Crown of Thorns: An Interesting Houseplant
When I was growing up my mom had a Crown of Thorns plant that always fascinated me with its cute little red flowers and long spikes growing up the stems. I now have my own Crown of Thorns, it has dark green leaves with tiny red flowers, and blooms nearly all year round. It has lived with me for about 6 years now and it tends to grow very slowly.
One thing I have found out about the Crown of Thorns, is that it can be a very temperamental plant, finding out where the best place to put it and how to care for it took a little time.
For instance, it will lose its leaves completely if put under moisture or temperature stress.
I keep mine in the kitchen window, where it enjoys the morning sun and I can keep an eye on it's watering needs while doing my dishes.
With shoots reaching a height of 6 feet, the Crown of Thorns is a succulent yet woody climbing shrub with long, sharp spines that can be over an inch long. The reason for the long, sharp spines is that they help the plant 'crawl' over other plants. Interestingly, the stems of this plants are pliable and can be intertwined into a circle and, although it may look like a cacti, the fact that there is no relation was a surprise to me.
In fact, the Crown of Thorns is a member of the family Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. This is a large family that includes such plants as the Poinsettia, Castor Bean and the Cassava.
Although the Crown of Thorns plant is native to Madagascar, there exists substantial evidence that the species had been brought to the Middle East before the time of Christ.
The common name of this plant alludes to the legend that the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ at the time of his crucifixion was made from the stem of this plant. Today, as a way of remembering the legend, the long stems are sometimes deliberately trained to grow in a crown-like shape.
One thing to remember if you are thinking of getting your own Crown of Thorns, is that it is poisonous. The long thorns help keep animals and small children away, but accidental poisoning sometimes happens. The sap may produce a rash on susceptible individuals that is very similar to poison ivy.
The sap in some species of the Crown of Thorns plant has been used for arrow poisons and to stupefy fish for capture. Crown of Thorns are not usually planted near stocked pool because the sap from broken roots can be fatal to fish. The common name for the family, Spurge, comes from the same root as purge or expurgate, alluding to its properties if taken internally. So despite its poisonous properties, in the past the sap has been used for medicinal purposes.
Even so, I love my Crown of Thorns and would recommend it to someone looking for a beautiful houseplant that is slow growing and easy to care for.
The Flowers of the Crown of Thorns are sticky, wash your hands after picking up the ones that fall off, leaves too!
My Recommendations to Care for a Crown of Thorns Plant
I myself have not put much stock in recommended growing tips except the most basic - sun/shade/soil. I find a lot of plants are like individuals and have different needs and ideas of how they should be cared for.
Sun - I keep my Crown of Thorns in a East facing window in my kitchen, it seems to love it there. My mother however, keeps hers in a South facing window in her front room. Both plants do just fine and bloom in both locations.
Soil - There is also a lot of controversy as to which way is the proper way to care for certain plants. My Crown of Thorns is such an example, I had to trade the cactus soil for regular dirt as it would not hold enough moisture for my plant and was constantly drying out.
Watering - I have a busy life, so I don't always remember to water my plants, I do however try to make sure they get some kind of moisture at least once every week to week and a half. I also water all my plants the same way, I put them in the sink, soak them until no more water drains out of the pot and put them back where they belong. Not very scientific, but my plants seem to like it.
Feeding - I also am terrible at remembering to feed my plants and they get fed when I remember, which is probably every 3 months. The temperature in my house is always changing so keeping the room at a set temperature for my 'plants' is just not practicable.
Making a New Plant - My mom wanted me to start her a Crown of Thorns plant from my own plant and after searching I found lots of ideas on how to do it, but here is what I did. Using a sharp knife, I cut off three branches at the base. Immediately, a thick white 'sap' appeared at the bottom of both cuts, (wash this off immediately or wear gloves if you have sensitive hands) I left the one on my plant alone, dabbing it a bit with a paper towel, and wrapped the other three cutting ends tightly in moist paper towel. I kept it moist until the next day and then let it sit out for a day until the cuts 'scabbed' over. Putting the cuttings into moist regular dirt, new growth appeared on the cuttings about 6 weeks later.
For More Information
- How to Grow Crown of Thorns Cuttings
Euphorbia milii, also known as crown of thorns, Christ thorn and the Christ plant, is an ideal decoration at Christmas and Easter. Crown of thorn cuttings also make great gifts--and they're easy to grow.