Pencil Tree: Easy to grow succulent – Details and Care Tips

Pencil Tree: Easy to grow succulent – Details and Care Tips
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Image by Pam Simon from Pixabay

They are succulent plants but are not true cacti. The plants are easy to grow and have very little maintenance. Even though the sap is poisonous the plant is grown for its attractive looks and bright stems. The plant can be grown indoors as well as outdoors.

Quick Details of Pencil Tree

Other Common NamesPencil Tree, Aveloz, Indian Tree Spurge, Naked Lady, Pencil Cactus, Milk Bush
TypeIndoor/outdoor Succulent
MaintenanceLow
FloweringSpring-summer
LightBright direct/indirect sunlight
WaterWhen the soil is dry
TemperatureWarm conditions
SoilWell drained sandy soil
FertilizerAny liquid cactus fertilizer
HabitatAfrica, India
ToxicityToxic (the sap can cause blindness)
Common DiseasesNot prone to diseases
Scientific nameEuphorbia tirucalli

Pencil Tree Buying Instructions

  • The sap of the plant is poisonous so keep this plant away from kids.
  • Buy a healthy plant which is having multiple branches.
  • If you want to keep indoor or at home buy a small plant.

Overview of Pencil Tree

They are evergreen succulent shrubs or small trees native to south Africa and India. They belong to the family Euphorbiaceous and are not true cacti plants. They have thick, fleshy, green cylindrical and smooth stems. The leaves fall off early in the life cycle. The flowers are small yellow and present at the tip of the branches. The sap is toxic and can cause blindness to eyes and irritation to skin. The tips of the stem turn red during winter and yellow when the temperature increases. The stems are thin and pencil shaped.

Special features:

The plant has medicinal values. The plant is rich in hydrocarbon and can be used to produce fuel. The plants photosynthesize using CAM and C3 pathway resulting in high oxygen uptake which helps them to adjust to different conditions. The latex of the plant is toxic and causes blindness and irritation to skin.

Usage and Advantage of Pencil Tree

  • Grown as an ornamental plant
  • Has been proposed to be used in production of fuel and a large source of biomass.
  • They are grown to promote afforestation in sand dunes and dry areas
  • The latex is used as a fixative.
  • The latex showed pesticidal and insecticidal properties. It also repels mosquitoes and ants.
  • The latex was used in cloth and leather industries.
  • They are used in curing diseases in alternative medicine.
  • The root and stem are used in treating cough, ulcers in traditional medicine.
  • The plant is also said to fight cancer, asthma, to treat gonorrhoea, snake bites, and sterility in women.
  • The young branches are taken to cure sore throat and dried to relieve from whooping cough.

General Care for Pencil Tree

Soil: A well-drained sandy soil is the best for its growth. Any cactus potting mixed can be used or a mixture of perlite and soil can be used for potting pencil trees.

Water: These plants should be watered only when the soil dries out this can take up to two weeks. During winters the frequency of watering should be reduced. They do not like moist soggy soil. care should be taken to remove excess water from the pot trays as well.

Light: They require bright direct / indirect sunlight. If grown indoors lace them near the window where there is enough bright direct / indirect light. They prefer warmer conditions and should be shifter indoors to warmer places during winter

Special Care: The tips of the plant can be pruned to maintain the shape and height. Care should be taken while pruning them because the sap of the plant is toxic and can cause irritation to skin and eyes.

Fertilizer: Any cactus fertilizer can be used to feed them ones in a year during the growing period. (spring)

Pests and other problems for Pencil Tree

They are not prone to any pests or pathogens

Propagation of Pencil Tree

Propagation happens through cutting.

The stem cuttings are taken from a mature healthy plant. A minimum height of 10 cm is cut and left to dry for a minimum 24 hours and planted in moist soil. The soil is maintained moist and watered regularly till the roots develop and the cuttings establish into a plant.

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