Euphorbia tirucalli is a tree that grows in semi-arid tropical climates. A hydrocarbon plant, it produces a poisonous latex that can cause temporary blindness.
The Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli) ? also commonly called milk bush due to its thick, white sap ? is native to semi-arid tropical regions of Africa and India. In the wild, the Pencil Cactus can grow up to 30 feet tall and well over 6 feet indoors. This stem succulent is not a true cactus and photosynthesizes in its stems, not through the small leaves that appear at the end of its new growth (which are inconsequential to the plant?s health).
As these plants evolved in dry climates with lots of sun, keep your Pencil Cactus in a bright location for maximum growth. This plant will not tolerate low light conditions. Direct sun, or plenty of bright ambient light from a western, eastern, or southern facing window is ideal for this plant to thrive.
Always be sure to assess your plant?s watering needs upon receiving it. Before giving your plant a drink, it is best to check the moisture level in the soil first to ensure it isn?t moist right beneath the surface. Also, consider aerating the soil of your plant before the initial watering. We compact the soil to avoid shifting during transit, so aerating can help the soil breathe and allow moisture to be released.
Pencil Cacti like to dry out completely between waterings. The most common mistake made with these plants is overwatering. You won?t need to water your plant more than once every 10 days (at most) during the growing season. During the winter months, watering frequency should decrease, sometimes to as little as once a month. Make sure that you are letting the soil thoroughly dry between waterings. Pencil Cacti are susceptible to root rot, so it?s very important that you do not water the plant if you detect any moisture in the soil.
Use caution when handling Euphorbia plants. Though the Pencil Cactus is a simple and easy plant from which to take cuttings and propagate, the milky sap can cause moderate to severe allergic reactions, especially in those with latex sensitivities. Take care when handling your Pencil Cactus, wear gloves if possible, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
Rotate your plant periodically to ensure even growth on all sides and dust the stalks often so the plant can photosynthesize efficiently. When dusting the leaves, also take the opportunity to inspect the undersides and keep an eye out for pests.
Remember each plant is a unique living thing and may have varying needs, especially in their individual locations. Pay attention to the condition of your Pencil Cactus and its watering needs and you will have a long and happy relationship.