Trim an indoor cactus dish garden

michtxNovember 18, 2012


My dish garden is getting out of proportion and I'd like to trim back some of the tallest arms. Can anyone offer advice as to the best way to do this?

Many thanks in advance,


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From one "Texan" to another. That is simply stunning.

Linda / Houston

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:57AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

It's beautiful!

This type of plant wasn't really meant to be trimmed. It will end up looking off where you cut it.

In case your not aware, always be very cautious with the Euphorbia, (sp?)(tallest one) it has a sap that is caustic, and will irritate the skin, or worse.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:15AM
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When you cut a Euphorbia, it will bleed white. Douse the cut with water, that will stop the bleeding.

Personally, the tall Euphorbia is a thug. It wants to be a shrub taller than you. The shorter Mammillaria (pink flowers? a hybrid) can fill the pot if you want it. The other plant, (Trichocereus?) looks like it is etiolated. Without better light, it is as pretty as it will get. The future is a tall plant that won't support itself. As long as you keep it dry and root bound, it will grow very slowly. This will forestall an ugly future. Sorry to be a downer. You have done a good job getting them to where they are. Keep an eye on that Euphorbia.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 7:18PM
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Laura Robichaud

Jojo, my dad found out the hard way on Saturday. He and my mom were repotting this 5' tall euphorbia. It has lots of arms and one broke off. They both got some of the latex on them. My dad must've touched his face at some point. His face swelled and his eyes burned and swelled shut. My mom brought him to the ER. He's on some type of steroid and eyedrops. He's much better today.

I did a search on GW and saw where another member got the really bad end of a euphorbia. Wish I had read it sooner!

OP, the dish garden is really beautiful. I can't give you any advice on pruning it, but thought I would compliment it.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 11:52AM
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Thank you for all the kind words! Wish I could take the credit, but I bought the dish garden in a Lowes several years ago because it caught my eye. I had no idea I had such a bad actor on my hands - LOL!

Good to know that I should keep it dry to minimize change/growth. I recently moved the dish to this current location which gets much better light. Whats a good rule of thumb for knowing when to water?

I think I will glove and suit up, take it outside, put on safety glasses and with supplies at the ready, cut back that tallest stalk. Should I cut it back to just above a branch?? Should the cut be straight or angled? Is the best tool a pair of garden shears?

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 1:04PM
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mi_co(MA - zone 6)

Have you thought about taking it out and giving it it's own pot and letting it grow ? I think the cut is going to spoil the looks of it and it will grow more arms where you cut it and so eventually you'll be back at the point where you have to trim it again.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 6:02PM
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The best is a scimitar sharpened on a stone from the Atlas Mountains, but most of us will make that cut on a bias (high to low) with a (ex) kitchen knife.

But you might want to rethink that - that Euphorbia would look outstanding uncut and in its own pot.

Watering - when in doubt, don't. In the winter, about 1x a month is fine. It depends on how much warmth/sun/air movement/light/kind-of-soil you have, but winter's the least demanding season.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 6:16PM
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I third the motion for putting the Euphorbia lactea in its own pot, but take all precautions from the latex, from one who learned the hard way... To me it would be a shame to cut it back, this type of plant will look disfigured. Just my dos pesos, however.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 11:16PM
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Euphorbia... lactea? Isnt that trigona? Im next to positive it isnt lactea, considering im sitting her next to a euphorbia lactea

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 11:37PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I also think that giving your Euphorbia its own pot will be the best bet and then giving the remaining plants more light and letting them fill in the pot Or find a smaller plant to put there instead.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 11:55PM
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grabmebymyhandle(6 Kentucky)

yea, get the thug out of there, the other 2 will look fine without it, use leather gloves, the latex is the big deal but those spines are no joke either. im not a fan, id rip it out and toss in another pot and give it away or to the curb... they are meanies, and im not sure that mythical scimitar would even hack thru that bad if you tried.

Im pretty sure it is lactea, trigona has much larger less succulent leaves, and its spines are not as stiff, but just as sharp...

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 12:20AM
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In short time neither of the plants in the pic will have a problem filling the one container that all three of them are in now.

Suggest you may want to re-pot all three of them separately...

We all have our favored and not so favored plants if you like the tall Euphorbia then keep it in a sharp/good draining soil and pot of it's own as the other two would be better if in separate pots as well.
We all have our favors for plants and some times we grow not as favored by others, try not to let personal plant opinions and desires be a factor to what you may want...... Enjoy

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 3:26PM
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I would find a new spot for this little cactus dish. It's nice as it is, but a bit tall for a coffee table.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:55PM
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grabmebymyhandle(6 Kentucky)

I second mrlike2u's comment as well, my opinion of E.lactea only comes from too much blood and latex...that sounds weird...there was a time when i begged for a cutting of one...then was a time a had to help dismantle a 14 foot tall one, growing in a tiny interior sunroom, rough 7x7, it was entirly full of a mean green monster...and here in the east most euphorbs get a nasty disease, black spot, it doesnt usually ouright kill that species, just disfigures it and weakens it til it gives after a few also will help spread it to all the mini euphorbs, black spot melts them in a matter of days.

I grow basically no euphorbs thanks to black spot, just now worth risking the money a plant that will croak, it took alot of heartbreak for me to bail on the genus.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 12:27AM
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Thanks for the all the comments and advice!

I took the dish garden outside, put on heavy rubber gloves and with heavy kitchen shears, I cut back the Euphorbia. I used a spray bottle to douse the cuts and had very little latex seepage. Right now, I'm very happy with the height ( approx 16") and cut several branches that were crowding the other dish occupants.

We'll see how the cuts look over time.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 11:29PM
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That makes me think of Michonne from Waling Dead :)

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 11:50PM
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Laura Robichaud

I think the pruning looks nice. Not sure you can keep those Euphorbs at bay for long, though.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 8:11PM
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