Growing a pencil cactus

Discussion in 'Cacti and Succulents' started by Yehoshua, May 1, 2005.

  1. I did just get a pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli) clipping. What is the best way to get it to grow? Should I leave it in water, or plant it? Thanks!
    Joshua
     
  2. Marn

    Marn Active Member 10 Years

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    i would plant it .. it would b better then in water .. it is more like a cactus so alot of water wouldnt b to good for it ..

    good luck with it

    Marn
     
  3. I have a very large pencil cactus, and was wondering if it is possible to cut them back?? Making it more rounder than taller ??

    Open to all sugestions.

    Thank you
    Donna in Missouri
     
  4. Marn

    Marn Active Member 10 Years

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    here is a lil info i found on the Pencil cactus .. hope this helps

    Cultural information: "Pencil Cactus" are a bizarre looking plant who's sap is poisonous.

    "Pencil Cactus" are quite easy to grow if placed in direct sunshine or very bright indirect light. Water sparingly maybe twice a month... allowing most of the soil mass to dry out. Feed bi-monthly but don't feed the plant if the soil is extremely dry... the soil needs to be a little moist before fertilizing. When your plant becomes to tall, cut it back to the desired height. Wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt when pruning "Pencil Cactus". The sap may cause skin irritation. Be careful not to get the sap in your eyes.
     
  5. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    The following was sent via email:

    I have just been given a cutting but it looks very weak. I had another cutting from a different tree that was beautiful and thick. It grew to about 12 inches but then it died. I don't want to lose this one also.

    What can I do to assure it's taking and growing.

    Thank you for your help.

    Plant lover
     
  6. Marn

    Marn Active Member 10 Years

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    Eric ....

    I would just tell them what i posted earlier .. to follow those instructions .. and good luck ...

    Marn
     
  7. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Yes, when I post something from an email, I always send back the link. In this case I directed them to your (Marn's) post. And if anyone has more to post on pencil cactus, they are welcome to add more here.

    The proper name of pencil cactus is Euphorbia tirucalli; so it is obviously not truly a cactus. I find that when I am searching for info about plants on the net the scientific name will bring up a lot of websites that may have been missed by a common name search.
     
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Succulent spurges are an example of convergent evolution, unrelated plants (spurges and cacti) developing similar forms.
     
  9. You might even want to wear eye protection as well, as Be careful not to get the sap in your eyes is an understatement. I have 2 pencil cacti that are about 6' tall (one bigger, one smaller) they have a very interesting characteristic to them. The sap is poisonous , and it will cause a terrible burning sensation in the eyes. It will then render you temporarily blind for 3 to 5 days.

    This is not to say it's a bad plant to grow at all, I just think you should know how nasty it can be.
    I have taken several cuttings of mine and given them to friends with implicit instructions to keep away from the sap. Even if you get it on you, wash it off right away. If you rub it on your pants, chances are you'll rub some residue back off the pants and eventually get it in your eyes.

    One friend I gave it to had it growing over a fence that abutted a heavily traveled sidewalk. Fearing that the sap would get into a passer-by's eyes, he decided that he had to cut it. He cut it with loppers and used the loppers to put the thing in a trash bag, so he wouldn't have to touch the sap. Then he washed his hands well.

    He went back to work and apparently had a tiny bit of reside on his hand or arm somewhere, because after working for another hour he noticed a tingly sensation in his eyes. He says that a minute or two after he first felt the sting, he had to run to the hose to flush his eyes. He described it as burning heat in his eyes. after flushing his eyes with water for minutes, he realized that he couldn't see. He says it hurt just to open his eyes. Luckily his wife was there and was able to walk him through the house!

    He figures that he must have had a tiny bit on him and wiping the sweat off his forehead eventually dripped some reside into his eyes.

    Needless to say, he and his wife destroyed the plant a month or two later.


    I just wanted to let all of you know the potential danger of this plant
    But oh, YES I love mine!

    |M|
     
  10. Your warning is a good one and I wish I had known earlier that the sap was poisonous and could hurt the eyes. I have a 7 foot pencil cactus in my yard that the previous owner had planted. I had never seen such a plant before. It was so big on top with long branches that I trimmed it with a pruner, not knowing to take any precautions. Thankfully, none of the sap got on me. My pruners still have some dried sap on it, it gets very sticky and gummy after a while. Should any precautions be taken when I clean the dried sap off my pruners?
     
  11. The pencil cactus goes under the name of rubber hedge in the country of my birth, Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, in central Africa.

    As the name implies, it can be grown quite densely in thick hedges and it requires little or no maintenance whatsoever. Loves heat and dryness. Propagation is easily achieved by breaking off a portion and sticking it in damp soil; water sparingly from time to time.

    I have often handled this plant with no protective clothing and with no adverse effects, but, yes, it is potent and I do believe some individuals could react quite unfavourably to its sap.

    It has a very benefcial characteristic that I can vouch for, though, and that is that it is dynamite on warts. As a kid my hands were covered in big unsightly warts and I used to dab the sap on each of them from time to time and within a few months my warts disappeared never to return (on my hands). By middle age (late 40s) I was again pestered by planters warts on the underside of both feet which resisted every caustic cure available on the market for more than two years. I was lucky enough to secure a rubber hedge plant (banned her in Australia) and I dabbed drops of the sap on these warts and covered them with band aids to prevent the sap being rubbed off too readily. I did this about once a week for a few weeks and, being very busy at the time, forgot about about them until showering one morning, when I realised there was not a trace of a wart left...and 10 years later still none!
    Trevor Payne, sign-up@tpg.com.au
     
  12. I live in the desert area of California and have about 22 beautiful pots of pencil cactus. All from one "mother" plant. Some are up to 7 feet tall. I water them every other day during summer, and they do quite well. Some of them are in direct sun and some indirect.

    My question is: I have seen them used indoors on movies and various sets. Is it possible to grow them indoors? They would indeed be a beautiful addition to my home.

    ANYONE have any experience with them indoors?

    THANKS
     
  13. Marn

    Marn Active Member 10 Years

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    u can grow them indoors .. just put it in bright sunlight .. it may not grow as fast as outdoors .. but if u have that many give a few a try and see what happens ..

    good luck

    Marn
     
  14. I work in a library. We have a pencil cactus and I am in the process of trimming it back. It was suggested that the pot may be too large for it, but to be honest, it will be very hard to transferr to another pot. How large a pot? Should the roots touch the sides of the pot? what is the norm for this plant?
     
  15. I have had a Pencil Cactus now for about 11 years, Ive successfully duplicated it twice. It broke almost in two once, I got some gause, like you would for a cut. wrapped it lightly around the "wound" braced it up with a piece of bamboo, and can you believe it completely healed, with just a little brown blace.
    I think the key to these plants is. Not too bright sun, definately not direct sun, water as you think about it, not a "soaking" water.
    Mine grows the best outside in the summer (I live in Alabama) under a tree, in fact it grows so fast it is unbelieveable.
    Most people tend to them too much, and they do better when ignored to a certain extent.
    I know they dont like to be moved, if they have been in the same place for a long period of time, dont move it to a different location all at once, a little at a time is best.
     
  16. A friend gave me a cutting of this plant, and for literally a couple of years i had it in a vase of water. It was fine, although did not grow a lot. I planted it in a pot (in soil) this spring and it's doing very well.
    But, yes, it would probably prefer soil a little sooner...
     
  17. Florideau47

    Florideau47 Member

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    I have two pencil cacti growing in my yard here in central Florida, one about 15 feet( five meters) tall and the other about 6 feet, with the larger having developed a bark-like, woody look to the main trunk. To the best of my knowledge, they can grow to a maximum height of 30 feet, although mine is about as large as I've seen them.
    The best soil is sandy and well drained with little or no fertilization needed unless desired, while long term exposere to wet soil can cause the plant to become swollen, soft and sodden at the base, causing it to fall over and quite possibly die.
    The leaves are extremely small, usually at the tip of each branch, and often to usually fall off, with the plant able to photosynthasize through the green, rubbery branches themselves.
    The comments about the milky, latex-like sap are true, but this is the case in many succulents with a similar sap, including unrelated "rubber trees", and American milkweed, with one wild form commonly known in the western U.S. as "loco weed" for the extreme reaction that cattle may have if they accidently ingest it while grazing.
    While care and common sense are essential in dealing with the sap, I personally feel that anything more is unwarranted, but then again, our "state flower" here in Florida, the Oleander, has a sap that's even worse, causing blistering upon contact and possible fatal results if accidently inhaled while being burned by the unwary.
     
  18. gagee

    gagee Member

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    I have always had mine indoors. I put them out in the summer. I did not know they could be planted in the ground and grown outside. Also what is your secret to getting a cutting to take? MIne always just dry up and die.
     
  19. Florideau47

    Florideau47 Member

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    When planting cuttings, allow the end of the cut piece to "scab over" or callous by letting it lay exposed to the air for several days before planting. Then it's simply a matter of planting it and watching it grow. A word of caution......moisten it when you first plant it and then water very sparingly or, as I do, let it get its' water when it rains.
    I call this my "gardening by God" method, meaning I plant it and then let nature do the rest! **grin**
    Very large specimens will get a distinctly woody or tree-like look to the main trunk.
    Best of luck!
    Mike Dandaneau
    Clearwater, Florida
     
  20. spruitt

    spruitt Member

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    You sound very experienced in this area. Perhaps you can help me. I have a new purchase in a six inch pot. I plan to re-pot this weekend. Should I buy soil made especially for cactus or regular potting soil? A few years ago I had a six foot plant that had been given to me and it was damaged in moving and eventually died. I was so glad to find a plant in my new location, Las Vegas. Watering is also a puzzle to me. I'm afraid I couldn't let mother nature take care of it here in the desert. I keep reading different views about the frequency of watering. HELP.....
     
  21. Florideau47

    Florideau47 Member

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    Look back at post #12 by "unregistered" who states he has a LOT of potted pencil cactus, some quite large with most kept in well lighted rooms. As to soil, sandy would seem to be best...... I don't have any books nearby, but I believe they are originally from S. Africa from semi-arrid localities, as are MANY other succulents often mistaken for cactus.
    This region commonly has from six to nine months of draught with a few months of quite heavy rain and temperatures that can get cooler than expected.
    Here in central Florida we've recently endured a five year draught cycle that had no effect on my outdoor plants, while they've also breezed through a year with five hurricanes and a lot of rain in 2005, as well as a day this past march where we recieved 18" of rain in one day.
    When planted in direct sun they get extremely tiny yellow flowers on the smaller branches that probably wouldn't even be recognized by most as flowers. The tip that drew my attention (and magnifying glass) was the large number of wasps and small bees swarming around it in the full mid-day sun.
    This plant, in my estimation, comes very close to being indestructible, with the only one tougher, in my experience, being the wide leafed variety of Mother-in-law's tonge or snake plant.
    Best of luck to you.
     
  22. spruitt

    spruitt Member

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    Thank you so much for your reply. I found your information most interesting. I wish you continued good luck with your plants also.
     
  23. imac1789

    imac1789 Member

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    i have a pencil cactus in my dorm room in vermont which i got from a cutting about eight months ago. while the plant is healthy, it hasn't grown at all since i got it. is there anyway to get it to start growing?
     
  24. spruitt

    spruitt Member

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    Sorry, but all my experience has been with full plants. I've never tried growing a plant from a cutting. I have read that you should let the cutting dry out before putting in soil.
     
  25. Florideau47

    Florideau47 Member

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    If your plant seems to be healthy and yet isn't showing signs of growth, there are a few things that I can think of, such as to 1) move it to a location that gets more light or add artificial light if that's not possible, 2) lightly fertilize it and 3) make sure that it's not root bound. These have a surprisingly boisterous and spreading root system, more like a tree than you would suspect, thus requiring plenty of room. As to growing one from cuttings, when I moved the 7 foot specimen from the shaded back yard to the full sun front, I wasn't able to dig it up (I'm handicapped with a spinal injury) so I cut it down with an axe, let the base dry for a few days and put it directly into the ground, steadied by a sturdy steel pole while it got established, all of which didn't seem to even slightly slow down its growth.
    How's that for indestructable? **grin**
     

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