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How to Grow Crown of Thorns Cuttings

Updated on November 4, 2013
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. | Source
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. | Source

Propagating the Christ Plant

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 crown of thorn cuttings on tabletops, across mantels or at place settings.

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

Small, clean pots about 3 inches across are a good size for starting cuttings from crown of thorns plants.
Small, clean pots about 3 inches across are a good size for starting cuttings from crown of thorns plants. | Source
Wear gloves to avoid the sharp thorns of the Christ plant & to keep its poisonous sap from coming into contact with your skin.
Wear gloves to avoid the sharp thorns of the Christ plant & to keep its poisonous sap from coming into contact with your skin. | Source
Place crown of thorns cuttings in water to stop the flow of sap.
Place crown of thorns cuttings in water to stop the flow of sap. | Source
Remove the lower thorns & leaves from cuttings with your gloved fingers before planting them.
Remove the lower thorns & leaves from cuttings with your gloved fingers before planting them. | Source
Make a hole with your finger or a pencil, place the cutting & then firm it into place by pressing the soil around the base. Set the pot in water to moisten the soil.
Make a hole with your finger or a pencil, place the cutting & then firm it into place by pressing the soil around the base. Set the pot in water to moisten the soil. | Source
When new growth begins to emerge, the cutting is ready to transplant.
When new growth begins to emerge, the cutting is ready to transplant. | Source

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 most new 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 crown of thorns' sap on your skin, wear gloves when taking cuttings. Some people have a strong reaction to the sap, breaking out in a 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 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 spagnum 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.

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.

Have you ever started a plant from a cutting?

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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 then 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. | Source
Red Crown of Thorns Plant - Euphorbia splendens
Red Crown of Thorns Plant - Euphorbia splendens

E. milii, aka e. splendens, may have red, pink or white blossoms, depending upon the cultivar.

 

Tips for Taking Cuttings

Increase your chances of successfully propagating plants from cuttings:


  • Use a sharp, clean cutting tool. (Blades may be cleaned with a solution of 9 parts water & 1 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.


Source

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).

RESOURCES

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.



State Fair Zinnia
State Fair Zinnia | Source

About the Author

The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.

She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.

Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.

© 2012 Jill Spencer

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 8 months ago from United States

      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

    • profile image

      Cajun Cliff 8 months ago

      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 profile image

      Kristen Howe 17 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      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.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      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?

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      Joan. Ct. 23 months ago

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

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 2 years ago from United States

      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

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      Connie 2 years ago

      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.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      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 profile image

      Eco-Lhee 4 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Nice Hub! Voted up!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      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 Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

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

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

      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.

    • mrsponge1 profile image

      Richie Rosen 4 years ago from Florida

      Would a cloning gel help, on not?

    • suzzycue profile image

      Susan Britton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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?

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      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 profile image

      Night Magic 4 years ago from Canada

      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.

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      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 profile image

      lemonkerdz 4 years ago from TRUJILLO, PERU

      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

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

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

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      kelleyward 4 years ago

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

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      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

    • geetbhim profile image

      sangeeta verma 4 years ago from Ludhiana India

      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.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

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

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      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

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      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!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

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

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      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.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      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

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

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

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      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.

      Congrats on making the HOTD, you deserve it.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Congrats on your Hub of the Day award and thanks for sharing info on the Crown of Thorns. I did not know they could bloom year round!

    • World Religion profile image

      World Religion 4 years ago from the Cosmos

      Great photography. Beautiful!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hi Kelley!I'm sure you could keep Crown of Thorns alive. Just treat it like a cactus, giving it plenty of sun and watering it when it occurs to you. You know, neglect it! Thanks for commenting, Jill

      Kris--you just might stick yourself! I use leather gloves when dealing with Crown of Thorns. The new thorns, which you're more likely to hit because of their outward location, have a little give to them, though, and aren't as painfully hard and prickly as the older thorns--or a cactus.

      Take it easy! Jill

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks for sharing this useful information. It looks like a pretty plant. I have a feeling I would be sticking myself left and and right if I had one!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 4 years ago

      This is a beautiful hub. I love your pictures. Wow I don't think I could keep this alive but I might give it a try. Voted up and shared! Kelley

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hi GoodLady. The use of the plant for the crown of Christ is just a story--and the origin of the plant's common name. Maybe it was milk thistle. (What a pretty weed!) As for crown of thorn sap, you may not react it. Not everybody does. Unfortunately, it breaks me out. ): Thanks for commenting! --Take care, Jill

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Had to read your lovely hub because this plant is one of my favorites. It reminds me of my mother who had it growing round her house in Southern California as does my best friend. I had not idea the sap was poisonous.

      I thought that Cardo Mariano (milk thistle) made Jesus' crown of thorns, but this plant surely would be just as prickly.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hi Sam! I like crown of thorns plants, too, although they don't sound particularly likable, with their poisonous sap and big thorns. They have a really cool look to them. Nice to hear from you. (: Take care, Jill

    • samsons1 profile image

      Sam 4 years ago from Tennessee

      Well written and descriptive. I love this plant and have had one (or more) for the last twenty years or so. I also give the cuttings away and people like them because they are so different. Voted up, useful, interesting and shared...

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hi Eddy! Thanks for your kind comments. I probably published too soon, as all my photos weren't in, but ... I was anxious to finish the first hub for the month. Glad you stopped by. --Jill

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Interesting and useful; thanks for sharing.

      Eddy.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hey Natasha! Crown of thorns makes a good, low-maintenance houseplant. Thanks for stopping by! --Jill

      Hi Radcliff. I think you'd enjoy growing this, just so long as nobody in your home is a plant nibbler. Nice to hear from you! --Jill

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      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      What a beautiful plant! I will be on the lookout for this one. Interesting hub. Thank you!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hey Mary! Crown of thorns is super easy to start, too. You should do some cuttings & decorate with them! It'll be fun. Good to hear from you.(: --Jill

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      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I've actually never heard of this plant! I clicked on the hub just to learn more about it. Thanks for the info. =)

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      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      The Crown of Thorns is one of my favorite plants. It is so easy to grow. I never did cuttings from the plant, though. This Hub is very informative.

      I vote it UP, etc.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hi Patricia. Love your story! Very funny. Your sister must have been too tired after all that running around to exact her revenge. (: As for growing from cuttings, the hardest part for me is keeping the growing medium moist but not wet. That's why I like the highly porous mix. I'm less likely to rot the cuttings. Thanks for reading! Take care, Jill

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      This is a helpful explanation. I have a hard time with making cuttings for some plants. At present I do not have a crown of thorns but am adding to my collection of plants and may consider it. I am marking it to come back to later.

      I have to admit that I did a terrible thing when I was about seven years old. We had a crown of thorns at our home. I plucked off a thorn and when my sister bent over I stuck her behind with it. She chased me up the quarter mile road that lead from our house, down the highway, and down the neighbor's quarter mile road back to our house promising dire consequences but she did not do any of them.

      O my... thanks for the info..Dirt Farmer. ps

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