EUPHORBIA EU­PHO­RIA

IT CAN BE THE CROWN­ING GLORY OF YOUR WINTER GAR­DEN TO BRIGHTEN UP ANY SUNNY SPOT AND LOVES LIFE IN A POT

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - WEEKEND - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MAREE CUR­RAN Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email maree@ede­nat­by­ron.com.au

The mem­bers of the euphorbia fam­ily are among the stars in the winter gar­den. We’ve all been ad­mir­ing the bril­liant red poin­set­tias and the white snowflakes that have been putting on such a great show for the past few weeks.

An­other euphorbia, prob­a­bly less well known but just as stun­ning, is the euphorbia mil­lii, or crown of thorns. This plant from Mada­gas­car is a suc­cu­lent, with stems adapted for water stor­age.

It has vi­cious look­ing thorns on the stems and branches, and flow­ers pro­fusely for most of the year. Colours range from white through pas­tel yel­lows and pinks to vi­brant reds.

The grey-brown stems are not round but have five to seven sides and many prom­i­nent grey thorns a cou­ple of cen­time­tres long. The leaves are smooth and oval shaped, and range in colour from bright green to grey­ish green.

Euphorbia mil­lii are very pop­u­lar in Thai­land, where they are known as “poy­sean” (Chinese for eight saints), since the orig­i­nal forms typ­i­cally have eight flow­ers in each bunch.

The eight saints each rep­re­sent a dif­fer­ent force – health, brav­ery, riches, beauty, art, in­tel­li­gence, po­etry and abil­ity to over­come evil. Poy­sean plants are be­lieved to help bring these pos­i­tive forces to the home and its oc­cu­pants.

Per­haps be­cause of the pop­u­lar­ity of this plant in Thai­land, thou­sands of hy­brids have been de­vel­oped there. The Thai hy­brids tend to have larger flow­ers, thicker stems and a more up­right and com­pact form.

Euphorbia mil­lii need a well-drained, warm spot in full sun. They look great in a pot and can live in one for sev­eral years. Use pre­mium pot­ting mix or one for­mu­lated for cacti and suc­cu­lents and make ab­so­lutely sure the pot can drain freely.

If the pot has a saucer, be sure to tip out ex­cess water, and don’t let the plant sit in water for any length of time.

These plants are drought tol­er­ant and it is im­por­tant not to over-water them, par­tic­u­larly in cool weather. In­deed you should al­low the top few cen­time­tres of soil to dry out be­tween wa­ter­ings.

Euphorbia mil­lii are not both­ered by many pests or diseases. Most prob­lems are caused by too much water and/or in­ad­e­quate drainage.

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