African Milk Tree: A Guide to Cultivation and Care

4 Min Read

A species of flowering plant called Euphorbia trigona, sometimes known as the African milk tree, cathedral cactus, or Abyssinian euphorbia, is native to Central Africa. The species of Euphorbia, which is quite common in cultivation as a houseplant or a hedge, has succulent stems and branches as an adaptation to arid regions.


The African milk tree is indigenous to that region it is often used as a hedge due to its vigorous and fast growth. This plant is actually a succulent, despite having names like “candelabra cactus,” “cathedral cactus,” “friendship cactus,” and “good luck cactus.”

It has three distinct sides with triangular stems and ridges. The ridges are covered in thorns and leaves with teardrop shapes. This plant has a lush, green growing season with fresh growth that has a faint green tint. The Rubra or Royal Red cultivar is well known for its striking colour, which late in the season develops bright red highlights.

Euphorbia trigona Plant Overview

Common Name: African milk tree and African milk bush

Botanical Name: Euphorbia trigona

Family: Euphorbiaceous

Plant Type: Succulent

Mature Size: 6-9 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide

Sun Exposure: Partial

Soil Type: Loamy, well-drained

Soil pH: Neutral

Bloom Time: Spring, summer

Flower Color: White

Hardiness Zones:  9b-11 (USDA)

Native Areas: Africa

Toxicity: Toxic to humans, toxic to pets 2

Euphorbia trigona Plant Species

Crown of Thorns: The attractive succulent plant known as a “crown of thorns” may bloom virtually all year long, even inside. Beware of thorns as the large, vibrant green leaves grow along the new stem growth. It will only grow to a height of about 2 feet when used as a houseplant. Euphorbia is toxic to both people and animals.

Mediterranean spurge: Mediterranean Spurge is a perennial herbaceous plant distinguished by its smaller size and more vibrantly colored flowers. It is a sub shrub that reaches heights of 2 to 3 feet and widths of 1.5 to 2 feet. Large clusters of show-stopping spring flowers with chartreuse cup-shaped blossoms held above the leaves emerge in the spring.

Pencil cactus: An intriguing plant with succulent foliage native to semi-arid tropical areas is the pencil cactus. In the wild, it can reach heights of 30 feet and a width of 6 to 10 feet. The plant will maintain a more manageable 2–6 foot height and 1-3 foot width indoors.

How to Grow Euphorbia trigona Plant

This succulent prefers indirect but bright sunlight, so a southern-facing window indoors or a location outside with some sun would be fine. As long as the summers aren’t too hot, full sun is acceptable. It might be necessary to water plants more frequently to counteract too much direct sunlight.

This drought-resistant plant prefers a dry or arid area and can endure moderate heat. However, it can’t withstand the cold and won’t grow if the temperature falls below 10 °C. Growing Euphorbia trigona in an area that is excessively humid may be harmful because it doesn’t require additional humidity.


The African milk tree has a rather shallow root system and a very high growth rate. Because of this, older plants may grow top-heavy or even fall over, necessitating pruning. Always use gloves and a sharp, clean knife to cut stems during pruning. Your cut will heal and develop a callus on its own.

To prevent an unbalanced burden on one side that could pull the plant out of the ground, take care to keep the plant balanced on both sides.


Collect a 4-inch container filled with potting media, a sharp knife or hand pruners, alcohol wipes, and coarse gravel. Cut one of the plant’s “arms” off at the base after sterilizing the blades of your knife or scissors with alcohol.

Until the arm stops oozing, rinse it under cold, running water. Allow the arm to rest for five to seven days on a paper towel in a dry area away from direct sunlight so that the cut tip cans callus over. Put the arm in your pot once the callus has developed, with the end about an inch below the soil.

Euphorbia trigona Plant Care

In South America and the Mediterranean areas of Europe, African milk trees are widely used as attractive garden accents or container plants. Despite the fact that the plant may need to be trained through pruning and staking to obtain the appropriate look, gardening aficionados prize it because of its impressive size.

The African milk tree can easily tumble over if not properly pruned because of its thin root system in comparison to its tall, succulent body. This succulent is rather simple to grow, much like a cactus, by simply cutting off one of the “arms” and rooting it in a potting medium.


The African milk tree prefers direct, bright sunlight. For indoor gardening, a window with a southern exposure is ideal, as is a place outside that gets some sun. As long as the summers are not constantly hot, a location that receives direct sunlight is appropriate. In this case, additional watering could be required to counteract the hot, direct sunlight.


The soil doesn’t matter much to this succulent. However, it is crucial to have appropriate drainage conditions. For proper drainage and pH, amend heavy clay soil; otherwise, the plant’s growth may be hampered. This plant does best in sandy and sandy loam soils in a xeriscaped setting.


African milk trees require little water. Only when severe drought conditions exist should you think about adding additional water. Otherwise, the typical rainfall in your area ought to be adequate. Once a week, indoor plants should receive a modest amount of watering, but to resemble their natural environment, the soil must completely dry out between watering.

Temperature and Humanity

This hardy plant can survive moderate heat and thrive in a dry or desert environment. In order to prevent overheating, place the plant in a location with indirect sunlight or partial shade if you’re growing environment has hot summers. This plant doesn’t require additional humidity, and cultivating it in a humid environment may lead to stress, which could result in fungus or pest infection.


Give your African milk tree a monthly feeding of half-strength diluted water-soluble fertilizer in the spring and summer (during the plant’s growing season). When the plant is not actively growing, do not feed it. Instead, let it slumber naturally.

Common Pests & Diseases

A strong African milk tree is typically resistant to pests and ailments. However, keep an eye out for the cotton-like threads that mealy bugs produce.

To get rid of them, combine water with a few drops of mild dish detergent, then use a towel dipped in this mixture to wipe the insects clean. In addition, you can use a paper towel and rubbing alcohol to get rid of pests, or you can use a garden hose to spray them with water.

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