Home ImprovementRemodelingCleaningGardeningLandscapingInterior DesignHome AppliancesPest ControlDecks & PatiosSwimming Pools & Hot TubsGaragesBasements

Fire Sticks Succulent Care and Cautions

Updated on March 20, 2017
paperfacets profile image

Sherry has maintained homes and landscaped yards for 45 years in Southern California. She has collected water-wise succulents for 10 years.

Firesticks Succulent
Firesticks Succulent

Care of the Fire Sticks Succulent

This instructional page about caring for the fire sticks or Euphorbia tiruccalli was prompted by actual events. Nothing brings home a fact more than true life stories.

It is winter and my favorite time to work in the succulent garden l have amassed on the slope of our property. It is nothing fancy because the plants are placed haphazardly as acquired.

The 'Sticks of Fire' was a one gallon specimen when planted about 6 years ago and now it needs serious tending almost twice a year.

Needs and Growing Habits of Euphorbia tiruccailli

  1. The location of our plant allows for full sun any season of the year (one of its requirements).
  2. Water once a week. It is very drought tolerant. Less water helps control growth.
  3. I have not given the plant any nutrients and have not needed to fight off unwanted bugs. It is easy to take care of in Southern California.
  4. Heard rumors about a plant being used for fencing in Mexico? Some specimens grow forever and can eventually be tree-sized.
  5. If the plant is simply topped, growth is encouraged to make it incredibly thick up and down the whole trunk. Too much green can develop underneath the vigorous red new growth on top. I prefer a more airy, light-looking plant.
  6. The color of the plant may be the reason for its name, but if you get its white sap in your skin, you will find another reason to call it "fire sticks." It hurts!
  7. Since this succulent can develop a woody trunk, it might be advisable to replant the whole plant with a new cutting every three years. If you do, it will remain small and manageable.

Add Color to the Succulent Garden With Fire Sticks
Add Color to the Succulent Garden With Fire Sticks

Growing Tips and Tricks

  1. Thick older branches develop tough cords inside. A sharp clipper can be used.
  2. Every branch you remove can be used for a new plant. Let the end dry for a day and simply put into soil and watch for new growth.
  3. The plant grows new red branches in the winter and adds color and interest to all succulent gardens. Enjoy the Sticks of Fire in pots too. Let it dry out for a couple of days between each watering.
  4. Add small branches of red color to pot arrangements. It brings height, color, and textural interest.
  5. Since it is a vigorous growing plant, it may need more replanting than other succulents.

My full grown plant. The trunk is about 2-3 inches thick and well established in six years.
My full grown plant. The trunk is about 2-3 inches thick and well established in six years.
Rash from Euphorbia  tiruccalli, Sticks of Fire succulent. It cleared after four days.
Rash from Euphorbia tiruccalli, Sticks of Fire succulent. It cleared after four days.

What to Beware of When Trimming Succulent Fire Sticks

New branches are tender and can easily be removed by breaking them off by hand. Soon after, you will notice the white sap. Be cautious because the sap can irritate both eyes and skin.

One cool day of garden work started down slope and tending migrated without much effort to the branch-bound fire stick. I know the white sappy stuff is toxic but have worked on the plant before without any problems. I did not have long sleeves or gloves on.

I spent an hour breaking off dozens of branches and piling them up for loading into a barrel later. Washed my hands for lunch and went at it again to achieve a balanced look.

Next day I had a rash on my arm and the side of my face. It was itchy.

So a word of caution to all Euphorbia growers: The sap can cause rash and eye irritation!

Evidence of the sap. I drips freely. Beware.
Evidence of the sap. I drips freely. Beware.

Your Euphorbia Experience

Have you tended euphorbias?

See results
My favorite garden gloves. They also come in wrist length.
My favorite garden gloves. They also come in wrist length.

Gloves are Essential When Trimming This Succulent

These are the gloves I have in the garden shed. I always wear them for roses and sago palm trimming, but failed to think of them when I attacked the sappy Euphorbia plant.

The gloves are washable too. Put in the laundry if too dirty or sappy. They fit snug around the fingers and the arm shield guards against pricks and sap.

Made by the baseball outfitter.

Things to Consider Before Your Plant

The fire sticks succulent gets too big and is too toxic to have where kids or unknowing adults may break off a stem and get exposed to the sap. I am seeing it more and more, so watch the toddlers when walking the neighborhood.

In California, this plant would not be good for the city owned curb area. I do know you have to have walk-thrus every few feet for access to the sidewalk. This plant might cause problems because the stems are tender and break very easily. All would be okay if our planting is kept small.

Dig up the plant every couple of years and replant with the old plant's biggest branch. Maintenance done.

Fire sticks succulent close-up.
Fire sticks succulent close-up.

Any stories or questions to add in the comment section?

Submit a Comment

  • paperfacets profile image

    Sherry Venegas 9 months ago from La Verne, CA

    Nora, This is a question that has me wondering too. I remember as a kid in the 60's plants like the Fire Sticks that were called the Pencil plant. They were all green. I was not much impressed with them. If you started with a red plant and it is in full sun, let the soil dry for a few

    weeks, at a time, the red may come back. Over watering may be the problem. Or try to get a red branch from a neighbor or friend and start over. The color is what makes this plant eyecatching.

  • profile image

    Nora 9 months ago

    How do you keep the orange color in the plant. Mine has become all green. I bought it for its orange color

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    An unusual plant indeed! A striking color and I appreciate the helpful tips. Voted up, interesting useful.

  • YogaKat profile image

    YogaKat 2 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

    Attractive plant for vibrant color and texture . . . thanks for all the gardening tips.

Click to Rate This Article