Euphorbia lactea cristata, which is sometimes referred to as Coral Cactus, should not be confused with a true cactus. Instead, it is a type of Euphorbia plant belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae and related to the:
- Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia Milii)
- African Milk Tree – Details on Euphorbia trigona care
- Caput-Medusae (Euphorbia Caput-Medusae)
The plant has a peculiar crest-like look that is enormously alike to the ocean coral, which is why it is called the “common name.” Other common names include:
- Crested Candelabra Plant
- Crested Euphorbia
- Candelabra Plant
- Crested Elkhorn
The Euphorbia genus is composed of in excess of two thousand distinct kinds of succulent plants, the majority of which come from Africa.
The Coral Cactus is a product of the work of experimental horticulture professionals, as it is made from splicing together two species of Euphorbia, namely Euphorbia lactea and Euphorbia neriifolia.
The top of the Euphorbia lactea has been attached to the base and stem of the Euphorbia neriifolia. Sometimes, this type of permanent, evergreen houseplant is made by combining the crest of the Euphorbia lactea with the stem of the cactus.
Size and Growth
Crested Euphorbia is a small houseplant. It is not often seen towering above 2 feet tall. The captivating and peculiar leaves are what really bring this interesting plant to life.
The highest point has scalloped sides, which could be hues of green, red, purple, white, or yellow.
The Crested Candelabra plant almost never has blossoms, and when it does, they are tiny and hard to spot. The tiny blossoms may be pink or purple.
If you want your plant to produce blooms, it’s essential to let it become relatively established before doing so; it should be at least one year old. Flowers will bloom during the spring season when the temperature is warm.
Potting Soil and Transplanting
When you acquire a coral cactus, you are likely to see it potted in a ceramic pot, and it may have a cohesive bed of stones placed on it. Take out the plant from this display promptly.
Using a ceramic container will hinder air flow to the plant’s roots and the solid mulch of gravel will stop you from seeing the soil moisture level as much as required.
Develop a substrate conducive to the thriving of coral cacti made up of equal parts of granular sand and high-quality dirt. Instead, try using a soil specifically designed for cacti or succulents.
These plants are tolerant of all soil pH levels. Transfer the Crested Euphorbia into a terracotta pot with many openings for water drainage. To transplant, mix in some organic compost into the planting hole to give the plants a nutrient boost.
Most varieties of euphorbia plants prefer a potting mix made for cacti, or other soils that drain quickly and have a coarse texture. It is beneficial to mix in some organic material in the soil when planting, however, good old cactus soil is almost equally as useful.
The soil for coral cactus really doesn’t need to have a specific pH level; it’s okay if it’s just a bit acidic or a bit alkaline.
Sometimes, when buying a grafted plant from a store, gravel is used to mulch it, and the material is sometimes cemented together to aid in sustaining the base during shipment. This won’t cause any damage to the plant, but it makes it harder to check if it requires watering.
If you decide to use mulch in your garden, it’s recommended to take away any rocks that have been permanently fixed to the soil around the plant and substitute them with a light gravel that can be repositioned. Instead, you can opt out of having a mulch altogether, however, if it is an exterior plant, a gravel mulch can stifle weeds and keep the soil from drying out quickly.
Coral Cactus Care
Treating your coral cactus the same way you would any other cactus might not lead to its optimum health in your residence. What is the best way to take care of this odd combination of a plant? Approach it with an open mind, as if it were a mixture of Euphorbia varieties.
Light and Temperature
In regions that are not within zones 10-11, the coral cactus should be brought indoors when the weather gets colder and should be kept there throughout the season. However, these cacti can be kept outside year-round in zones 10-11. This plant does best when grown at temperatures ranging from 60-85 degrees.
In areas that are particularly hot, it’s best to provide some relief from the sun during the hottest hours of the day in order to prevent the plant from being scorched. Growing the plant in full sunlight is still possible, but you should take measures to protect it from the heat. A newly planted plant should be placed in an area with partial sunlight and gradually exposed to more and more light over time so it can adjust.
For indoor growth, select a window that gives out sufficient sunshine for around 3-5 hours per day, and rotate the plant to avoid it developing an unusual slanted growth.
Finally, coral cactus is not cold-hardy at all. It doesn’t tolerate temperatures lower than the mid-50s and prefers warmer climates in the mid-60s or higher. If the temperature outside starts to drop, bring your item inside to a warmer area.
Coral cactus, being a succulent plant, is very vulnerable to frost or freezing temperatures, which can cause damage to the plant’s fragile tissues and ultimately lead to its death.
Water and Humidity
When it comes to taking care of succulents and cacti, the best thing to do is to avoid watering them when you’re unsure.
Still, it is more of a challenge to care for coral cacti as it does not have the same resistance to drought as other cacti. This plant really dislikes being in damp areas. If there is too much moisture in your soil, your euphorbia may experience issues such as root rot.
Begin by checking the soil moisture. If the soil is not wet in the top two to four inches, the plant may need water. Water the earth, not the plant itself, until liquid streams out of the bottom of the container.
If your coral cactus appears limp and lifeless, it may need more water. This kind of situation may lead to destruction of the crest and the growth of fungi or rotting of the crest if it remains for an extended period, so it is essential to avoid this condition whenever possible.
Giving too much water to your plant can present a problem, as soil that stays too damp for a protracted period of time can cause harmful root rot and result in the death of your plant. Always check the soil before watering!
Generally, your coral cactus should be watered more frequently during the spring and summer months when it is growing actively. During fall and winter months, the amount of water needed by the plant decreases, so the frequency of watering should also be reduced.
Your coral cactus is somewhat particular about its watering needs, but it generally likes damp surroundings as long as there is plenty of air circulation. These plants make good picks for a greenhouse or inside conditions, yet always be certain to keep an eye out for any evidence of powdery mildew.
Your coral cactus should be given fertilizer periodically during its active phase in the months of spring and summer. Mix a liquid fertilizer that is a tenth of its original concentration (creating a 2.5-2.5-2.5 blend) and use it to fertilize plants at most every two weeks. It might necessitate less if the soil is fertile.
Do not add any fertilizer to your plant during autumn and winter, as it does not need any extra nutrients during this period. It’s also important to stay away from slow-release or granular fertilizers because they may sit too close to the rootstock of the euphorbia, in turn harming the plant.
Grafting A Coral Cactus
Generally, euphorbias are increased in number primarily through cuttings that have been treated with a rooting hormone, and only occasionally from seeds. Creating more of the coral cactus can only be done via grafting, a process that can be complicated.
Start off by choosing a healthy Euphorbia neriifolia and Euphorbia lactea var. cristata that you desire to cultivate. Seedlings are more receptive to grafting than mature plants.
If you are selecting, it is useful to observe the form of the Lactea’s crest and think of it placed on top of the Neriifolia’s base. Look for a duo that appears like it was made to go together!
Create a V shape in the neriifolia by taking off the top part, making sure that enough of it remains to help prop up the crown.
A cut that resembles an arrowhead must be made in the euphorbia lactea crest, stretching from the bottom of the crest and fitting securely into the neriifolia stem.
Make sure that you trim so that the fit is snug with no gaps. The space between the two plants should be kept clear to avoid sap running out and fungal rots potentially forming.
Once you’ve inserted your insignia into the forked area of the neriifolia, utilize grafting wax to envelop all the fused areas, guarding them closed and tidy. Take extreme precaution to make sure neither of the plants’ sap touches your skin during this process. Always wear gloves.
Secure the joined sections of the astoundingly created plant in place with twine. It will take at least two to three weeks for the two plants to join together and it is likely that it will take even more time.
In three weeks, carefully take off the grafting wax and examine the connection. If the plant still looks as though it has yet to mend, you should apply some new grafting wax and wait three more weeks before fastening the twine back in place to ensure it is secure. Be careful not to damage your joint!
In most cases, coral cactus will never require pruning. In the only case where this does not apply is if the cactus gets a fungal rot, at that time it may have already gone past the point of saving.
Mushroom decay can affect either the top of the plant or the roots. If you notice that your crest appears to be turning brown or getting mushy, this usually indicates that it is starting to rot. If you are cautious, it is possible to perform surgery on the ridge to take away parts that are around the perimeter which are affected by fungus.
If you manage to remove all of the broken sections of the crest, your plant should be good again. Use a clean and sanitized razor blade, and put on gloves to prevent any of the poisonous latex from coming into contact with your skin. It is not necessary to cover the cut area, since the natural latex from the plant will form a scab as it dries.
Grooming and Maintenance
A coral cactus that is looked after and kept in good health does not require any regular trimming or maintenance. Keeping animals outside with adequate air flow can be given a spray with the hose every two weeks when you irrigate.
This will prevent dust from accumulating on the plant’s surface. If your plant doesn’t have a fungal infection, you will never have to trim it. This species grows so slowly that it rarely needs to be moved to a larger pot.
Propagating Euphorbia Cristata
It’s easy to purchase Crested Coral Cactus already grafted. If you’d like to try creating your own, follow these steps:
- Obtain a Euphorbia lactea plant and a Euphorbia neriifolia plant.
- Cut an outward curving V-shape in the crest of the Euphorbia lactea and a corresponding V-shape in the rootstock of the Euphorbia neriifolia.
- Place the two sections firmly together and cover the entire outer area where the plants join with grafting wax.
- This will help prevent the wounded tissues from drying.
- After the grafting wax is dry, wrap rope or twine over the outside and tie it to hold the pieces together.
- Assuming the plants are compatible, the wounds should heal, and the plants should graft within a couple of weeks.
- When you see the plant is growing healthily, remove the twine and the wax.
- Don’t be too quick to do this.
- If the graft is not complete, the tissues could be damaged, and this could cause a major setback.
Coral Cactus Pests or Diseases
By making sure to water the coral cactus properly, supplying it with an adequate amount of air circulation and humidity, you should not encounter any issues. The milky juice from the coral cactus usually helps to keep away pesky bugs.
Under difficult conditions, plants may experience infestations and contract fungal diseases. Common pests include:
- Mealybug Succulent bugs
- Scale Insects
- Spider Mites
If detected soon enough, you can get rid of mealybugs and scale insects by simply wiping them away using a cotton bud soaked in 70% isopropyl alcohol. Do not utilize high levels of liquor as it could cause scorching on the plant’s skin.
Eliminate spider mites and their eggs with a powerful burst of water. For severe cases, use a dilute Neem oil mist treatment. Common diseases include:
- Powdery Mildew
- Root Rot
- Stem Rot
Combine a tablespoon of baking soda with a gallon of water to create a solution to treat powdery mildew. Use it as a spray. It is recommended that you boost the air flow around the plant and lower the level of humidity.
Any parts of the plant or its roots that appear to be soft and browned should be removed if the issue is caused by fungal rot. Employ a keen, sterile knife and ensure precise cuts.
No fungicide is necessary to treat the damage, as the latex sap of the plants has antifungal properties. As it dries, a scab will form in order to help defend the rest of the plant from getting infected. Cut back on the watering and make sure there is good air circulation around the plant in order to avoid getting it sick again.
Lactea Cristata Toxic or Poisonous
All species of Euphorbia produce a toxic sap that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine as a laxative. Coral Cactus should be treated with caution and should not be accessible to children or pets.
Coming into contact with the sap can lead to skin irritation, even if it has already dried up. If the substance gets into someone’s eyes, it could lead to intense discomfort and may even result in them being unable to see.
If consumed, it will induce nausea and vomiting. Take precautions when handling your crested Euphorbia by wearing gloves and goggles. It is important to not touch the creamy white sap and to clean yourself well when you have completed your job.