Euphorbia esculenta, commonly known as The True "Vingerpol," is one of the Medusoid Euphorbias and comes from the south-central part of South Africa. This inland area gets occasional freezes in winter.
It is a spring-blooming plant. Its cyathia, the cup-like structures holding the flowers, are clustered at the ends of the branches. They resemble little tufts of cotton candy with the greenish-yellow stigmas and the anthers with their yellow pollen emerging from the wool. After pollinating flowers, they develop pea-sized rounded shiny-green fruits bearing little tan or brown seeds. These are ejected explosively when the fruits ripen so the seedlings can come up some distance away.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Euphorbia esculenta is an easy species to grow, suited for any well-drained soil in full sun. It is cultivated as an ornamental and is a particular favorite of succulent plant enthusiasts. However, it is a relatively slow-growing and long-lived plant, and once established, it will be content in its position and with its soil for years.
This plant likes a deep pot with generous drain holes to accommodate its tap root. In addition, it needs a very airy potting medium permeable to water, consisting of nonorganic materials such as clay, pumice, lava grit, expanded slate, and only a little peat or leaf mold. Repot this plant every two years.
Euphorbia esculenta can tolerate moderate shade, and a plant growing in the shade should be slowly hardened off before placing it in full sun as the plant will be severely scorched if moved too suddenly from shade into sun.
Water regularly during the active growing season. No water should ever be allowed to stand around the roots. Keep almost completely dry in winter. However, Euphorbia esculenta will tolerate dryness and even thrives in poor, dry soils but do better when grown in nutrient-rich soils with regular watering.
This plant tolerates temperatures down to 21 ºF (–6 ºC) and even a little snow. However, getting it to look its best can be difficult without a good amount of heat and sun.
As with all other Euphorbias, when a plant gets damaged, it exudes a thick white milky sap known as latex. This latex is poisonous and may irritate the skin. Pay extreme attention not to get any in your eyes or mouth. Cultivated plants must be handled carefully.
Euphorbia esculenta can be grown from seed, but it can be difficult to germinate. Therefore, it is usually propagated by cuttings. Rooting hormone is recommended.
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