If you are looking for a houseplant that requires very little maintenance, then a euphorbia could be just what you are looking for. These plants are highly resilient succulents and can survive with very little watering and fertilization. Moreover, some euphorbia species are adored for their unusual flowers and beautiful leaves, making them a great addition not just to indoor decor, but also to rock gardens outside.
Euphorbias are often mistaken for members of the cactus family, but although both are succulent and spiky, the two are actually from completely different plant families.
Newbies who wish to grow succulents at home will find the self-sufficient euphorbias super simple to care for. Just like other succulent varieties, euphorbias will require some watering, lots of sunlight, a bit of fertilizer, and occasional pruning in order to thrive and stay beautiful. These are all discussed in detail below.
Caring for your euphorbia
Succulents like the euphorbia are unique plants that are accustomed to extreme heat and drought. Despite being very low-maintenance, however, they still have some basic requirements to keep them thriving. Here are some tips to keep your plant happy and in top shape:
1. Watering requirements
Although euphorbias are made to survive long periods of drought, these succulents need an occasional shower to stay hydrated. As a rule of thumb, never wait for your plant to completely dry out before watering it. And, if you do make this mistake, do not overcompensate by giving it too much water. Most newbie gardeners think that overwatering can save their plant after an extended period of neglect, but this can actually worsen the situation.
Euphorbias do not like soggy soil as this can hurt their root system. On the other hand, underwatering can also cause dehydration, especially during hot seasons. So, how do you know the perfect time to water your euphorbia?
One way to tell if your succulent needs a drink is to test the soil. Insert your finger into the potting mix about one to two inches deep to check if the soil is moist. If it is dry, then you will need to water the euphorbia just enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy.
If the finger-test is a little inconvenient for you, then you can purchase a moisture meter to do the job. Portable devices such as the Atree Soil Moisture Meter can help you get an accurate moisture reading in less than 10 minutes. Simply insert the probe into the soil to read the moisture level on the dial display.
The varying seasons can also affect your plant’s water requirements. During winter, your euphorbia will need to be watered less frequently, and you should only provide the minimum amount of moisture to keep the plant from wilting in the cold.
On the other hand, summer weather can easily make euphorbias thirsty, so you will need to gradually increase your watering as the weather gets hotter. The best time to water your euphorbia in summer is in the evening or early morning before the sun rises. Depending on where you live and whether the plant is potted or in the ground, you may need to water it up to two or three times a week to keep it hydrated.
2. Ideal temperature
Euphorbias love sunlight and can tolerate elevated temperatures quite well. They are very happy with an average daytime temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while cold tolerance may vary among the different species.
Succulent species in West and Central Africa and the tropical areas of America can thrive in temperatures from 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit; those native to Madagascar and East Africa can tolerate temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees; and some of the species from North and Southern Africa can handle a light frost below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Overall, then, most euphorbias should not be kept in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit; otherwise they will not survive.
It is also important to consider the humidity level in the plant’s environment, since not all species can thrive in high humidity. Should such conditions arise, make sure that the plant is well-ventilated to prevent fungal-related diseases.
Succulents like the euphorbia require at least four to six hours each day of partial shade or full sunlight, depending on the species. Although these resilient plants enjoy the sunlight, some varieties do not do well in full sunlight, and keeping them in such conditions can cause sunburn and yellowing foliage.
Because euphorbias are sun lovers, the limited sunlight during winter might affect their health. Fortunately, you can use artificial lighting such as LED lights that mimic the sunlight. These are energy-efficient, low-heat light sources that emit the ideal light wavelengths to nurture your plant during those dark and chilly days.
4. Fertilizer requirements
Euphorbias appreciate a bit of fertilizer to grow healthily and beautifully. This is contrary to what most people think, since succulents are known for being low-maintenance plants and are generally less fussy about their growing requirements.
Fertilizer gives your euphorbia the extra boost it needs to maintain healthy growth, and it is recommended to feed your plant during its growing season. This is especially important for Euphorbias planted in pots. Outdoor succulents planted in the ground may not need the extra help, since they can get most of their nutrients from the soil in the garden.
Keep in mind, however, that euphorbias do not need a lot of fertilizer like most normal plants do. It is best to dilute your fertilizer to half the recommended dosage and apply the mixture to the top layer of soil. You can use a water-soluble fertilizer, such as the GL553130 fertilizer by Grow More, that provides the essential nutrients with a 1-7-6 NPK percentage ideal for succulents like euphorbias. Using the right ratio, just mix the fertilizer with water and use it to water your euphorbia.
5. Soil and potting mixture
Euphorbias are generally easy-to-care-for plants but may need a little pampering until they become well-established. Like most succulents, they require a well-draining soil mix to thrive. If you are growing your euphorbia in a container, make sure to use a high-quality potting mix designed for succulents, such as this natural cactus soil mix by Perfect Plants. It comes with an organic mixture of perlite, garden coir, sand, and composted pine bark, which all provide the ideal growing conditions for succulents.
Most gardening enthusiasts also suggest using soil which is slightly acidic or close to a neutral pH to achieve the best results for the plant. A soil pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 should be ideal to keep your euphorbia happy and thriving.
You should also provide your plant with the right kind of container. Choose a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to escape. Like other succulents, Euphorbias are susceptible to root rot if allowed to sit in soggy soil for too long. Moreover, these plants do best in pots with a diameter 2 to 3 inches wider than that of their rootball.
If you prefer planting your succulents in your outdoor garden, you can choose a rocky spot with a loamy soil. Adding gritty pebbles and sand will also make your euphorbias happy.
How to prune and repot your euphorbia
Euphorbias can easily grow taller and thicker over time as they continue to branch out. To manage the size and weight of your succulent, you can trim its arms and use the cut parts to grow new euphorbias.
While pruning, keep in mind that this succulent releases a caustic, milky-white substance that can cause skin irritation. Make sure to wear protective gloves, clothing, and eyewear to prevent the sap from getting into your skin and, more importantly, your eyes.
Most euphorbia varieties can get really thick and outgrow their pots. In this case, you may need to consider repotting them into larger containers. You can do this every two to three years, during the springtime, which is the ideal growing season for succulents. After repotting your plant in its new container, it is recommended to wait two weeks before watering it.
How to propagate euphorbia
There are many ways to successfully propagate a euphorbia. You can start with seeds, use the grafting method, or grow another plant using stem cuttings. These methods are described in detail below.
Euphorbias grows fruit in two- or three-compartment capsules. These woody shells open up when the fruits start to ripen, releasing their seeds which you can then use to propagate the plant. However, this method can be challenging; it might take a long time before you can successfully germinate the seeds.
A commercial seed growing mix or well-draining soil should provide an ideal medium for the seeds to grow. Keep the soil moist and within a temperature range of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds should start to germinate in one to two weeks during the summer season, or two to six months during the cold season.
The easiest way of propagating your euphorbia is through stem cuttings. These trimmed branches can come from your existing succulent that needs some pruning to maintain its shape and size.
To start, cut off a limb from your euphorbia using a clean, sharp knife. For varieties with thick branches, you should make your cut at the branching point. Solitary stems can be trimmed off at the top so that the plant can produce side shoots.
When cutting the euphorbia, make sure to wear protective gloves, clothes and eyewear to prevent the thorns and milky sap from getting into your skin and eyes.
After trimming the branch, clean off the sap by spraying it or dipping it in a glass of water. Then wait for several days until the wound has callused over. You can also dust the open cut with a rooting hormone powder to accelerate the development of roots.
Use a high-quality soil mix to plant the cuttings., and preferably do this during spring or summer. Doing so during fall or winter can make it challenging for the new plant to develop roots.
The ideal temperature to speed up the rooting process is 77 degrees Fahrenheit, which you can achieve by using a warming mat. Remember not to place the newly-planted cuttings in direct sunlight, as they can easily dehydrate. On average, euphorbia cuttings should take around one to two weeks to sprout roots. However, it might take longer for some stems to root, depending on other factors such as the weather and the succulent variety.
Grafting is the process of merging two plants together. You can do this by creating a cut on one plant and inserting a trimmed stem into that open wound. This allows a cutting taken from one plant to merge into the tissue of another plant.
Some varieties of euphorbia can be easily propagated using the grafting technique. Euphorbia can only be grafted onto another euphorbia, and should not be merged with other succulent types.
When joining the two cuts, remember that the stock and the scion should have the same diameter. Use elastic bands to hold the cut surfaces together in cross style. Place the plants in a well-ventilated, shaded area and wait seven to 10 days before removing the bands.
Common euphorbia pests and diseases
Euphorbias are low-maintenance plants thanks to their sturdy and resilient traits. But this does not make them less vulnerable to certain pests and diseases. While caring for your euphorbia, you may encounter one or a combination of the following:
- Pest infestation such as spider mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, and scales. These tiny pests can be difficult to diagnose at an early stage and often you will be dealing with a full-blown infestation by the time you discover these pesky little insects. Organic pesticides often work best to get rid of them and save your plant’s health.
- Yellowing of the leaves due to overwatering. As mentioned previously, you need to monitor and adjust your watering based on the season and how frequently the soil dries up. Remember that euphorbias do not like soggy or extremely dry soil.
- Fungal infections, which usually look like a white, powdery film on the leaves and stem. Mildew is often the result of poor ventilation, lack of sunlight, and high humidity levels in the environment. As soon as you discover the infection, isolate your plant immediately to avoid spreading it to nearby plants. Neem oil is a commonly used remedy for mildew infections in euphorbias.
- Euphorbia leaning or falling over due to overwatering. To fix this, place a stick into the pot to firmly support your plant. Leave it for a couple of days until the plant becomes firm enough to support itself again. You can also correct a drooping euphorbia by providing it with sufficient sunlight, water, and an appropriately-sized container.
Wrapping it up
Growing a euphorbia can be exciting and daunting at the same time. This beautiful succulent is widely known for being low-maintenance, but despite this, it still needs a little pampering to keep it healthy. Start with a good soil mix, followed by the right amount of watering. Do not forget the sunlight, which your euphorbia also needs! However, too much sunlight can hurt your plant, so make sure to place it somewhere with partial shade.
A little bit of fertilizer should boost your plant’s overall health, and give it some regular pruning to manage its size and shape. You can use the pruned cuttings later to grow new euphorbias in your garden. And keep an eye out for pests – these pesky little bugs can make your plant sick!
In summary, if you are a novice gardener, euphorbias are a great choice as they are self-sufficient plants that do not require lots of care and attention. As long as their basic needs are fulfilled, you should be able to grow these plants healthily and beautifully.
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