Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata)

Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata)) isn’t really a cactus.  It’s two succulents fusing together and growing as one luxurious-looking type of succulent – and called a Cactus!

It has an appearance of a thick vertical stem with a few branches. Its greenish outer edges are complemented with white lines and black thorn-like protrusions. This plant is great to decorate a living room or an office, because of its stunning appearance!

Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata) Origin and Names

Not only will it improve your place when planted indoors, but Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata) is also capable of transforming the vibes in an outdoor flowerbed.

They can grow up to 16 feet tall when planted directly in the ground and 2 feet when planted in a plant pot container for indoor planting.

The flexibility of the Coral Cactus makes it a popular choice in both indoor and outdoor planting.

However, Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata) is not a cactus, and treating it like one will result in problems.

Two as One

It’s a fabulous plant that is a product of varieties of succulents formed into one.

Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata) is native to Africa, and they are one of the largest families of succulents with almost 2000 plants. They belong to the family of Euphorbiaceae and they are commonly referred to as “spurges”.

Since the coral cactus is a combination of two different types of Euphorbias, the plant became more complex to understand but you can still get to know it quite quickly.

Other common names for this plant are coral cactus, crested euphorbia, candelabra plant, crested candelabra plant, and crested elkhorn. Nevertheless, they all point out to the same plant, so you don’t have to get confused with those names.

Poisonous Sap

Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata) is known for its poisonous sap called latex, which was traditionally used as a purgative.

The white and thick latex of coral cactus

• Can cause skin conditions such as dermatitis and other irritations.

• If it gets in the eye, it can result in eye irritation and temporary blindness and

• It can also cause nausea if ingested.

The base of this plant comes from Euphorbia Nerifolia because of its straight stem and growing tendency.

The top part of the plant which serves as the crest came from Euphorbia Lactea that belongs to the “Cristata” variety.

Once grafted, they symbolize an amazing coral having crinkled edges on the leaves that come in purple, green, white, or red, mounted on the straight stem.

Although coral cactus rarely produces flowers, when they do, they don’t appear too attractive. This might be a deal-breaker for someone who loves flowers, so you must be careful with this one.

How To Grow Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata)

1. Soil Requirements

For the soil, the coral cactus prefers to live using a cactus potting mix or other soil with extraordinary well-draining abilities.

You can also add organic matter to the mixture for added nutrients. In terms of pH level, the coral cactus can tolerate slightly acidic to slightly alkaline.

2. Grafting

Carefully select the matured and healthy plant from both Euphorbia neriifoloa and Euphorbia lactea var for grafting.

It is better to choose younger plants for grafting than old ones because they are easier to process. Match both plants to see if they fit perfectly.

Gently cut a V shape in the neriifolia and remove the upper portion giving space and support for the crown.

The lactea vea needs to be cut in an arrowhead-like shape to snugly fit the cut from the neriifolia. Be sure to leave no gaps otherwise sap will leak causing fungal rots.

Lastly, seal the plants using grafting wax to cover the joining surfaces keeping them clean.

Use gloves when doing this to prevent the sap from getting into your skin.

Twine must be used to tie the grafted joint to help keep the plant together and wait for two to three weeks to fully fuse.

After three weeks, remove the grafting wax and observe the joint if there everything has healed already.

If it needs more healing time, apply a fresh grafting wax and retie them. Wait for another three weeks before checking if they completely healed.

3. Watering and Feeding

Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata) is quite tricky when it comes to watering. Typically, you don’t have to water succulents regularly and they can tolerate doubt.

Other succulents are highly drought tolerant so you can leave them for how many days without watering them.

Coral Cactus is different. They are not highly drought tolerant unlike other succulents and they don’t like overwatering as well otherwise they will develop root rot. Thus, the moisture of the soil must be perfect for the coral cactus.

Before watering, always have the diligence to check the soil moisture first. If the soil is dry two to four inches deep from the surface, that means the plant is thirsty.

Water the soil, not the plant, and you should see the water running out of the base before stopping.

If the coral cactus is underwatered, it will exhibit a droopy or wilted look that can damage the crest. It will then lead to fungal infections and rot if it stays for a long time.

So, you have to water them perfectly, not too much, not too low.

In terms of fertilizer, you can use a 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer that is diluted to ¼ from its original mixture making it 2.5-2.5-2.5.

Apply a fertilizer every two weeks during summer and spring to supplement their growing season.

Do not fertilize on winter and fall and do not use slow-release or granular fertilizers as it gets stuck in the roots burning the plant.

4. Light Requirements

As with other succulents, Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata) also loves an ample amount of sunlight but with moderation. They can be grown in full sun, but it all depends on the climate of your area.

In areas with extreme temperatures, for example, you should opt for partial shade during the hottest time of the day to prevent sunburn.

Take note, you must acclimate the succulents to the sunlight to prevent shocking and burning them.

Place the new plant in partial shade at first and gradually increase the sunlight they receive per day. Do this regularly until they have adjusted to the temperature in your area.

Moreover, when you grow coral cactus indoors, they need to have a place near a window with a hefty amount of sunlight passing through.

They need to be exposed to sunlight for 3-5 hours per day. Turn the plant occasionally to equal the light they receive and prevent lopsided growth.

5. Temperature

The ideal temperature for Coral Cactus (Euphorbia Lactea Cristata) is around 60-85 degrees. If you are living in zones 10-11, you can grow them outdoors without worrying about anything.

However, if you live in cooler regions, consider planting them in a container to make the transferring easier when temperatures suddenly drop.

Coral cactus cannot tolerate cold temperatures and they prefer living in the condition of 60 degrees and up.

It will damage their fragile tissues leading to their miserable death. If the temperature starts to drop below 50 degrees, immediately transfer them indoors for a warmer temperature.

If you plant them in a flower bed, you can use a greenhouse or frost cloth and cover them. That way, the cold temperature does not penetrate, and the coral cactus can survive the cold weather outside.

Final Thoughts

This then is the happy and successful marriage of two different types of plants from the same genus – yet referred to by a name as from another species! Incredible!

Whatever its name or its background, it’s a beautiful plant with quiet elegance and lovely colors.

If we got one – and we probably will – we’d keep it in the office as a houseplant. I’d probably talk to it, I think.

Jenny Marie
Tribal Writer

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Patricia Godwin

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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