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Pencil Cactus

Euphorbia tirucalli

  • ​​Common Name: Pencil Cactus (other common names: Indian Tree Spurge, Firesticks, Red Pencil Tree, Sticks of Fire, Milk Bush, Rubber Euphorbia, Aveloz, African Milkbush, Pencil Tree, Finger Tree, Aveloz or Petroleum Plant)
  • Scientific Name: Euphorbia tirucalli
  • Family Name: Euphorbiaceae
  • Origin: Tropical and southern Africa
  • Height: 20’ – 30’
  • Width: 6’ – 10’
  • Growth: fast
  • Zone: 11 - 12
  • Light Needs: Full sun (prefer some part afternoon shade in hot summer conditions)
  • Salt Tolerance:  moderate
  • Soil/PH/Texture: prefers soils that are nourishing but without high organic content such as coarse loams enriched with peat moss or leaf mold plus additional gritty material such as perlite, coarse sand, or broken clam shells. Bonemeal is also a good additive and it needs exceptionally good drainage.
  • Soil Moisture: Dry to Medium, tolerates dry soil, avoid excessive watering
  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Pests/Diseases: No serious diseases or pests but can be susceptible to spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids and an occasional fungal or bacterial disease.
  • Growing Conditions: easy to grow and low maintenance
  • Characteristics: typically develops a heavy trunk with thick primary branches which are woody and brown. New branchlets are green, cylindrical in shape with a pencil-like thickness, often forming clusters of branches at the ends but the stems can change to be bright red, pink, orange or yellow. The leaves are tiny, about 1” long, and oblanceolate. At the tops of the branchlets in stalk-less clusters, tiny blooms of yellow will appear hidden inside large petal-like showy bracts which typically hide the inconspicuous flowers within. Blooms appear typically in May – July.
  • Propagation: by cuttings
  • Wildlife: Unknown
  • Facts: Plant parts contain a milky sap which is poisonous if ingested and can cause allergic reactions to eyes and skin, including temporary blindness. This plant is being tested for potentially being a medical treatment for cancer and a source of oil. Some say that if there was a mass planting the size of Arizona state, that it could produce a year’s supply of gasoline for the US.
  • Designer Considerations: Use as a hedge, screen, shrub, border or accent plant, specimen, background plant, container plant for your patio or in a rock, succulent or cactus garden.

Pencil Cactus


Cactus & Succulent Garden