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The coral cactus (Euphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’) is not a cactus, despite its common name. This sculptural, otherworldly-looking plant is made of two different types of succulents that have been grafted together. The crest of a Euphorbia lactea forms the top ruffled portion of the plant, while the green’stem’ (or rootstock) is a Euphorbia neriifolia. These two Euphorbias, when grafted together, form the coral cactus. The top crest of the plant can vary in color from green to blue-grey to whitish-green depending on the variety of Euphorbia lactea used to create the coral cactus.
The coral cactus is a popular houseplant not only because of its eye-catching appearance but also because it is low-maintenance and simple to care for. Before bringing one of these succulents into your home, keep in mind that the latex sap of the coral cactus, like all plants in the Euphorbia genus, is toxic to both pets and humans. For those who want to know what grafting is then, here is a quick definition of it.
What exactly is grafting?
Grafting is a method of propagation that combines two plants into one. This is accomplished by joining the bottom portion of one plant (rootstock) to the top portion of another (scion) and allowing the tissues to grow together as one plant.
Quick Introduction of Coral Cactus
|Botanical Name||Euphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’, Euphorbia lactea x neriifolia|
|Common Name||Coral cactus, crested elkhorn, crested candelabra plant, crested Euphorbia, candelabra plant|
|Mature Size||1-2 ft. tall (indoors)|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer|
|Flower Color||Pink, purple|
|Hardiness Zones||10-11 USA|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets, toxic to humans.|
How to Care for a Coral Cactus
Although it differs slightly from most desert cacti and succulents, caring for a coral cactus is relatively simple. This Euphorbia mix tolerates shadier conditions better than most Euphorbias and requires more frequent watering.
Furthermore, because this succulent is created by grafting two Euphorbia plants together, it cannot be propagated in the traditional sense, such as through stem cuttings, division, or seed. The grafting process would be required to create new coral cactus plants. Below are some tips on how to care for a coral cactus.
This succulent thrives in bright light. To encourage optimal growth, choose a location that receives several hours of direct light when growing the coral cactus indoors. If you want to grow your coral cactus outside in direct sunlight, choose a partially shaded location. To avoid lopsided growth, rotate your plant on a regular basis (if growing it in containers). This is the #1 tip on How to Care for a Coral Cactus.
To avoid overwatering and waterlogging, use a light, well-draining soil mix amended with plenty of perlite and sand. Cactus and succulent soil is specifically designed for these plants and provides plenty of drainages, but you can also make your own at home if you prefer. Combine equal parts potting soil, perlite, and sand. This is the #2 tip on How to Care for a Coral Cactus.
The coral cactus is not as drought-tolerant as some of its Euphorbia family relatives. It does best when watered once the top 2 to 4 inches of soil is dry. Don’t worry if you forget to water it now and then; it can recover from minor droughts. This is the #3 tip on How to Care for a Coral Cactus.
4. Humidity and temperature
This Euphorbia prefer warm, dry conditions, making it ideal for indoor cultivation. However, it can also be grown outside year-round in USDA zones 10 to 11. For growers in colder climates, this succulent can be grown outdoors in the spring and summer and then brought indoors during the chilly fall and winter. To avoid putting the coral cactus into shock, avoid exposing it to temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). This is the #4 tip on How to Care for a Coral Cactus.
Although the coral cactus is not a heavy feeder, it can benefit from light fertilization in the spring and summer. Apply a cactus and succulent fertilizer once a month until the fall, then discontinue applications until the following spring. This is the #5 tip on How to Care for a Coral Cactus.
Grafting a Coral Cactus
You’ll need a Euphorbia neriifolia plant and a Euphorbia lactea plant to graft your own Coral Cactus. Follow the steps below:
- Cut a V-shaped slit at the base of the Euphorbia lactea crest. Check that the cut curves outward.
- Cut the rootstock of Euphorbia neriifolia in a V shape. The cut should be inwardly curved.
- Align the two sections so that they fit snugly together. Apply grafting wax to the joint. (This prevents the plant from becoming too dry.)
- Tie twine around the plant to keep the pieces together while it heals.
The graft should be completely healed in two to three weeks. If this is the case, re-wax the plant joint and replace the rope. Take care not to disturb the plant while re-waxing it.
Your Coral Cactus graft will sprout new growths. Remove them, let them dry for a few weeks, and then pot them. Sow the saplings. If you’re lucky, they’ll form crests on their own.
Problems and Precautions
Although the Coral Cactus has its charms, many people are offended by its toxicity. Planting Euphorbia lactea Crest in certain areas may endanger local ecosystems. If the plant comes into contact with the eyes or skin, it can cause eye irritation, dermatitis, or temporary blindness, as well as vomiting or nausea.
Coral Cactus Potting and Repotting
Because these plants are grafted, they rarely (if ever) outgrow their pots. However, repotting them every few years to provide the plant with fresh soil and to upsize the pot if necessary is still a good idea. Repotting should be done during the spring or summer months, when the plant is actively growing, to avoid shock. This is the #1 tip on How to Care for a Coral Cactus.
How to Grow Coral Cactus: Follow These Easy Steps
It is simple to find grafted Crested Coral Cactus. If you want to make your own, follow these steps:
- Get Euphorbia lactea and Euphorbia neriifolia plants.
- Cut an outward curving V-shape in the Euphorbia lactea crest and a corresponding V-shape in the Euphorbia neriifolia rootstock.
- Place the two sections firmly together and apply grafting wax to the entire outer area where the plants join.
- This will help to keep the injured tissues from drying out.
- When the grafting wax has dried, wrap rope or twine around the outside and tie it together to keep the pieces together.
- If the plants are compatible, the wounds should heal quickly, and the plants should graft within a few weeks.
- Remove the twine and wax once the plant appears healthy.
- Don’t be too hasty with this.
- If the graft is incomplete, the tissues may be damaged, resulting in a major setback.
Common Plant Pests and Diseases
Scale, mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids are common houseplant pests that can reside on this Euphorbia. If you notice pests on your plant, immediately isolate it from the rest of your plants and remove any pests you see with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab. To treat more serious infestations, you can also use neem oil or insecticides. In addition to these common pests, coral cacti are susceptible to root rot, usually caused by overwatering.
This is the end of this post which is about how to care for a coral cactus. I hope you like it.
FAQs (How to Care for a Coral Cactus)
Q1. Why are my coral cactus’ branches and leaves growing?
It is not uncommon for your coral cactus to begin growing new branches and leaves from the plant’s bottom stem if you have had it for a long time. This is a natural progression of the growth of the rootstock of the coral cactus Euphorbia neriifolia. While it may alter the overall appearance of your coral cactus, it is an indication that the plant is content and growing well. If you don’t like how it looks, you can always cut the branches off with a sharp pair of pruning shears or scissors.
Q2. How large can a coral cactus grow?
These grafted plants rarely reach a height of more than 1 to 2 feet. While the grafting process successfully combines two separate plants into one, neither plant will grow to its full potential once grafted together. As a result, the coral cactus is frequently more of a decorative plant than a plant that can be watched grow over time.