How Do You Care For a Crested Euphorbia?

by | Jun 4, 2019 | 21 comments

A crested euphorbia? What is that? Have you seen ones like mine below? Have you wondered how you care for a crested euphorbia?

Crested euphorbia lactea vareigatas
Variegated crested form grafted on to another succulent

The variegated plants above are white. Since photosynthesis only occurs in green parts of plants, these aren’t photosynthesizing well. Grafting them onto green succulents allows them to get energy or food from them.

My crested euphorbia

I have had the one below for over 30 years, buying it before I got married. It is over 34 years old at the time of this writing. It is more than 3′ tall, becoming much larger than the little single crest I bought in a 4″ pot. I purchased it in a grocery store in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. I had never seen a plant like it before.

30 year old euphorbia lactea cristata
Crested euphorbia lactea over 30 years old

Reverting crested euphorbia

Mine shoots out straight pieces that aren’t crested. Why? It is trying to revert back to its original form.

Crested plants are a fluke of nature caused by damage to the growing tip. The cause may be a virus, fungus, or insect, or hormonal or genetic.

No one knows exactly why it happens and each plant is different. When they revert back to the form they should be, the plant is stronger and so can take over the crested part.

Removing the reversions

See the long parts of the plant shooting straight up from the crests below? Cut them off close to the crested plant. Remember, this is a euphorbia (poinsettia relative) so it has white milky latex sap.

It may drip on your floors or furniture so place your plant on newspaper or an old sheet when pruning. After cutting, use a piece of paper towel and place it over the cut to stem the flow. Compare it to cutting your face or legs shaving.

Warning: Do not get the white milky latex in your eyes as is dangerous. Wear gloves and be careful getting it on your skin as it could be an irritant to you.

Shoots of the original euphorbia are taking over my plant
Straight shoots coming up from the crested part of the plant.

The reversions are straight

My crested euphorbia is reverting to its original form.

Crested euphorbia with straight reversions
See how the crested part is starting to disappear

These are the straight pieces I removed. After the ends callous over, I could propagate them, but I did not.

The straight reversions have been cut off
I cut off the straight, uncrested reversions
Euphorbias have a latex sap inside them.
Euphorbias bleed white sap but it will scab over

You can see the white milky latex sap coming from the cuts. These will eventually callous over and as more crests grow, they will disapper.

What happens if I don’t take them off?

Here is one at Belle Isle Conservatory in Detroit and yes, that is ONE plant! The original plant is stronger than the crested part and it will win the race.

This reversion is taking over this plant
Crested euphorbia at Belle Isle Conservatory
crested euphorbia reversions that are straight
See how it is coming from the crested plant?

For the best crested euphorbia care, cut the reversions off. If you don’t the crested part may disappear under all the straight growing stems.

Do you like crested plants and do you have any? I love the weirdness of them and collect them when I see them. Leave a comment below about your crested succulents.

Have a great week, plant friends!


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  1. Julianne

    Hello, if I have an uncrested form how can I promote crests? Could I gently damage the growing tips?

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      You know, I’m not sure about that. I have never thought about it. You could try it, but I don’t know if it will work and I don’t want you to kill your plant. Good luck!

  2. Kim

    I’ve had my crested Euphorbia for about six years and was doing well. I moved a few weeks ago and it was accidentally left outside in full sun. Now the stem is very soft and I have to prop up the crest. Is there a way to save it?

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Kim, If the crest if heavily variegated or almost white, it may not be salvageable. Yet, I would cut the crest off, let the end heal or callus over and then place it on a pot of moist potting medium and see if it roots. Good luck!

  3. Trudy

    My Crested Euphoria has a leafy growth coming from the stem should I leave this or cut it off?

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Trudy, I probably would cut it off. Can you send a picture? Lisa

  4. Evelyn Sabater

    I have a crested euphorbia that has greenish/ yellow mushy area on top of crest sitting on plant. What can I do to address this? Is it possible to just remove this area?

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Evelyn, I would try to trim that part off, making sure to cut into tissue that is still good with no signs of rot. Lisa

  5. Terrah

    I think I have this! Can I send you a pic?

    • Lisa Steinkopf


  6. Jill McNitt

    I bought one at a big box store a couple of weeks ago. It’s doing well as far as I can tell, at least so far. It has small white pebbles covering the soil it’s in, and they seem to be glued together–even the tab is glued into them, and I cannot pull it out. I can’t imagine this is a good or sustainable situation, but I don’t want to harm it. Should I unpot it and try to pry off the pebble layer, or let it be?

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I’ll be honest. I use a screwdriver and chip away it until it is gone, being very careful around the plant base. It can be done. lol Lisa

      • Jill McNitt

        I’ll do that. Thanks so much!

  7. Sherri M

    I’ve had my Crested Euphorbia for 3 years and that I went to look at it and it was turned black and shrunk. Can I cut the fan off leaving the stem to see if it will grow back?

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Sherri, I would try it. Why not? It may grow back, but may not be crested. It may revert to its original form. Hope it works. Lisa

  8. Nadine

    Hi Lisa my euphorbia has been doing great for many yrs but I noticed it was rotting pls help with how to propagate so I can save my beloved plant

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      It is the crested form? I would have to see pictures to assess correctly But, if it is rotting, you would have to cut away the good parts and try to propagate it.

  9. Dennis

    I have purchased three crested and each one has turned to mush! Including, the scion. When I receive the plant, I planted at the ground level of the scion, do not water for at least three weeks, and on the fourth week lightly mist the plant. Within 5 to 7 days the entire plant turns to mush. Any suggestions? I can’t believe I am overwatering! My soil mixture cactus soil with 1/3 organic pumis.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Dennis,
      Do you mean you are burying the stem or stock that the graft is on? If so, that is why it is rotting. Can you send me a picture of what you are planting if you have one. Lisa

  10. Maria

    Thank you for the info about reversion. I was thinking of cutting the long shoots growing from my crested cattail but wasn’t sure. You confirmed its the right thing for ME to do. I’d like to keep it crested. Couldn’t find this subject anywhere.
    Thanks again.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks! I’m glad I could help. Definitely cut them off.


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