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Euphorbia tithymaloides (Devil's Backbone)

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Scientific Name

Euphorbia tithymaloides L.

Common Names

Devil's Backbone, Redbird Flower, Buck Thorn, Cimora Misha, Christmas Candle, Fiddle Flower, Ipecacuahana, Jacob's Ladder, Japanese Poinsettia, Jew's Slipper, Jewbush, Milk Hedge, Myrtle-Leaved Spurge, Padus-Leaved Clipper Plant, Red Slipper Spurge, Redbird Cactus, Slipper Flower, Slipper Plant, Slipper Spurge, Timora Misha, Zig Zag Plant

Synonyms

Pedilanthus tithymaloides, Tithymalus tithymaloides

Scientific Classification

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

Description

Euphorbia tithymaloides is a perennial, succulent spurge up to 8 feet (2.4 m ) tall. It is an erect shrub with simple leaves, arranged oppositely on the stem. The leaves are glabrous, acuminate in shape and up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long. The veins in the leaves are pinnate. The plant terminates in a dichotomous cyme, with a peduncle supporting each flower. The floral leaves are bifid and ovate, while the involucral bracts are bright red, irregularly acuminate in shape, with a long, thin tube. The male pedicel is hairy, while the female is glabrous. This plant generally flowers in mid-spring.

Photo via wikimedia.org

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °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. In fact, 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 tolerant 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. If you are growing them in containers or your soil is poor, feed with a half-strength fertilizer monthly.

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 there are a few pests and diseases to be alert for.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Euphorbia.

Origin

Euphorbia tithymaloides is native to tropical and subtropical North America and Central America.

Subspecies, Varieties, Forms, Cultivars and Hybrids

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