Have you bought a crested euphorbia, like the ones below, and then wondered how to take care of it?

Crested euphorbia lactea vareigatas

Variegated crested form grafted on to another succulent

The variegated ones above as you can see, are mostly white. They therefore can’t photosynthesize very well (photosynthesis only happens in the green parts of plants) so they are grafted on totally different green succulents.

I have had the one below for over 30 years and may have even bought it before I got married, making it over 34 years old. It is more than 3′ tall, becoming quite a bit larger than the little single crest I bought in a 4″ pot.

30 year old euphorbia lactea cristata

Crested euphorbia lactea over 30 years old

What are the straight pieces that come up from the crests?

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 and have been caused by damage to the growing tip, a virus, fungus, or insect, or it could be hormonal or genetic. Pretty much, no one knows exactly why it happens and each plant is different. Here is an article about crested plants from the University of Arkansas. When they revert back to the form they should be, the plant is stronger and so can take over the crested part.

Cut the straight parts off.

See the long parts of the plant shooting straight up from the crests below? They need to be cut off. Remember, this is a euphorbia (poinsettia relative) so it has white milky sap. It may drip on your floors or furniture so simply use a piece of paper towel and place it over the cut like you would if you cut your face or legs shaving. It will stem the flow. Do not get it in your eyes or even on your skin as it could be an irritant to you. Wear gloves if needed.

Shoots of the original euphorbia are taking over my plant

Straight shoots coming up from the crested part of the plant.

Reversion

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 cut off below. I could let them heal and 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

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You can see the white sap coming from the cuts I’ve already made. They will eventually heal over and will disappear under crests as the plant continues to grow.

What happens if I don’t take them off?

Here is one at Belle Isle Conservatory in Detroit so you can see how this plant could easily be taken over if allowed to. Yes, that is ONE plant!

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?

So, cut them off if you want your plant to continue to be crested or let them grow if you don’t mind the “looks like two plants in one” look. Eventually, though, the crested part may disappear under all the straight growing stems.

Do you like crested plants? 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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