This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

December 5, 2015

Euphorbia Fire Sticks

Euphorbias are a type of succulent that does well here in the Phoenix, Arizona area. I have a lot of different varieties here, but my favorite one by far is one I call "Fire Sticks". If you live in the desert, they are a great way to have an easy-to-care-for plant with a lot of visual appeal. But there are a few things that you need to know:

• Not all Euphorbia varieties will turn red like this. The smartest thing to do is to get one at your local nursery in the winter and look at it with your own eyes. Most of them stay green year-round, but this variety gets its color from a little cold stress.

• You can plant them from cuttings. All of my euphorbias, including these Fire Sticks in my front yard, are grown from cuttings. They almost as easy to grow as cactus that way, you just stick them in the ground, and they will grow roots. My experience has been to plant them at about 1-2 feet high, no more, no less. I trim the lower branches off, and stick about four inches of trunk into the ground.

• Don't expect them to be red all of the time. What you are seeing is cold stress, so in the summer they will go back to being green. A lot of succulents turn reddish under cold stress, and it usually looks terrible. On this variety of euphorbia, it's beautiful. Of course, they're not hold-hardly below 20 degrees F, so you gotta be realistic. Here in the Sonoran Desert, the temperatures are absolutely perfect for them to be at their best during the holidays.

I got a bunch of them from a friend who had done some trimming, and was just going to dispose of them. The trimmed plants were about four feet long, so I trimmed the tips off, let the cut heal over for a few hours, and stuck them in the ground. I watered them, mostly to help to compact the soil.

By the way, when you cut them, they ooze out a white sticky sap, which is actually quite painful on your skin, so wear gloves. If you get the sap on your hands, go wash it off right away. It will take a few weeks for the plant to start to root, and you'll see new growth at that time. They tend to get "rangy" and "leggy" so go ahead and trim the tips, but only after the plant establishes. The reddish color comes from the new growth, so this is a plant that you should trim every once in a while. And be sure to give them regular water.

I like the color they give to my desert garden, and they really seem to "sparkle" at night with the Malibu lights!

Euphorbia Fire Sticks, Glendale, Arizona.

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