Has anyone heard of the 'Pencil Cactus' as a Houseplant?

loracnabruNovember 29, 2006

I am trying to find pictures and information on the culture and care of the "Pencil Cactus", as a houseplant.

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GrowHappy(z7 MD)

I have one grown as a HP in a west facing window. Unfortunately, it is in competition with lots of other plants, so doesn't get the prime real estate. Yet, it is giving me a new leaf(?) in one of the axils. I hardly water it... Hopefully someone else will come along that has more experience with this one.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 11:57PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I only grew this briefly, but pls. try searching for Euphorbia tirucalli.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 12:53PM
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If it is the red form it will need bright light, and warmth. No matter where you live it will still need the same requirements. When you do water, make sure the water reaches the root ball, then hold off until the plant soil is dry again. I grow both forms. Norma

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 4:50PM
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I just saw a picture of one growing in the house. It should be okay, it likes it warm, just like you do, it's a matter of how much light you can give it. There is also a brown form. Caution:
Be very careful of the sap. Wash hands off with milk and then soap and water immediately. It can cause skin rashes as well. Animals should not be allowed to eat the leaves. Norma

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 9:07PM
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I have this plant and grow it in Northern California. It wants heat and lots of sun to thrive in my region. Mine is about 4' tall and it is always outside in full sun during the late spring and summer months, about 6-7 months. (note: I had it also in my native state, Arizona, and you can grow it outside all year long in partial shade and it will get enormous, outdoors all year, no problems). However, even in my area, it needs to come inside in the winter months, it hates weather below 40. You will need to give it full sun for at least 4 hours a day during the winter. I hardly water it during the winter, very little, maybe once a month or longer. It will go dormant, but in the late spring, move it outdoors, it will be happy there and will thrive for you. I only fertilize during its growing months and that is in the warm months. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 1:09AM
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What excellent help. I hope all will follow your advise. r
Right now I'm trying to find a home for the Brown species.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 11:19PM
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I dont have one, but I've seen alot of them up for bid on ebay.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 1:46PM
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If this is what you are calling a Pencil Cactus, then yes, they do grow as a houseplant. A friend of mine sent these clippings with some other plants, and I threw them in with a Christmas Cactus. They apparently like where they are as they are sporting new growth (west window). Now mind you I don't know a thing about these guys, I grow african violets.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 12:52PM
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The Pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli) is an easy succulent to take of, as long as it has some sun, a little fertilizer in the summer months and good draining soil. I water mine usually once a week when soil is completly dry first. A little less watering in winter.

Billy Rae

Here is a link that might be useful: Here's mine

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 1:47PM
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Wow, that is really cool Billy Rae, very impressive. Based on the cuttings that I have, I am assuming that this is a very slow grower? I have had the cuttings for about 2 months and they have obviously taken root, with the new growth. Thanks for your pictures!!


    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 2:11PM
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Your right, they aren't real fast growers, at least mine has never been. It's a little bigger now since that picture was taken and now it REALLY needs to be re-potted (spring project) It just might decide to take off and grow a bit faster with bigger quarters and some fresh soil.
They are nice plants to have and easily shaped to how you want it to look by cutting off some of the stray sections.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 7:04PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

But pls. use caution when cutting, pruning, shaping this. As a Euphorbia, it bleeds a white sap which CAN be a skin irritant. Pls. be careful not to touch your face before washing well after handling this. I myself never had a problem w/ this, but pls. be forewarned along the theory of better safe than sorry.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 10:34PM
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mrbrownthumb(z5 Chicago)

Billy Rae,

I was just looking through your photo album and you have some cool plants.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 11:54PM
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Thank you for saying mrbrownthumb!

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 1:27AM
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Don't know if this would be considered a houseplant, but I recently saw one at a campground in an enclosed heated pool area that was enormous! Do they like a lot of humidity? This one certainly got it!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 8:31AM
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ymaddox(ky 6)

billy rae i looked through your photos too and i am gonna just say one thing...nananana my wandering jew looks better than yours lol. I have to say that because your plants are all...AMAZING!, and the only thing i have that compares :(. You can send some of that green thumb this way :). I believe you could probably grow a stump. I'm not sure i have ever seen a boston fern as big as the one you have...it is georgous!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 9:22PM
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I used to own my own nursery in the Tampa area of Florida and now live near Chicago. I used to grow these cactus by the hundreds for many years and here are some tips about them.

First and formost they grow incredibly well as a house plant. I used to grow them in shade houses specifically to allow them to do well indoors. My mother took a small branch (maybe four to six segments) to Illionois (near Chicago) about nine or ten years ago. She has repeatedly cut it down as it out grew her house and now that I live in Illinois I just inherited this monster.

It is in excess of nine feet tall at the top and about six feet in diameter at the bottom. Indoors in cold climates pencil cactus winter well indoors. They simply go into a rest mode. I have it near a fairly bright window and give it a normal amount of water letting it dry completely before a good soaking.

Come spring time take care of how you introduce it to the outdoors so it will not become sunburned. Take it out in early spring after nightly temps reach over 45 and either cover it with cheese cloth when you first take it out or place it in the shade of a tree. If you do not it will become discolored but will not stop it from growing. Give it a dose of a all purpose fertilizer and let it go until fall. It doesn't do well with Osmocote as if you give it that it will outgrow your home in half the time.

It is a reality a very easy plant to grow.

I live near Chicago and just braught mine in this weekend as we had frost warnings.

To start it from cutting let it scab well for about a week to ten days and start in a cactus mix mixed with a bit of root tone to give it a good start.

You can start them from a large stem cutting but do not try this until spring as you need to give it a huge amount of light to help it over the hump. If it can reach soil it will grow.

If I can find my camera in the next day or so I will get a picture of it for you all to see as I am sure some of you might have difficulty believing it can grow that large in a cold climate but I assure you it CAN and DOES become that big if grown properly.

It is so fun to find so many people that are as big a fan as I am of this wonderful, fun to grow, converasion piece!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 12:44PM
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I grow this plant in pots,in ground, and also the 'Firesticks' a red shrubbier form outdoors in the SF bay area.That's just about the farthest north they will grow. And as a big fan of this plant,My conclusions are that it is another plant that looks better in a pot than as just another big green shrub when in ground! Care is generic succulent-nothing to add other than to wash with running water when pruning to keep sap from staining anything-sidewalk-or you!
I have a couple of potted large cuttings I took from my in ground plant-they have 2" wide trunks and stand about 3'...I like the look of them better than the largest tree pencils in the tropics. They have only been rooted for a year..if they grow a caudex, that would be fantastic....

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 11:39AM
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Have I,,,Mine are 7 feet tall and grow like weeds, I never water or pay any attention to them, the sap is a mess tho so plant it where you won't bump it or you'll be sorry.
If you live in melbourne fla come and take all you want!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 10:56PM
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I took some cuttings from my sister in law in Georgia. I brought them to Florida. Mine are not the deep green hers are. They are kinda of yellow and I dindn't know what to do with them. I repotted to larger pots. They are on my screened porch they get some direct sun in the afternoon, but mostly bright light. I wasn't sure what kind of ferilizer to use. I love my sister in laws. She has them indoors they don't get much light but are beautiful.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 11:54AM
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Does anyone have a picture?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 10:13PM
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Maureen, look above about the 10th response down. He has a link to his picture.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 10:03PM
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Pencil "cactus" will actually grow pretty fast during spring,summer and fall they will grow well in bright light or half sun but be forewarned they do not tolerate cold at all as mentioned above and below freezing will kill them so be safe 40F + - also will grow faster with frequent watering during warm weather.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 12:45AM
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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

Okay a lot of good responses, but I need to say this.--- it is not a cactus, it is from Madagascar (a succulent), and very poisenous. If you have children or dogs, do not grow it. If you get any milky sap on your fingers wash it off with soap and water, and pour milk over it. Call the poisen center immediately or have your doctor know what to do if you get it in your eyes ,mouth, or any other open part of the body. Most doctors will not have had the experience. I don't have any pictures, I do not grow the plant any more. It needs winter heat and next to no water in the winter months. The rest of you did a great job responding, thanks, Norma

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 1:22AM
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I purchased one of these Euphorbs in late December from a nursery where it was growing in crowded conditions with low to medium light. I set it up at home in my basement with a 10,000 lux light panel and it has put on about a foot of growth since then. Our basement is usually cool (50-60F) and the plant has had no natural light source. I water lightly about once a week (or whenever the top of the soil feels dry to the touch). I recently moved it to an upstairs room with northern light and the light panel along with it, so it will be interesting to see if there is any change in growth habit.

As to the plant being poisonous, as with anything, reasonable caution is generally best - keep it out of reach of small children and pets. No need to be alarmist. Keeping an antihistamine such as liquid Benadryl in your medicine cabinet is usually a good idea, in any event.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 3:26PM
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Thanks ymaddox!

Glad your wandering jew is soooo nice, lol.

Sorry for not responding sooner, I don't get over as often as I'd like. To the person who asked about humidity, nope, they do just fine without it.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 8:49PM
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I have a pencil point cactus that I've had for over 30 years. It is an indoor plant that I've got in a large pot with a wrought iron trellis. I have it wrapping around the trellis. Recently there have been pieces of branches falling off onto the floor. Does anyone have any idea as to what is happening? I have not really changed the watering schedule or moved the plant.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 7:06PM
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