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How to Grow Crown of Thorns From Cuttings

Jill enjoys cooking, abstract painting, stewardship, & learning about gardening through the MD Native Plant Society.

Plain or dressed up, crown of thorn cuttings make attractive decorations & great gifts.

Plain or dressed up, crown of thorn cuttings make attractive decorations & great gifts.

How to Propagate Crown of Thorns

Euphorbia milii, also known as crown of thorns, Christ thorn, and the Christ plant, is an ideal decoration at Christmas and Easter.

Arrange small pots of its cuttings on tabletops, across mantels, or at place settings.

You can even give the cuttings as gifts. If you propagate it carefully, you're sure to have plenty of E. milii to share.

Prior to E. milii, the botanical name for crown of thorns was E. splendens.

Prior to E. milii, the botanical name for crown of thorns was E. splendens.

Taking Crown of Thorn Cuttings

To raise crown of thorn plants from cuttings, lop off short pieces of new growth with a sharp knife, razor blade, or bypass pruner. The cut pieces should be short, anywhere from three to six inches long, with only the very end leaves left in place.

Take cuttings when the newest growth is available, preferably in spring or summer. Be sure to take more cuttings than needed, just in case some do not root.

Dealing with Sap

Crown of thorns is poisonous, so be sure to keep it away from pets and children. When cut, it exudes a milky sap, a sort of latex, that can cause skin irritation—even blindness.

To avoid getting the plant sap on your skin, wear gloves when taking cuttings. Some people have a strong reaction to the sap, breaking out in dermatitis similar to that produced by poison ivy (Ombrello). If the sap does come into contact with your skin, wash it off with warm, soapy water (Toogood 246).

To harden the sap and prevent it from running, place cuttings in water and spray down the plant from which they were taken with water as well. Before placing the cuttings in a growing medium, allow them to dry (Ombrello).

Choosing a Growing Medium

Once the crown of thorn cuttings are dry, set them in a slightly moist rooting medium.

Peat Mixes

A good growing medium for starting shrubs and climbers in general consists of equal parts peat moss and either sand or perlite (Ombrello; Toogood 95). You could also use equal parts peat moss and bark.

Free-Draining Mixes

For a potting mix with exceptional drainage, combine equal parts bark, peat, and perlite. Or, start crown of thorn cuttings in florist's foam (Rockwool) or all sand (Toogood 95; Stewart).

Moss Roll

If you're short on space, you could start E. milii in sphagnum peat moss rolls. To make a peat roll, cut a strip about two feet long and six inches wide from a black plastic garbage bag. Cover the strip in moist peat moss. Then place the cuttings on the peat about three inches apart. The leafy top of each cutting should stick out free of the peat and the plastic liner.

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Once the cuttings are in place, carefully roll up the strip and secure it with rubber bands. Set the moss roll in direct sunlight. Water it from the top to keep the cuttings moist. Covering the peat roll with a cloche of some sort will also help retain moisture (Toogood 155).

Whatever medium you choose, be sure to keep it moist but not wet. Otherwise, the cuttings could rot rather than root.

Transplanting the Cuttings

In three to six weeks, when the crown of thorn cuttings have begun to sport new growth, transplant them.

If the cuttings are small, transplant them into a soil-less potting mix. Otherwise, regular potting soil is fine (Bryant 99–100).

Happy crown of thorns plants bloom almost year round.

Happy crown of thorns plants bloom almost year round.

Tips for Taking Cuttings

Ways to increase your chances of successfully propagating plants from cuttings:

  • Use a sharp, clean cutting tool. (Blades may be cleaned with a solution of nine parts water & one part bleach.)
  • Take cuttings from new growth.
  • Take cuttings from healthy, disease-free plants.
  • Take cuttings in the morning.
  • On all but hardwoods, cut on the diagonal.
  • Take extra cuttings. If more root than you need, you can always give the new plants away (Smith 74).
  • To encourage rooting, dip the cut end in root-forming hormone powder.

How Christ Thorn Got Its Name

According to legend, Euphorbia milii's thorny stems made up the crown worn by Christ at his crucifixion, and some evidence suggests that E. milii may indeed have been used. Its stems are quite pliant and can be easily fashioned into a circle, in spite of their sharp thorns. Also, although native to Madagascar, the plant had probably been brought into the Middle East by traders prior to the time of Christ (Ombrello).


Bryant, Geoff. Plant Propagation A to Z: Growing Plants for Free. Buffalo: Firefly, 2003.

Ombrello, T. "Crown of Thorns." UCC Biology Department. Plant of the Week. 2 Nov. 2012. Web.

Smith, Miranda. The Plant Propagator's Bible. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2007. Print.

Stewart, Martha. "Pruning and Propagating Crown of Thorns Plants." Martha Stewart. Web.2 November 2012.

Toogood, Alan, ed. Plant Propagation. New York: DK Publishing, 1999. Print.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Once you cut the crown of thorns, how long does it take for the cut part to produce new flowers?

Answer: Mine produced very tiny blooms not long after it rooted; however, I would imagine the bloom time would vary depending on the temperature, light and water you provide. Mine was in the filtered Winter sun at temperatures under 70 degrees.

Question: Can I propagate a crown of thorns from a leaf? I'm trying but only have roots so far.

Answer: If you have roots, you have been successful. Plant it!

© 2012 Jill Spencer


Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 15, 2018:

It may take some time for your plant to branch. Mine was a stick for a little over a year but eventually formed branches. To expedite branching, you could crop the top off. I would only do this, however, if your plant is well established.

Terry on April 14, 2018:

How do I get my crown to produce branches? My crowns are long sticks with pretty leaves and flowers but don’t be produce shoots/branches.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 22, 2016:

Good luck, Cliff! Crown of thorn does make a nice gift at Christmas time. Thanks for stopping by. Btw, I'm sorry I have been so long in responding. Just got the notice re the comment today. All the best, Jill

Cajun Cliff on September 13, 2016:

My local "Houston Garden Center" had CoT on sale -- 70% off. I bought three!

I have rooting powder, gloves, cactus potting mix, a sharp knife, pots ... just waiting for sunrise.

I've cloned before (tomato, peppers, hawaiian woodrose, plumeria, orange, lemon, cucumber, honeysuckle, jasmine). This will be my first succulent and I'm looking forward to it.

I'm hoping to make several gifts. Wish me luck!

Outstanding page and info, btw.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on December 31, 2015:

Jill, I never heard of this exquisite plant. It's interesting and amusing to know how it grows and how to use it for cuttings. Thanks for sharing.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 10, 2015:

Hi Joan. Ct. I'm not sure how to answer that w/out more information. Is the plant only one stalk? How long is the stalk you intend to take a cutting from?

Joan. Ct. on July 01, 2015:

I 'd like to know if I cut 6" down from top of plant, if it will continue to grow?

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 22, 2014:

Good luck to you, Connie! Be sure to take cuttings from new growth and take more than you need, as not all of them may not root. All the best, Jill

Connie on July 22, 2014:

Had my crown of thorns years. A friend wants a clipping. Going to try it. Hope it works. Would luv to start a few new crown of thorns.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on February 25, 2013:

Thanks, D. Nice to meet another Crown of Thorns grower! I've added a link to your hub in the first paragraph. Thanks for commenting! --Jill

Eco-Lhee from Alberta, Canada on February 25, 2013:

Nice Hub! Voted up!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 17, 2012:

Hi Suzzycue. We're in Maryland, so we grow our Crown of Thorns indoors. It's about 2.5 feet, but maybe it'll get to 5. That would be great!

Hey mrsponge1. I've never used cloning gel & don't know if it works like rooting powder. For Crown of Thorns, I don't use anything & they grow just fine.

Hi Thelma. I guess with those spiky thorns the plant is proclaiming, "Beware!" but still it is good to know about the sap, esp. if you have sensitive skin. Crown of Thorns is related to poinsettia, which exudes poisonous sap, too. Nice to hear from you! --Jill

Thanks, Pavlo. I was really happy to get another HOTD. I think I just hit on a timely topic this time. Later, Jill (:

Pavlo Badovskyi from Kyiv, Ukraine on November 17, 2012:

Congratulations! Hub of the Day reward shows how good you are in both - writing hubs and doing gardening!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on November 16, 2012:

Congrats on the HOTD! I think I have this plant in my garden. I did not know that the sap is poisonous. Thanks for sharing this useful and informative hub.

Richie Rosen from Florida on November 16, 2012:

Would a cloning gel help, on not?

Susan Britton from Ontario, Canada on November 16, 2012:

Congratulations on winning hub of the day Dirt Farmer. This hub was easy to follow with good photos that helped explain the process. These crown of thorns also grow quite tall. I had one growing in my front yard in Florida that was five feet tall. How tall is the ones you are growing?

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 16, 2012:

Hi ComfortB, thanks for taking the time to comment. Crown of Thorns is sort of an old-fashioned plant, isn't it? Later! (: Jill

Hey, Night Magic. Hope you do enjoy Crown of Thorns. It's a nice, low-maintenance choice that has pretty little blooms. You should be able to find one at a local greenhouse. They tend to be available this time of year. Take care, Jill

Night Magic from Canada on November 16, 2012:

Congrats on Lot of the Day. I've never heard of the plant before. I have plants all over my apartment so I guess I will have to add one more. Thanks for all the growing tips.

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on November 16, 2012:

Wow, I almost forgot that such plant (crown of thorn) exist. And you just showed how easy it is to transplant them. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on winning the HOTD award!

lemonkerdz from LIMA, PERU on November 16, 2012:

Very informative and fantastic fotos. i can see why you won hub of the day. i don´t think i will find this plant in cusco but it makes for very interesting reading anyway. congrats on the hub

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 16, 2012:

Hi Kelley! Thanks for your comments. Appreciate them! I'm learning a lot writing and reading hubs, too. Later, HubBud. (; Jill

kelleyward on November 16, 2012:

Great hub! Love the pictures. I have learned so much for you about gardening and planting. Thanks for sharing. Congrats on HOTD! Kelley

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 16, 2012:

Hi geetbhim! Nice to hear from you, and thank you for your comments and for your hub topic suggestion. Will have to do some research about terrace gardening! Take care, Jill

sangeeta verma from Ludhiana India on November 16, 2012:

Congrats for the hub of the day! This beautiful cactus is easy to grow and to take care of. I have this plant on my terrace garden and need less care compare to other plants. thanks for sharing such a beautiful hub, looking more hub about garden plants, can u write hub on terrace garden? It will be more pleasure to gain knowledge from you.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 16, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by, Glimmer Twin Fan. I'm glad your bougainvillea is doing well. Keep your fingers crossed! --Jill

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 16, 2012:

Hi Suzie HQ--So true! Propagating plants really can be "hit or miss." I started 5 Crown of Thorns plants and lost one. It happens! But I'm going to have 4 new plants. Yeah! As you say, I can give them away. (: Glad you stopped by & commented. Have a good one! --Jill

Claudia Mitchell on November 16, 2012:

Another beautiful hub Jill! Congrats on your HOTD! By the way, your tips for overwintering my bougainvillea are working. It's growing like a weed with all new leaves and even a few flowers. Hopefully I can make it last for the next 6 months until it's warm enough to put outside!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 16, 2012:

@ pstraubie48 -- Hi Patricia! I feel really fortunate to have a HOTD. Thanks for your kind words. Take care, Jill

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on November 16, 2012:

Hi Dirt Farmer,

Congrats on an informative excellent HOTD! I did not know this plant before so it makes great reading. Your layout and instructions for growing from a cutting. What a unique and pretty plant when in bloom! Loved your own step by step photos as growing from cuttings can be hit or miss I find but if you have proper instruction like here, happy days!!

Would love to get to grow this!VU, more and shared, pinned! Great idea for Christmas.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on November 16, 2012:

World Religion -- Thank you! I am working on improving my photography & appreciate the encouragement. (: --Jill

Hi RTalloni! Thanks. I'm honored to have a HOTD. Hoping lots of people adopt a Christ plant this holiday season. Take care, Jill

@ Cardisa--You should have no problem starting Crown of Thorns! I began five and lost only one. I used the same potting mix I do for cacti, but if I'd had enough on hand, I would have used all sand. Maybe you'll have enough new plants to give away to friends. Have fun! --Jill

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 16, 2012:

Congratulations on hub of the day, DF...awesome...:) sending angels your way ps :)

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on November 16, 2012:

I have one plant of this and cherish it so much. I had no idea I could get other plants from it. I had one plant before but when I moved back to the country had to leave it in the city. I got one earlier this year and it has thrived so well. I must reread this several times and take notes to make sure I do it right before attempting it. Thank you so much for this.