How to Care for and Propagate Euphorbia Trigona

Updated on March 21, 2018

African Milk Tree

Caring for Euphorbia Trigona as a Houseplant

  • Euphorbia trigona love bright sunlight. A south-facing window is an ideal location to place it, though an east or west window will also work. They require at least four hours of bright, indirect sunlight per day.
  • If you keep your plants outdoors from spring to late autumn, don't leave this one out in temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Being a succulent, this plant requires well-draining soil in a pot that drains easily as well. I simply use Miracle Grow potting soil for mine and it does just wonderfully. Euphorbia Trigona like to dry out between waterings. You can put your finger (or you could use a pencil) about an inch into the soil, if it's damp, you can wait on watering; if it's dry, you know it's time to water again. It will need to be repotted every 2 to 3 years or so.

Propagating African Milk Tree

You can easily turn one small African milk tree plant into many. You will probably like to do so since it is said that sharing it with friends and family brings good luck. Who doesn't like good luck?

To propagate this plant you will need a thick pair of gloves, not only to protect you from the prickly spines, but as protection from the plant's toxic sap. Any cut portion of this plant will secrete a milky-white, sticky sap that is a skin irritant. Be careful not to get any of the sap on your skin and, certainly, keep away from mucous membranes. I read that someone had gotten some in their eyes and lost their vision for a couple of days. How terrible that would be! I have gotten the sap on my skin before but washed it off promptly and had no bad reactions.

  1. Using a pair of scissors or handheld garden pruners, cut an arm off at its base on the stalk.
  2. Rinse the cut end of the arm under running water and spray the cut portion on the stalk with a spray bottle of water.
  3. I've read that you need to wait a couple of days before planting the cutting, that it is necessary to dip the cut arm into rooting hormone and to use special soils to plant it in, but have personally never taken these steps. I have, time and time again, placed my cutting directly into soil (I simply use Miracle Grow potting soil) and have never had a cutting not root for me this way.
  4. All you have to do is make sure the soil where you put the cutting in stays moist. The cuttings will root within a week or two.

About the African Milk Tree Plant

If you would like a low-maintenance, beautifully exotic houseplant that looks tropical, this ones for you. I believe it just may be the easiest to care for plant I've ever owned. It's possibly been the most forgiving plant I've ever owned too.

Its botanical name is Euphorbia trigona. It is sometimes also referred to as African milk bush, African milk tree, candelabra cactus, cathedral cactus, friendship cactus, good luck plant or good luck cactus. Although it resembles one, the African milk tree is not a cactus at all, nor is it a bush or a tree either. It's a succulent plant native to Africa.

Euphorbia trigona can grow to heights of six to eight feet. The plant has thick, three-sided stalks with spines along its edges. Cactus-like branches, or arms, that grow upright from the sides of the stalks. Small leaves cover the edges and ends of the actively growing stalks and arms. It is a lush green plant with lighter green striations through the stalks.

There is also a variety of this plant known as Euphorbia Trigona Rubra or Royal Red. It's essentially the same plant but with beautiful, deep red leaves. It's a cultivar of the green euphorbia trigona plant. A cultivar is different than a hybrid. Environmental changes cause a change in the DNA of the cells. The Rubra or Royal Red are cared for in the same manner as the euphorbia trigona. It's a nice looking plant that adds a pop of color anywhere you place it.

Other Information

Since these plants are able to grow so tall, up to eight feet, and have small root systems, they sometimes can become top heavy and start to fall over. You can use stakes to help hold them up or, if so desired, you can cut the top portions off and you can propagate them by cutting horizontally across one of the stalks.Often times people fear cutting the stalks because they will no longer have a rounded appearance on top, but it can be done and leaves will grow along the cut portion making the horizontal cut virtually unnoticeable.

The main reason I think they begin to tip over is as an indication of over-watering. In that case, you could stake them up or propagate to help eliminate some of the weight off of them, but definitely ease up on the watering as well. I say this because the only time mine began falling over was after I had left it outdoors inside of a slightly larger, more decorative pot. It had rained for a couple of days when I noticed it falling over. The larger pot did not have any drainage holes, so my euphorbia in it's well draining pot was completely submerged in water! I used stakes to prop it up. Once it dried out it became sturdy again.

Yellowing leaves is also a sign of over watering. The leaves will turn yellow and fall off of the plant. This plant seems to do better being too dry than too wet. When too dry, the leaves tend to look dry and begin to shrivel and brown.


Many leaves indicate a happy, healthy plant.
Many leaves indicate a happy, healthy plant.
Arms or Branches of African Milk Tree
Arms or Branches of African Milk Tree

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        eehchristie 3 months ago

        I have had great success with this plant, but it just doesn't seem to have expanded its root ball since day 1. I have cut it down before but am now struggling again to keep it standing. Any suggestions. I can't even see how a stake would work (and it would be ugly). It practically needs a scaffolding.!

      • profile image

        Casey 3 months ago

        I recently bought one and repotted it and immediately the next day the leaves started to turn yellow and fall. Is this normal or not

      • profile image

        Linda Miller 4 months ago

        My Tiger cactus Euphoria was hit by frost. Many branches were drooping. We brought it in & I am trying to save it by using a hair dryer, & cutting off the drooping branches. Many branches are oozing sap. Do you think it can recover? It’s 4 ft tall, if I cut it down low, do you think it will grow again?

      • profile image

        C C 6 months ago

        I have just acquired a 8 foot tall cathedral cactus or African milk plant.

        In transporting the root ball was disturbed in pot. I have since secured the plant. It is in a large window with south to west light.

        2 days ago I gave the plant about ½ -3/4 cups of water. The pot it is in is 12-14 inches high and about 19 inches wide.

        Today I noticed the leaves are turning yellow and some are shriveling. This is occurring all the way to the top of the plant. Too much or not enough water?

        The moisture meter read dry prior to watering and now reads dry. Prior to watering I have had plant 1 week.

        Any advice?

      • profile image

        CultureatGreen 7 months ago

        Very very helpful and informative article. I was looking for this information. Thanks a lot for sharing the Trigona info. Keep it up !! Great work !!

      • profile image

        Cara 7 months ago

        I was wondering if you had any tips for a Euphorbia cutting whose base hasn't kept up with the growth of the rest of the plant. The base was a cutting from a very old Euphorbia (almost 30 years old) and while it has done very well with new growth, but the base has remained the same size. It's about 6 months at this point. Do you think it should be cut down and restarted or will eventually "grow into it"? Thanks!

      • profile image

        Ali Emami 8 months ago

        it would be nice not to promote monsanto miracle grow - there are much bettter alternatives

      • profile image

        Ellen 8 months ago

        I have a beautiful 12ft wrapped in heavy ivy to hold together..its been 4 years since i purchased her from an estate sale. I believe its time to transplant her into a bigger pot. My problem is going about it...have any ideas. I thought about placing the pot into a larger one and breaking away the old one. I dont want her to break.

      • liataylor profile image
        Author

        liataylor 10 months ago

        When you're unsure about watering, it wouldn't hurt to wait a couple more days. The euphorbia is a succulent and they hold onto water.

      • profile image

        Jamey 10 months ago

        I don't know how to leave in full sun outside in summer and control watering. .I usually tho my plants put back, and let nature do its work, I have a hundred plants or so and it's something I'm still figuring out...I have one of these and seen a neghibor down the road has a 8ft one!!

      • liataylor profile image
        Author

        liataylor 5 years ago

        Thank you so much. I agree, it certainly is an interesting plant and really easy to take care of as well.

      • Gail Meyers profile image

        Gail Meyers 5 years ago from Kansas City - United States

        Welcome to HubPages! That's an interesting plant I don't know that I have ever seen before. Thanks for the info! Voted up, useful and FB shared.

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