Euphorbia tirucalli are part of the Euphorbiaceae family and its native range is Madagascar where it grows as a semi-succulent shrub or tree in the desert or dry shrubland biome. It has a long history of being used as a hedge plant, fish poison and medicinal purposes. As it establishes itself so easily, it is difficult to be certain of its origins although evidence points to it being an Old World Plant.
This plant is commonly known as ‘Fire Sticks’ as they turn a vibrant red under full sun conditions. As the plant matures it develops a heavy trunk, brown primary branches, and cylindrical, green, new branches. Leaves grow in clusters at the branch tips along with small yellow cyathia. The flowers attract butterflies, bees and other insects; these are responsible for pollination.
Genus name comes from the Latin euphorbea, named after Euphorbus, Greek physician to the reputed discoverer of the plant (King Juba II of Numidia). Specific epithet tirucalli was given by Linnaeus in 1753 as this was the name used by the people of Malabar, a region of southern India.
This plant is a poisonous spurge; the latex is very bitter and acrid, containing diterpenes and is considered highly toxic. Sap may cause severe skin irritation & eye pain. All parts are highly toxic and possibly fatal, if ingested.
Light: Allow the plant to see the sun for as many hours of the day as possible; the plant ought to be able to see sun from where it is positioned in the home.
Water: Allow the potting mix to dry out completely in between waterings; Euphorbia store the water they need for photosynthesis inside their stems. Before watering, aerate the potting mix with a few pokes of a skewer or blunt stick, pour water slowly over the top of the substrate and allow the water to pass through the drainage holes.
Potting mix: A well draining mix composed primarily of non-organic material such as clay, pumice, lava grit with a little coco-coir. You can easily propagate by taking stem cuttings (wear gloves/wash hands) and allowing them to suberize (callus) for up to a week before planting into potting mix. These plants prefer to be in a smaller pot so don’t rush to pot up.
Fertilising: Feed every few waterings during the growing season. You can dilute fertiliser to half the recommended amount but never add more.
Humidity: Average home humidity is fine; Euphorbia tirucalli can tolerate dry air.
Euphorbia are toxic, keep out of reach of pets and children.