Euphorbia tirucalli is the Plant of the Month!
*Euphorbia tirucalli, Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks of Fire’, Pencil tree, Pencil euphorbia, succulent
This endangered species is recognized for its light green, pencil-thin, bushlike branches with
miniature leaflets. It is fast-growing reaching heights of eight to ten feet or more in the southwest
desert. In its native habitat, it can reach thirty feet with a ten-foot spread. The older branches are
woody, and the young branches are green and cylindrical. This plant produces a group of petal-like
bracts with yellow flowers that are mainly inconspicuous. Its flowers are propagated by butterflies,
bees, and other insects. In warmer locations, a capsulelike, hairy, pale green fruit appears in late fall.
The variety Euphorbia tirucalli “Sticks of Fire” is a form of Euphorbia tirucalli. This plant does not
have the chlorophyll of its parent plant and is a smaller sized plant and a much slower growing
succulent. The branches on this variety are pencil thin with a reddish golden color. The color in its
stems will fade to a greenish yellow as summer approaches. This plant becomes redder during the
winter months and does best when grown in full sun. Plant it in well-draining soil and full sun with
reflected heat or light shade. It is salt and drought tolerant and grows well in coastal areas. Provide
supplemental irrigation during the hot, dry season. It is hardy into the low thirties Fahrenheit. The
plant emits a milky sap when pruned or a stem is broken. The sap is toxic and may cause an allergic
skin reaction in some people. The plant is easy to propagate from stem cuttings. Water your newly
propagated plants occasionally to establish new roots. Use the pencil tree in raised planters, containers
or as a tropical accent, specimen, focal point or background planting. It is native to Eastern and
Southern Africa as well as parts of India, Indonesia, China, and the Philippines ,where it grows on
grassy hillsides and rocky outcrops and in open savannas.