Welcome back to the Succulent Series. This week we explore the varied, sometimes prickly world of Euphorbia. These drought and heat tolerant plants make for wise yet beautiful plant choices in our South African gardens. Do not confuse these succulents with cacti- they have thorns, which are totally different to the spines that cacti exhibit.
Introducing Euphorbia Milii (pictured on the left). This striking plant has long arms of thick thorns, with bright green leaves and red, white or yellow blooms. They can easily be groomed into treacherous hedges, and love hot sunny spots. Handle with thick gloves!
The Euphorbia Trigona (on the right) is known as the cathedral cactus or African milk tree. Its long columnar form is dark green with dramatic purple-green leafy growth towards the tips. It prefers sandy soil and has a shallow root system. This plant adores sunny spots.
Euphorbia Tirucalli (pictured to the left) is fondly known as Sticks on Fire, or Firesticks, for its green stems with bright orange-red tips. It makes for a luminous display of bright colour in pots against a dark feature wall, or planted in rows can make an attractive and unique hedge or barrier plant. Take note that to achieve the bright colours that this plant boasts, it needs full sun, otherwise it will remain a green colour.
During the California Fires of 2017, succulents were inadvertently used as fire breaks. During these raging fires, many homes were protected by large patches of Sticks on Fire and other succulents. As a result, succulents have only grown in popularity.
The Euphorbia genus has over 2000 members. This makes it one of the biggest flowering plant genera, of which roughly 45% is herbaceous. Within this family, many species are trees.
Did you know?
When succulents become stressed, they change colour? A plant in a cooler climate will stay green. But the same variant, when stressed from lack of water and exposed to hotter temperatures, will display deeper colours, often reds and oranges come out in these scenarios.
Well drained soil is a necessity.
Trim back Euphorbia Milii by at least two thirds after flowering, to encourage a fresh flush of flowers. The Sticks on Fire variant does not need this trimming, but can be cut down to manage size.
Take caution with the milky sap. Contact with skin and especially eyes should be avoided. If your skin comes into contact with this sap, wash well with soap and water.
These succulents require very little water. Water once a week during winter months.
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looking for gardening tips for the cold winter months?
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