I love euphorbias and have been collecting them for years. The group includes the poinsettia Euphorbia pulcherrima (its name means the most beautiful euphorbia). I recently wrote about another couple of my favorites, the dead stick plant or Euphorbia platyclada and my crested euphorbia Euphorbia lactea cristata. There are a few other unusual euphorbias I want to tell you about, including Euphorbia millotii, E. leuconeura, E. milii, and E. geroldii and their care. (Take Note: There is a white milky substance that exudes from the stems of the euphorbia and it contains latex. Keep it out of your eyes and mouth and off your skin. Handle the plants with care and if possible, wear gloves for protection.)
This euphorbia, as with many succulent form euphorbias, hails from Madagascar, where it grows in the coastal forest and shrublands in sandy soil in the shade of other plants. In your home, give it as much sun as possible, which will help it bloom better. The species’ name gives credit to French zoologist Jacques Millot (1897-1980) and according to some sites, millotii is endangered because its habitat is being threatened.
Though you may think the colored parts of euphorbia are the flowers, they are part of the cyathia and the flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. The colored parts are bracts or modified leaves and they are colorful to attract pollinators to those flowers.
Bracts and scars
The bracts are hiding the tiny flowers inside the bell-shaped cyathia above and the interesting stems below have crescent-shaped leaf “scars” on them. Euphorbias can drop all their leaves and grow them back. The scars left by the dropped leaves are beautiful in and of themselves.
Euphorbia leuconeura or Madagascar Jewel
The Madagascar jewel is a beautiful plant, but some see it as the counterpart to the mother of thousands kalanchoe that seems to pop up in every greenhouse plant ever purchased. It does seed itself around, not unlike the kalanchoe, yet it is a pretty plant, and some people like an added surprise in their plants. Pull them out and discard or pot them up and share with plant friends. I always think that is the best idea and so will your plant friends, I’m sure.
Euphorbia milii or Crown of Thorns
The most well-known member of the euphorbia family (other than the ubiquitous poinsettia) is the crown of thorns. This is a plant your grandmother or great-grandmother may have cultivated. It is known for its red bracts, but through hybridization, there are many more colors.
Euphorbia geroldii or Thornless Crown of Thorns
Do you love the crown of thorns, Euphorbia milii, above but hate the thorns (actually, stipular spines)? Then Euphorbia geroldii is the plant for you. It doesn’t flower as freely as milii, but does flower and yet doesn’t have the sharp spines the normal crown of thorns has. Moving it around is definitely less painful!
Care of these euphorbias
As mentioned above, many of these plants hail from Madagascar. What does that mean to you? And the plant? Well, I’ve found they prefer a high light situation or to be residing under grow lights. I have them in both places and they are flowering constantly. So, I have some under LED grow lights, some in a south and west window, and all the plants are always in bloom.
Water and Warmth
I don’t keep the plants moist, but try not to let them completely dry out, either. Of course, as with any plant, the more light they receive, the more water it will use. They would also prefer to be warm. If the temperatures drop below the mid-50s, the leaves will drop and the plant will go dormant. Believe me, I’ve seen this many times.
I use a potting medium that has excellent drainage so that the plant is never standing in water. Don’t allow the plant to stand in the drainage water for more than 1/2 hour. Dump out the excess water from the saucer. Use a commercial potting medium such as one for cacti and other succulents, adding amendments such as vermiculite, perlite, and/or orchid bark. Many friends in the cactus and succulent society use other amendments such as pumice, chicken grit, akadama, or turface, but I find the more common amendments work fine.
I hope this helps as you try to grow euphorbias in your home.
Do you have any euphorbias? Do you even like them?
Have a great week, plant friends!