalli contains a milky sap that is extremely irritating to the skin and mucosa and is toxic. Exposure to it can cause blindness lasting several days. Skin contact causes severe irritation, redness, and a burning sensation. If ingested, it can cause burns to the mouth, lips, and tongue. It is suggested to wear eye protection gear and gloves for handling the plant.
This species is native to Africa.
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