SAINTS WITH THORNS

AS WELL AS PRO­DUC­ING BEAU­TI­FUL FLOW­ERS, EUPHORBIA MILII REP­RE­SENTS EIGHT SAINTS WITH POS­I­TIVE FORCES

Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­[email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au GREEN THUMB WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN

One of the eas­i­est flow­er­ing pot­ted plants to care for would have to be euphorbia milii, 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. Euphorbia milii grows quite slowly, and rarely reaches a me­tre in height. Look closely at this plant and you’ll see it has many in­ter­est­ing fea­tures. Its grey-brown stems are not round but have 5-7 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. It is very pop­u­lar in Thai­land where it is 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. Th­ese plants need a well-drained, warm po­si­tion in full sun. They look great in a pot and can live quite hap­pily in one for sev­eral years since they don’t grow too quickly or too tall. Use a pre­mium pot­ting mix or one for­mu­lated for cac­tuses and suc­cu­lents and make ab­so­lutely sure that the pot can drain freely. If in doubt, add some ex­tra holes to the bot­tom of your pot. 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. Once your crown of thorns is es­tab­lished, you won’t have to wa­ter often. In­deed you should al­low the top few cen­time­tres of soil to dry out be­tween wa­ter­ings. Th­ese plants are drought tol­er­ant and it is im­por­tant not to over wa­ter them, par­tic­u­larly in cool weather. They ap­pre­ci­ate a slow re­lease fer­tiliser in spring and late sum­mer. They are rel­a­tively free of pests and dis­eases. Most prob­lems are caused by too much wa­ter and/or in­ad­e­quate drainage. Keep them on the dry side, in plenty of sun, and you’ll be re­warded with a lovely dis­play year-round.

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