Sherry has maintained homes and landscaped yards for 48 years in Southern California. She has collected water-wise succulents for 12 years.
Growing a Fire Stick Plant: Tips and Warnings
This instructional article was prompted by actual events. Nothing brings home a fact more than true-life stories.
Winter is my favorite time to work in the succulent garden. It is nothing fancy, because the plants are placed haphazardly as acquired. The "sticks of fire" succulent was a one-gallon specimen when I planted it about six years ago. Now, it needs serious tending almost twice a year. In this article, I will share the tips and tricks I've learned from personal experience that will help you grow and maintain your fire sticks succulents.
Needs and Growing Habits of Euphorbia tiruccailli
- Euphorbia tirucalli "Sticks on Fire" is best propagated from stem cuttings. Please keep in mind "sticks on fire" is toxic. Take precautions when handling this succulent.
- Plant fire sticks in a location that allows for full sun year round.
- Water very sparingly. It is very drought tolerant. Less water helps control growth.
- 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.
- I heard rumors about a plant being used for fencing in Mexico. Fire sticks grow forever and can eventually be tree-sized.
- If the plant is simply topped, growth is encouraged to become thick up and down the whole trunk. If the plant is too tall, rip it out and start a new cutting.
- The color of the plant may be the reason for its name, but if you get its white sap on your skin, you will find another reason to call it "fire sticks." It hurts!
- Since this succulent can develop a woody trunk, it might be advisable to replant the whole bush with a new cutting every three years. If you do, it will remain small and manageable.
Growing Tips and Tricks
- The thick older branches develop tough cords inside. A sharp clipper can be used.
- 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.
- The plant grows new red branches in the winter and adds color and interest to all succulent gardens.
- This succulent adds small branches of red color to pot arrangements. It brings height, color, and textural interest.
- Let it dry out for a couple of days between each watering.
- Since it is a vigorously growing plant, it will need more replanting than other succulents.
The easiest way to enjoy this colorful plant is in a planter or pot with other succulents. Planters and decorative pots that require replanting each season are good methods for keeping this succulent at a manageable size.
Warning: Avoid the Sap
Do not get the sap near your face and eyes. Wear long sleeves to avoid getting sap on your arms. Keep the sap safe inside the plant. My dog has not gotten ill from exploring under or near it, but he's smart enough to have never licked or bitten the branches. (He has never become ill because of landscaping in the yard.)
How Much Sunlight Does It Need?
This plant requires that you plant it in an area of your garden that gets 4–6 hours of bright sunlight a day. Sunlight should be available year round. These plants are native to sunny places and should not be grow in places with long, harsh winters.
How Much Water Does It Need?
"Sticks on fire" has typical watering needs for a succulent. It’s best to use the “soak and dry” method—allow the soil to dry out completely between watering.
Things to Consider Before You 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 hearing eye irritation stories more and more, so watch the toddlers and curious youngsters when walking the neighborhood. Don't plant this succulent near public walkways, because the stems are tender and break very easily.
Gloves Are Essential When Trimming This Succulent
The gallery below shows the gloves that 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 them in the laundry if too dirty or sappy. They fit snug around the fingers and the arm shield guards against pricks and sap. They are made by a baseball outfitter.
What to Be Aware of When Trimming Succulent Fire Sticks
New branches are tender and can easily be removed by breaking them off by hand. Be cautious, because the sap running from the branches can irritate eyes and skin. Even little flying droplets can become a painful episode.
Read More From Dengarden
A cool day in the garden seemed like a good time to thin branches. I knew the white sappy stuff is toxic but had worked on the plant before without any problems. I did not have long sleeves or gloves on. The 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!
Note: Lisa from Los Angeles says in the comment section below that Benadryl seemed to stop the severe eye irritation from the sap quickly. I had a second eye burning incident and I swore the plant was coming out. Full goggle eye protection is going to be used for the next trimming.