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Euphorbia - Euphorbia milii

Euphorbia - Euphorbia milii

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Euphorbia milii

The genus Euphorbia is very broad and heterogeneous, shrubs, succulent plants, plants with thorns similar to columnar cacti, plants with thorns similar to globose cacti are part of this genus; the many species are widespread all over the globe, in Africa, Asia, America. Euphorbia milii is a semi-succulent, with fleshy stems, non-succulent leaves and the typical flowers, present in all species of euphorbia, called ciazi; Euphorbia milii is native to southern Africa, in nature it becomes a large shrub, with succulent stems, woody or semi-woody at the base, especially in older specimens. The stems, erect, very branched, carry large sharp thorns, which in the specimens that live in the wild, serve to allow the plant to develop attached to the trunk of tall trees, since the stems, alone, tend to become excessively weak if they grow over a meter in height.
The leaves are oval, dark green, often covered with a thin layer of bloom, which makes them opaque; the foliage is present only on the shoots, and in the apical part of the branches; they tend to fall if the plant is cultivated in a very dry climate, and instead they are produced in abundance in the case of a cooler and wetter climate.
At the apex of the branches, during the summer, small inflorescences bloom, with yellow flowers subtended by bracts of a typically red color; there are numerous hybrids and particular varieties, with yellow, white and rosé bracts, and also with very large bracts. This Euphorbia lends itself very well to being grown in the apartment, where it may happen that it continues to bloom throughout the year.

Grow Euphorbia milii

This succulent plant is easy to grow, and very suitable also as a houseplant; although it is a plant with a succulent stem, it does not particularly like extreme drought and heat: it can easily withstand the hot and dry summer climate, but it develops best if regularly watered.
We plant the plant in a container that is not too large, using a well-drained soil, soft and unfamiliar, but able to retain a little moisture; generally a mixture of universal soil is used, with perlite or pumice stone to allow the air to circulate well and a little soil from leaves or small pieces of bark, which maintain a little moisture; a spoonful of slow-release fertilizer per pot ensures good fertilization, but we use a fertilizer for succulent plants, poor in nitrogen.
Plants need to regular watering, especially if the climate is warm and dry: we water when the soil is dry, avoiding to leave it dry for a long time, or our Euphorbia will begin to lose its foliage and produce less flowers.
These plants love well-lit positions, with at least a few hours of direct sunlight every day; we avoid leaving them completely in the sun on the hottest and sultry days, or we check that the plant receives the correct watering in this type of conditions.
The Euphorbie milii do not like intense cold, which certainly causes foliage to fall and stop flowering; moreover, it can happen that intense frosts ruin the outermost branches, and favor the development of rottenness, which leads to the death of the entire plant.
During the winter these plants are grown in greenhouses or in apartments, with one minimum temperature above 4 ° C.
In general, these succulents do not seem to suffer if they are grown as houseplants, so with about 20 ° C during the winter and a more natural climate during the summer; in the right cultivation conditions they tend to bloom continuously.
Especially the hybrid plants, the new varieties, often grafted, tend to need regular watering, a semi-shading and a good fertilization, differently from what happens for many other succulent plants.
We avoid to place our plant in a place without completely direct sunlight, or we will never see it bloom again.

Height Up to 150 cm
Exposure Sun, half-shade
Ground Well drained, mixed soil and sand
irrigations medium; let the soil dry out between interventions
Environmental humidity average
Composting fortnightly, products for cacti
Minimum temperature 7.5-15 ° C depending on the variety
Optimal temperatures 16-24 ° C

A little legend

The common name of Euphorbia milii is Christ's thorn, this is because the legend tells that it was used to prepare the crown of thorns, placed on the head of Jesus Christ; the probabilities that this legend is true are not very many, in fact despite the existence of species of Euphorbia of African and Asian origin, the first Euphorbia milii arrived in Europe came from Madagascar, and it was already 1800.
It could be probable that some species were once widespread also in the Middle East, and that therefore a simple thorny shrub had been used for the aforementioned purpose; but it seems strange that these species are no longer present in the Middle East today.


When talking about Euphorbia care must be taken not to confuse species with the genus because Euphorbia milli is only a species belonging to the genus Euphorbia. This genus includes all succulent plants and is composed of over 2000 species with a very different appearance.
Despite the disparate shapes, these plants have characteristics that are common to all species and are the presence of a whitish and stinging latex inside all plants of the genus and the flower or rather the inflorescence that is typical of all species.
Not all Euphorbia plants are succulent and Euphorbia milli is an excellent example with its normal leaves, different from the usual leaves of succulents. Many species are instead endowed with succulent leaves and thorns and have the typical appearance of succulent plants. The variety of plant shapes of the genus Euphorbia is something splendid and true lovers of succulents also enjoy crossing some species together, giving life to hybrids with very strange shapes and characteristics.

Flowering All the year
Pruning Spring
repotting Summer

Spurge diseases

Euphorbia milii is a generally very resistant plant and, if grown in the right conditions, it is unlikely to suffer from physiopathies or parasitic attacks.
Nevertheless it can happen that the leaves begin to turn yellow and end up falling, especially during the winter. This is mainly caused by excessive heating and a very dry environment. At the first hints of yellowing it is good to activate by applying humidifiers to the radiators or surrounding the plant with pots filled with expanded clay and water.
On the contrary, the darkening of the collar is a sign of the beginning of rot. We carefully adjust the irrigations, always waiting for the substrate to dry completely between one administration and another. In severe cases it is possible to extract the plant, remove most of the soil and let the roots dry. The compost will be completely replaced and different applications will be made of products based on fosetil aluminum or propamocarb.

Euphorbia parasites

The most common parasite of these plants is undoubtedly the cochineal. The first symptom of its attacks is the leaf desiccation, starting from the margin. If there are few insects it is possible to remove them manually with cotton buds and alcohol. Otherwise it is good to use mineral oils added with systemic insecticides.

Pruning euphornia

Pruning and cleaning operations must be carried out at the beginning of the growing season. However, it is extremely important to pay the utmost attention during processing. The latex that comes out of the cuts is in fact extremely toxic: there is a serious risk of skin irritation, but the most serious damage can derive from splashes that reach the eyes or mucous membranes. We therefore use waterproof gloves and protective glasses, closed on all sides. The liquid also, in the long run, irreparably damages the cutting tools: we therefore use extremely inexpensive knives.
You can intervene in two ways:
- Shortening the branches and then stimulating the branching. We will get a fuller subject.
- Eliminating the branches directly from the base: the plant will be more open, favoring more the passage of air and light. Older euphorbias may need to be rejuvenated, eliminating branches that are now too woody.
Having said this, it is emphasized that the common euphorbie milii on the market have the intrinsic characteristic of growing compact and ramified: therefore the formation pruning, more often than not, is completely superfluous.
Thai hybrids, on the other hand, have a tendency to grow quickly upward, branching little and soon becoming not very suitable for pot cultivation. You can try to intervene by shortening the branches, but this does not always give the desired results.


The spring prunings allow to recover portions of branches suitable for propagation by cuttings. The segments must be 7 to 10 cm long. To obtain them we cut with a knife or a very sharp razor blade: in this way the margin will not be frayed and therefore easy prey to rot. Let us commit ourselves to stop the sap immediately by vaporizing the cuts with ice water and compressing the area with a wet cloth.
Let the portions of the branch dry in the air, in a dry room, for about 24 hours. Afterwards insert them into jars filled with a mixture of peat and slightly damp sand. Bring them in a bright area, but without direct sun and with a temperature of about 20 ° C. Rooting takes place on average in a month. Later you can repot and cultivate as adult seedlings, exposing them gradually to the sun and heat.


The "thorn of Christ" does not suffer particularly following repottings. We can choose whether to change the container by choosing a larger one or reuse it, totally replacing the substrate.
The best time to proceed is summer, when vegetative growth is at its peak. It is possible to bury a greater part of the plant, especially if it has a high and thin aspect.
Repotting can also be done every year, especially for young plants and when it comes to large and vigorous Thai hybrids. Adult plants can wait up to two years.

Euphorbia: Variety

The official varieties of Euphorbia milii are 8. The most famous are the splendens and the longifolia.
The specimens commonly found for sale are however mostly recent hybrids. The most widespread and popular were created in Thailand or the United States. They carry larger flowers and in a large number of shades: they include red, pink, white, yellow, acid green and salmon. The flowers can be single or collected in bunches. The leaves are more decorative because they are larger and have a nice bright green. Cultivars with variegated foliage are also available. This hybrids are called Euphorbia x lomi.
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