One of the most widely cultivated Euphorbias is the popular crown of thorns plant. Its stems are off-putting being covered by stout, thickly set gray spines. But many people find the inch-wide red, yellow or pink blooms very inviting.
In between the thorns are small, short-lived, oval shaped leaves. Most of the leaves are borne on the stem tips.
This is a shrubby plant which can grow to a height of 3 feet if well cared for.
Place it in bright light and keep it moist during growth and flowering. The flowers appear in the summer and will keep coming for months if the plant is in enough light.
Feed Euphorbia splendens (sometimes classified as Euphorbia milii) only while it is actively growing or blooming. Use any balanced fertilizer you prefer at half strength on a monthly basis.
Once your crown of thorns plant stops blooming, keep it drier to let it rest. You can do this by simply allowing the soil to dry between watering. Euphorbias like to go through a wet/dry cycle. If the leaves turn yellow and the branches become spongy, you are overwatering it. Let it dry out and it may recover.
You can also prune the plant at this time. Clip the stems wherever you want them to branch. Trim back any that are too long or growing into an unattractive shape. Spray the cut ends with cold water to stop them from "bleeding" so profusely.
You can root the pieces you remove in sandy soil to make new plants if you like. Let the milky latex dry for a day or so before placing the cuttings into soil. Keep the soil barely moist until they root. If it gets too wet, the cuttings will rot.
The crown of thorns plant is hardy outdoors in USDA zones 9a-11. It grows well as a houseplant in colder climates.
*All parts of E. splendens are poisonous if ingested and handling it (especially the milky latex) may cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction in some people. It is best kept away from children and pets.
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