Are you looking for an elegant indoor plant? The African Milk tree has a unique appearance, making it one of the rarest plants. To start with, the leaves of this plant feature green and white patterns and are prickly. The African Milk tree also has a white latex-like fluid drips when cut. This fluid is toxic, so you require gloves protection. But besides that, the plant’s beauty is great for your indoors, and the plant is easy to care for. Here is an exclusive look at everything you need to know about the African Milk tree.
What Is an African Milk Tree?
The African milk tree, known as Euphorbia trigona, is a succulent plant from Central Africa. Although it’s not a cactus plant, the African Milk Tree is known by other names such as cathedral cactus, candelabra cactus, friendship cactus, and good luck cactus. The plant is very famous as it remains evergreen throughout its growing season. This is a multi-branch, tall-growing succulent plant. The African Milk tree has branches that grow upward and produce white sap. It has small oval-shaped green leaves and thorns. The thorns grow in pairs, with a single leaf growing between them. The African milk tree grows up to six feet in height when provided with the right outdoor conditions. When grown indoors, the African milk tree grows slowly, making it a perfect low-maintenance houseplant.
African Milk Tree Growing and Caring Tips
African Milk tree care is super easy and rewarding to grow. Below are tips about growing the African Milk tree.
The African Milk trees are succulent and don’t require much water. When grown indoors, the tree should be watered once per week with moderate water. The African Milk tree likes to dry out between the waterings. Before watering the plant, dip your finger in the soil for about an inch. If it is damp, don’t water it, but if it’s dry, water the plant moderately. However, it’s worth noting that the African Milk tree is a succulent rather than a cactus; hence doesn’t endure total drought.
The African Milk tree thrives best in a well-draining, sand-rich soil mix. You can also add one part peat moss and two parts vermiculite, potting soil, good gravel, or perlite to the soil mix. The sand will enhance its drainage, while the peat moss will help the plant’s roots maintain sufficient moisture. The best soil to grow your African Milk tree should range from mildly acidic (6.2) to mildly alkaline (7.8). Using the right soil with rapid drainage is essential for preventing plant problems such as steam rot that might kill your plant.
African Milk trees grow well in a sunny location. These plants will suffice in an outside area with bright sunlight. According to Tree2mydoor.com, sunny, south-facing windows provide the best lighting for indoor grown plants. Full sunlight is okay for the plant as long as the summers are not too hot. The plants might need shade during the warmest summer hours when it’s too hot. Otherwise, this succulent plant might burn when exposed to the hot sun for long periods, harming its aesthetics. In this case, you can protect your African Milk tree by surrounding it with other sun-loving plants that protect it from the direct sunshine.
African Milk trees don’t need high humidity levels. The plant prefers semi-arid and arid environments and will grow well in a cactus garden. According to MasterClass, succulents will be more susceptible to diseases and pests if grown in high humidity environments. Therefore, you should keep the plant away from steamy areas like the shower and restrooms.
African Milk trees grow well in relatively high temperatures. Grow the plant in warm conditions where the temperature doesn’t fall below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). These plants will not survive below 5 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit). Generally, these trees are heat resilient. However, to avoid overheating in hot regions, you should cultivate the African Milk tree in partial or indirect sunlight. Generally, the African Milk tree grows best in warm weather and is not a fan of humidity. Keep in mind that the African Milk tree needs to be kept indoors during the winter. Place the plant in a cool place indoors during the winter months and just water it when the soil is practically dry.
The African Milk tree doesn’t need any particular fertilizer to thrive. But like all plants, this plant will benefit from being given some fertilizer once in a while. Therefore, applying a water-soluble fertilizer once per month during the plant’s growing season in the summer and spring is recommended. According to Home guides SFGATE, don’t fertilize the plant during the winter.
African Milk trees flourish best in USDA hardiness zones between 10 and 12. However, with winter protection, you can also grow the plant successfully in USDA hardiness zones 8 and 9.
The African Milk tree propagation is done through stem cuttings. Below is a guideline on how to propagate the plant via cuttings.
- Select the healthy branches and stems you want to propagate.
- Wear a thick pair of gloves to protect you from the plant’s spines as well as the toxic sap in the plant. This precaution is important to remember as you will likely want to propagate the plant because it’s easy to grow. Also, sharing the plant with your loved ones is claimed to bring good luck.
- Start by cutting the stem at the base with a disinfected sharp knife. Rinse the cut’s latex-like white sap using a watering can, a garden hose, or running water from a faucet until it stops.
- Leave the cutting in a well-ventilated place on a clean paper towel to dry out. Ensure that the cutting is exposed to indirect sunlight when drying. The cutting will produce a scab after seven days.
- After the wound is healed and completely dry, place the cutting in a rooting media like perlite and water. The cutting will establish roots and start to grow after about two months.
- When the stem cutting propagation is successful, it’s time to transfer the plant to a permanent location.
Potting And Repotting
African Milk trees are successfully grown in pots. However, the plant requires repotting every year or two to give more space to its enlarging roots. Get a terracotta pot that is several inches bigger than the original pot. Repotting this plant to a significantly bigger pot might overwhelm it and affect its growth negatively. Wear thick gloves when repotting the African Milk tree to avoid getting pricked by the spines or skin irritations.
When the plant grows big, you should get help from a friend to hold the pot as you pluck out the plant. Once you get a new pot, prepare or purchase fresh soil as indicated above. African Milk trees are relatively heavy feeders, and it is best to refresh the soil when repotting the plant. You can also sterilize the old soil to use it as a soil base for the new mix by combining it with perlite and compost. Repotting the plant during the growing season is best to allow it to settle and fill out its new pot easily.
According to Plant Informer, the African Milk trees don’t require pruning. However, pruning the plant occasionally can help keep it from growing very heavy for the shallow root system. To remove any stems that are getting in the way, cut them off using a sharp sterilized knife. You can even try propagating the stem cutting you have pruned. However, when pruning the stems, ensure to keep the weight distribution of the plant well-balanced. The African Milk tree plant has a shallow root system that won’t support a plant that is very heavy on one side.
African Milk Tree Blooms
For the Euphorbia trigona plants to flower, they either require to be large, over three meters tall or have attained maximum maturity of more than twenty years. In a controlled indoor environment, flowering rarely occurs. You can enhance your chances by replicating the plant’s natural conditions and maintaining them healthy over the decades. African Milk trees can sometimes surprise you by blooming in the summer. Euphorbia trigona does not require blooms to be beautiful. Their ridges produce sufficiently eye-catching leaves. However, this might not be your best choice if you want a blooming succulent.
African Milk Tree Pests & Diseases
The African Milk tree is pest and disease resistant with proper care. However, the plant is sometimes susceptible to some issues, including;
Fungal Infection Cork Disease
As stated earlier, the African Milk tree does not like high amounts of water. If you see sections of cork-like substances on the stem, it is a fungal infection resulting from overwatering or overly rich soil. In this case, it would be best to apply a plant fungicide to the cut area, repot the plant in a rapid draining soil mix and place it in a well-ventilated, warm place. You should also reduce the amount and watering frequency. Keeping your plant in a well-ventilated, dry place will give it the best chance to survive.
Fusarium Wilt or Rot
Your African Milk tree might have fusarium wilt if your plant has a mushy, reddish spot near the stem base. According to Plant Disease Handbook, this disease is often fatal, and it’s often best to dispose of the plant, the soil mix, and the container. If you decide to keep the container, ensure it’s sterilized before you reuse it.
Spider Mites and Mealybugs
Both spider mites and mealybugs are not fatal to your African Milk tree. However, they still require to be controlled immediately to prevent spreading to other plants. When you notice the pest infestation, eliminate them by wiping them off using a paper towel dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Alternatively, you can use neem oil as a natural method of countering the mealybugs and spider mites. However, neem oil and bright sunlight can burn the plant, so ensure to keep your African Milk tree away from bright light for a few weeks.
Are African Milk Trees Toxic?
The African Milk tree has a milky, white sap that is toxic and can irritate the eyes and the skin. You should be cautious, such as wearing protective gloves when handling this plan. According to SunScapes, consider washing your hands immediately after pruning and keep the African Milk Tree away from pets and children.
Is African Milk Tree Safe to Keep Around Pets?
Most pets don’t need to be told to stay away from the prickly ridges of the African Milk tree. Other more curious pets that challenge the plant persistently might require extra deterring. If an injection from this plant does not discourage the pets from staying away from the plant, you can consider cutting off the spines. And while this might affect the plant’s growth a bit, it won’t hurt it. Wipe off any sap produced and ensure it doesn’t contact your skin. When the white sap stops flowing out, sprinkle the wound with cinnamon to prevent infection.
Succulent Varieties Similar to The African Milk Tree
Other than the African Milk tree, you probably want to add other succulent varieties to your collection. Well, you are at the right place. Some of the succulent species similar to the Euphorbia trigona include;
- Desert candle- this succulent tree features a green, thick mature trunk. It blooms flowers with yellow bracts.
- Donkey tail spurge- this elegant plant has blue-gray leaves and yellow flowers. It grows up to 2 feet high.
- Pencil cactus- this plant’s name is from its pencil-like cylindrical branches. Although it’s normally green, it can turn fiery red in full sun.
That’s everything you need to know about the African Milk tree. This is a cactus-looking succulent that grows in a tree-like shape. The plant is fast growing and very easy to care for. Provide them a suitable growing condition including; well-draining, sandy soil mix, put them near a sunny window, and water infrequently. You can also maintain its vigorous growth by fertilizing during the growing season and repotting yearly. By ignoring the Euphorbia trigona, you will get a big, elegant houseplant. This plant will stand out in your desert plant area.