The pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli) is an interesting shrub with succulent foliage that’s native to semi-arid tropical climates. In the wild, it can reach heights of 30 feet and a width of 6 to 10 feet, which is a sizeable growth. The plant will maintain a more manageable 2–6 foot height and 1-3 foot width indoors. The plant gets its common name from its cylindrical, roughly pencil-thick, thick brown branches that mature into clusters of smaller, green branches. Oval leaves that can reach an inch in length are present on the branches. Additionally, the tips of the green branches develop tiny flowers in the late spring and early summer. The pointed spines that are typical of many cacti are absent from this plant.
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Pencil Cactus Care
The pencil cactus requires very little care and can tolerate extensive neglect. Furthermore, it typically doesn’t experience pest or disease problems. This could be the plant for you if you frequently travel and don’t have the time to give a houseplant regular care.
Typically, this plant only needs to be watered a few times per month during the warmer months of the year, and even less frequently during the cooler months. Additionally, fertilization is usually done once a year. In addition, dead stems may need to be pruned as needed, and container plants that outgrow their pots may need to be repotted.
Factors Affect Pencil Cactus Grow
This plant prefers nutrient-poor, sandy, dry soil. Succulent or cactus potting soil that doesn’t retain moisture is ideal for container plants.
The maintenance of this succulent is very simple. In the spring and summer, watering is only required every two to three weeks. Fall and winter months should only require monthly watering. To avoid overwatering, it is best to let the soil completely dry out in between waterings. Although this plant is very drought-tolerant, too much water can cause the roots to rot.
The pencil cactus prefers to grow in full sun, which is defined as at least six hours of sunlight on most days. It can tolerate some shade, though, and might even welcome some cover from the sweltering afternoon sun. Grow it near your brightest window inside.
Temperature And Humidity
Temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for the pencil cactus’ growth. The area around the plant shouldn’t get colder than 50 degrees. Protecting your plant from cool drafts, such as those from an air conditioner, is important when doing so indoors. Low humidity conditions are also ideal for the plant’s growth. But as long as the soil doesn’t retain moisture, a higher humidity level shouldn’t be an issue.
It is fairly simple to prune a pencil cactus and should be done in the early spring. When handling this plant, you should always wear protective clothing and gloves and avoid composting it because the pencil cactus’ toxic sap can irritate your skin and eyes and stain your clothes. Remove any dead or damaged branches from the cactus first with a pair of pruning shears. Then, carefully trim any branches to achieve the desired shape and height, always cutting all the way to the branch’s base. Since this plant does tend to be top-heavy, be careful not to remove too much of the bottom portion. Afterward, your pruning shears will be sticky, so clean them with some rubbing alcohol.
This plant doesn’t consume a lot of food. For the remainder of the year, your pencil cactus should be fine if you fertilize it with a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer in the spring.
Propagating The Pencil Cactus
Cuttings from a pencil cactus can be easily multiplied. Throughout this process, always wear safety gear. When your pencil cactus is actively growing, late spring or early summer is best, which is when you should propagate it. Here’s how:
- A green branch about 6 inches long should be cut with pruning shears.
- To stop the sap from flowing, submerge it in clean water.
- Before planting the cutting in a moist succulent or cactus potting mix, allow the cutting to dry for about a week and develop a callus over the cut end.
- It should be lightly watered and placed in a sunny area. Before watering again, allow the soil to dry out.
Potting And Repotting The Pencil Cactus
The best clay pot to use when growing the pencil cactus in a container is one that is unglazed and has walls that can let moisture escape. Make sure the pot has enough drainage holes as well.
The plant can tolerate its pot being somewhat crowded. But be prepared to move your plant to a pot size larger once the roots have filled the container. Before starting the repotting process, make sure the soil is dry. Knock off extra soil as you gently remove the plant from the pot. Remove any roots that appear shriveled, dead, or rotten. After that, plant the pencil cactus in its new pot and surround it with new potting soil. Prior to watering the plant, wait about a week.
Common Pests And Diseases
The pencil cactus is not frequently attacked by pests or afflicted by illnesses, but it is vulnerable to a few. Aphids, nematodes, and spider mites are typically the biggest problems. Neem oil is useful for treating these. Always wait until the soil is completely dry before watering to avoid root rot caused by overwatering and keeping the soil wet.
Pencil Cactus Propagation By Division
Make sure you are wearing all of the necessary safety equipment first so you can shield yourself from the toxic sap they produce.
You must, as usual, wait a few days for those to wither. A lean substrate or coconut fibers could then be used to support the pots. Place a cutting and supply rainwater, and make sure to.
It is best to put them in a container in a heated greenhouse with enough light. Maintaining moisture will encourage the formation of a robust root system.
Advantage Of Division Propagation
You could undoubtedly use this method if you want to grow new plants that resemble your original plants.
This will also work on variegated plants because, when you divide them to reproduce them, you will get plants with the same vibrant leaf edges and margins.
Can A Pencil Cactus Propagate By Offsets?
The pencil cactus can also be spread further by offsets. The drawback of this method of propagation is that it might take a very long time for the mother plant to start producing offsets.
Why are pencil cacti called fire sticks?
Because of its beautiful orange and red hues during the colder months, the pencil cactus is also known as fire sticks or sticks on fire.
How much does a pencil cactus grow in a year?
A pencil cactus can reach a height of 20 inches with the right maintenance and care.
How long do the pencil cactus flowers bloom?
The yellow flowers come out on the end of the branch in clusters during the spring and summer and usually only bloom a few days.