Caring For The Devil’s Backbone Plant

Hailing from the tropical and subtropical parts of North and Central America, The Devil’s Backbone Plant, also known botanically as Euphorbia tithymaloides, is a striking plant worthy of any collection.

It has an unusual appearance and suits its name, as the thorny look of the plant means it resembles a spinal column!

It’s very low-maintenance which makes it a great option for pretty much anyone. 

Fancy growing your own Devil’s Backbone Plant? Here’s what you need to know.

How To Recognize The Devil’s Backbone Plant

This plant is quite a large shrub in its native habitat, reaching anywhere between 6 and 8 feet tall, and about 2 feet wide at maturity.

Indoors, this plant is probably going to reach between 2 and 6 feet tall, depending on the growing conditions you give the plant, and how much space it has.

This plant can also flower when it’s given enough light and nutrients, bursting into color in shades of green, white, red, or pink. 

These flowers are technically modified leaves rather than actual flowers, but they still look stunning.

The leaves can take on a hint of pink in bright light and warm temperatures, only adding to this plant’s beauty. 

Where To Grow Devil’s Backbone

It’s worth noting that as a Euphorbia species, the Devil’s Backbone Plant is classified as toxic, as the milky white sap can cause irritation, inflammation, and blistering.

So this is not a plant you want to keep in reach of pets or children!

Light Needs

The age-old bright and indirect position is good for most plants, and it is ideal for Euphorbia tithymaloides. 

Try to place your plant as close to an Eastern-facing or Northern-facing window as possible, and this should give the plant all the energy it needs. 

Eastern-facing aspects will get some direct sunlight, but as it is morning sunlight, it won’t harm the plant.

Temperature And Humidity

Both average household temperatures and humidity levels will be fine for this plant, provided that you keep it out of drafts, and away from sources of heat. Easy! 

Ideal Soil For Devil’s Backbone Succulents

Well-draining soil is a must for this plant. While a houseplant compost will do, if you add a handful of pumice to the mix, this will help divert excess moisture away from the roots and help prevent root rot.

When To Water Euphorbia Tithymaloides

Water this plant when the top inch or two of compost has dried out, but don’t wait any longer than this, as this is not a desert-dwelling plant, and can’t handle long dry periods.

Should You Feed Euphorbia Tithymaloides?

Euphorbia tithymaloides is not the most hungry, demanding plant out there. 

If you want it to grow a little faster, fertilize it a couple of times during the growing season using a houseplant feed, but otherwise, leave it be.

Once your plant starts to outgrow its pot, it’s worth feeding it as it will be running out of nutrients. Remember to scale back the feeding regime in the fall, and stop completely once winter arrives. 

How To Propagate The Devil’s Backbone Plant

As mentioned above, this plant is toxic, so be very careful when propagating it. Always use gloves when propagating Euphorbia species, and have a paper towel handy to mop up the sap.

Make sure you propagate your plants away from pets and children, too.

Take a four-inch stem cutting from your plant, letting it air dry for a day or two, before planting in an appropriate soil mix.

Keep the soil damp but not wet, and place it in a bright and warm spot. When you see new growth, your cutting has formed roots.

Troubleshooting Problems With The Devil’s Backbone Plant

Leaf Drop

Leaf drop is one of the most common problems with Euphorbia tithymaloides.

If you notice that several leaves are falling from your Devil’s Backbone Plant, this is usually a watering issue.

Take a look at the soil, and test it with your fingers. If it is very dry, and the soil is pulling away from the sides of the pot, it’s time to give your plant a good soaking. Then do it again.

Allow the excess water to drain, tipping out any that pools at the bottom of the pot.

Powdery Mildew

Another problem you might face when growing Euphorbia tithymaloides is powdery mildew. It looks exactly like it sounds, where a powdery mold settles on the leaves and stems. 

It’s easy enough to wipe this off with cotton dipped in apple cider vinegar, but you need to treat the cause.

Powdery mildew is usually caused by damp, warm, and dark conditions, where there isn’t enough air circulation around the plant, so move it somewhere brighter where air can flow freely around the plant.

Final Thoughts

Euphorbia tithymaloides adds drama to any room, but it might add more drama than you like if you keep it within reach of pets or children. 

This plant can be incredibly dangerous if ingested, so you may want to look for an alternative or grow this plant in a room pets or children cannot access.

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