Among the many wonderful products we get from green plants, Pencil Cactus stands highly rated as a hydrocarbon plant that produces latex for many industrial uses. It has been described by several other titles such as Naked Lady, Pencil Tree, Fire Stick, Indian Tree Spurge, and Milk Bush, a testament to its multifunctional properties.
Euphorbia tirucalli is a wild succulent shrub with pencil-like tender egg-shaped leaves that appear evenly green and boughs that can extend more than 25 feet. The slender plump barrel-shaped branches bear delicate luscious shoots which appear in standard coils, usually terminating with yellow blooms during summer.
Propagating Pencil Cactus Plants in the Home
They’re widely propagated as indoor decorative garden plants because of their unique leaf patterns and rare eye-catching blooms. They have a high tolerance for drought and can continue to thrive even in dimly illuminated places.
Stem cuttings commonly propagate Pencil Cactus. They require little care and low maintenance for their propagation, making them ideal for newbie propagators to practice with.
I recommend you get your safety kits hands-on before touching them because once their sap or latex comes in contact with your eyes or skin, that could abruptly end all the fun intended for the experiment.
Propagating Pencil Cactus from Stem Cuttings
Cuttings can be prepared as their growing season approaches, so target between late April and early August for propagation. Pencil Cactus stem cuttings can remain viable for up to three months when well preserved.
Look at your older Pencil Cactus plants and determine the healthiest-looking stems for your cuttings. It’s best to select younger stems with fully grown leaves for a better outcome.
Next, take a pair of washed scissors or garden knife and cut off the stems, targeting those closest to the base of the older plants, ensuring each stem cutting is at least 6 inches long.
You can immerse the cuttings in a bowl of clean water to stop the latex flow before placing them on a dry flat surface at room temperature for up to 6 days until you notice the cut edges have properly healed, forming a callus over the wounds.
Now that your cuttings are ready to be rooted, you can root the cuttings directly in a potting medium or a water jar before transplanting into a pot.
Rooting the Stem Cuttings in Water
There’s not much fuss in rooting your Pencil Cactus Cuttings in Water; all it entails is getting a glass jar or transparent glass vase and pouring clean natural untreated water into it. We insert the cuttings with the water level between 4-6 inches in the vase.
The set-up can now be placed beside a window frame or cabinet, with up to 6 hours of bright indirect sunshine daily. Your cuttings will root in 2-3 weeks, but you should always remember to change the water once it gets murky inside.
Rooting Your Stem Cuttings in a Potting Mix
This is the most convenient method of propagating Pencil Cactus plants because there’s no need for transplanting them afterward.
With your cuttings ready and the potting soil mix also ready, fill your rooting pot with some potting soil mix and plant the callused cuttings in already dug holes, not allowing them to go more than 1 inch deep into the soil surface.
Next, apply some rigidity to the planted cuttings by pouring in more soil mix till there are no empty spaces left in the pot. Water immediately by misting or spraying, placing the pot on a bare surface for a few minutes to drain the excess water.
The pot can now be positioned behind a window with 5-6 hours of indirect bright sunshine daily. You can expect the rooted cuttings to grow new foliage and roots after 3-4 weeks of planting.
Preferred Growing Conditions for Pencil Cactus
Although they can thrive in medium or low-light environments, they grow best under bright sunshine. I do mind how much sunshine I allow the pots daily because over-sunning them can lead to the hardening of their stems, ruining their youthful look.
They must be placed for longer hours under the brilliant radiance of summer sunshine if you want them to become reddish and bloom. Letting them receive up to 6 hours of unhindered sunshine daily will put them in the right situation to begin blooming their beautiful flowers.
They can persist in extremely cold environments as well. Although they readily thrive within a temperature range of 60°F to 75°F (15.5°C to 24°C), they begin to show signs of sluggish growth and possible hibernation when the temperature drops below 50°F (10°C).
With the right amounts of sunshine and water, they can keep growing at a rate of up to 20 inches every year until they attain a height of about 6-10 feet indoors and almost 40 feet in outdoor environments.
Watering Your Pencil Cactus Pots
They are well suited to warm and dry climates, so propagation should be to maintain a mildly humid environment for them. Ensure you avoid keeping them in a damp or soggy potting environment as much as possible.
During summer, a watering cycle will suffice once every 2-3 weeks. They require even much less watering in Winter; as low as once a month will do. It would help if you watch out for the top layer of their potting soil and only water the pot once it becomes dry.
Best Potting Medium to Propagate Pencil Cactus
Avoid going for an expensive nutrient-enriched soil mix; they’re very okay with a fast-draining, well-aerated, lightweight homemade potting mix. Any commercially available succulent soil mix or cactus potting mix will be sufficient.
You can improve the draining power of your potting mix by making holes all around the pot. Non-coated, highly absorbent clay pots are the right choice for propagating Pencil Cactus.
Pruning your Pencil Cactus
In most cases I’ve personally observed, Pencil Cactus begins to look leggy either when it’s not receiving enough direct sunshine or when it has outgrown its present potting and needs to be repotted in a bigger pot.
Pruning is a trick every gardener must adopt to keep the potted plants within the desired size range. It is also a great way to have new cuttings for propagation, which invariably creates new pots with freshly scenting garden plants either for your keeps, or to be gifted to somebody.
Whenever you’re pruning your mature Pencil Cactus pots, ensure you only prune away 1/3 of the total plant mass at a go to avoid causing too much distress to the plant. The best seasons for pruning are around spring and summer, when they’re actively growing new members.
Toxicity of Pencil Cactus
Their leaves contain highly poisonous sap, which can cause temporary blindness when it gets into the eyes. Some common symptoms after direct contact of their latex on any part of the skin include intense and hurting redness of the skin and rashes, burning sensations, and swollen and sore eyes (when it gets into the eyes).
This does not in any way downplay their many benefits; Pencil Cactus sap has a lot of medicinal applications in the treatment and cure of asthma, ear problems, cancer, warts, tumors, tooth pains, rheumatism, etc. Some varieties contain rubefacient compounds that can improve blood flow in the body.
Pencil Cactus can be used for other purposes apart from medical and ornamental utilizations; their sap is a great source of energy that can be used as fuel, and there are speculations that they could be used to produce rubber and fuel in commercial quantities soon.
Some cultures do refer to them as an emblem of good luck. Gifting someone of Native American history a pot of Pencil Cactus would be considered a symbol of unending and long-lasting love, whereas if you had a friend of the Eastern Culture, it could be interpreted as speaking of seduction and sexual desire or just vigor, energy and strength.