All About the Firestick Plant

By Tammie Jo , last updated February 7, 2011

The firestick plant is known by many other names, including firestick cactus, pencil cactus, milkbush, crown of thorns, and its Latin name, Euphorbia tirucalli. If you’re considering growing the firestick plant in your garden, here are some essential tips.

Like all Euphorbias, firestick produces a milky latex sap that is, but the sap of the firestick plant can be deadly. Some people may find their skin is burning and irritated after touching the liquid, but if you are unfortunate enough to be allergic to the latex produced by the firestick plant, it could cause you to go into anaphylactic shock. Without treatment, anaphylactic shock is fatal.

It is contact with the sap, and not the outer portions of the plant, that can be dangerous. However, gardeners with pets and small children may want to leave the firestick plant out of their landscape.

The firestick plant grows best in full sun, in soil sandy soil that is suitable for cactus and it is recommended for outdoor growing in zones 10 to 13. In colder zones, it can be grown as a houseplant. Indoors, the firestick plant does best when placed in a sunny window and watered only when the soil dries out. It develops pale pink blossoms at the top of each leafless fleshy branch and can reach up to 30 feet tall in its natural environment.

The firestick cactus doesn’t require much pruning, but dead or unwieldy branches must occasionally be removed. Wear gloves, safety glasses, a head covering, long sleeves and long pants when handling the clippings of the firestick cactus. Take care not to touch your eyes, mouth or nose until you’ve removed your protective gear and washed your hands.

If you do feel any irritation or burning on your skin after handling the firestick plant, seek medical help immediately.

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