The commonly-called pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli) is a member of the Euphorbia family. It is a succulent and not a true cactus. Like the thousands of other types of Euphorbias. The pencil cactus has milky white stem sap that can irritate the skin. Beautiful Indoor Plants: Pencil Cactus!
Beautiful Indoor Plants: Pencil Cactus
It has a wide distribution in Africa. Being prominently present in northeastern, central and southern Africa. It may also be native in other parts of the continent as well as some surrounding islands. And the Arabian peninsula and has been introduced to many other tropical regions.
Its status in India is uncertain. It grows in dry areas, and is often used to feed cattle or as hedging. It is well known in Sri Lanka where it is called Kalli in Tamil.
This unusual looking astonishing plant is notorious for its toxic milky sap (take care when handling this plant). Still, it’s getting popular as a houseplant. Pencil cactus has medium to high light requirements and low watering needs.
It also doesn’t mind dry air. Watering 2-3 times in a month is sufficient. To grow, keep the plant in a spot with ample light. A shaft of sunlight for a few hours or even more and it would do fine.
You want the light to be high & the water to be low. Mine is in a very large terra cotta estate pot (28″ x 28″) & I water it every it every 1-2 months in the summer. Giving it 2-3 big watering cans full at a time.
In your home, do the same – water it every month or so in the summer & maybe every 2 months in the winter. Depending on a few variables. This is a general guideline but I outline more specifics in this post on watering houseplants 101. In terms of the Pencil Cactus, less liquid love is better.
Although this plant can tolerate temperatures from 25-100 degrees Fahrenheit, it prefers temperatures ranging from 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideal pencil cactus temperature range is 65ºF – 70ºF.
So it does well year-round indoors at normal household temperatures.
Care of Pencil Cactus Cuttings
Pencil cactus is very easy to propagate with cuttings. Great care must be taken when harvesting and planting these to avoid the sap, but the cuttings root readily. You will need small pots, a soilless medium to prevent rot and pathogens and a misting bottle. Take cuttings with a sterile razor blade and let them dry for two days to form a callus. Insert the cuttings into the medium at least an inch deep and mist.
Caring for a pencil cactus cutting requires low light and slightly more moisture than fully established plants. Once new growth commences, gradually introduce the plant to higher light and reduce watering. The cactus will hit your ceiling in just a few years, so don’t be afraid to prune it and use the cuttings to make new pencil cactus plants.
Euphorbia tirucalli has been promoted as an anticancer agent. But research shows that it suppresses the immune system, promotes tumor growth. And leads to the development of certain types of cancer. Euphorbia tirucalli has also been associated with Burkitt’s lymphoma and is thought to be a cofactor of the disease rather than a treatment.
Euphorbia tirucalli also has uses in traditional medicine in many cultures. It has been used for cancer, excrescence, tumors, and warts in such diverse places as Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It has also been used as for asthma, cough, earache, neuralgia, rheumatism, toothache, and warts in India and Malaysia.