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Euphorbia tithymaloides (Devil’s Backbone)


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


Pedilanthus tithymaloides, Tithymalus tithymaloides

Scientific Classification

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


Euphorbia tithymaloides is an erect perennial succulent spurge, up to 8 feet (2.4 m) tall and up to 24 inches (60 cm) wide. The leaf is a simple angiosperm leaf, arranged oppositely on the stem. Each leaf is attaching directly to the plant, and up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long. The leaves are glabrous and acuminate in shape, with smooth edges. The veins in the leaves are pinnate. The plant terminates in a dichotomous cyme, with a peduncle supporting each flower. The floral leaves are split in two parts 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. The seed pod is up to 0.3 inches (8 mm) long and 0.35 inches (9 mm) wide, and ovoid in shape. The plant generally flowers in mid-spring.

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How to Grow and Care

Euphorbias are very easy to care for. They 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.

Euphorbia can be grown from seed, but they can be difficult to germinate (or even find). It is 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… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Euphorbia


Native to tropical and subtropical North America and Central America.

Subspecies, Varieties, Forms, Cultivars and Hybrids


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