How to Take Care of a Coral Cactus and Grow Them Properly

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Gardeners know it as the Euphorbia Lactea.

You may know it as the coral cactus.

We think it’s more of a MUTANT. (It literally is)

This plant is so unique in appearance that it struggles to go unnoticed, wherever it is.

You could say it is a combination of a cactus with an out-of-water coral. 

And it’s GORGEOUS! 

If you’re looking to pump up your garden or bring a cool plant indoors, you may find this one a perfect choice.

Growing and taking care can be a bit confusing, though. That’s why we decided to make it easy with our guide below. Check it out!

What is a Coral Cactus?

Coral Cactus

First, let’s give you a heads-up…

The coral cactus scientific name is Euphorbia Lactea, the casual name is Dragon Bones Tree, and many people also call it the Mottled Spurge.

Regardless of how it’s called, you can notice all its names are weird. And it’s not a surprise.

The plant originated in a greenhouse from a combination of a succulent with another succulent. Now, it’s become a completely full-fleshed species (and a weird one at that!).

Believe it or not, this is a combination you can experiment with (and will have to in case you want to grow the plant).

Is that sufficiently weird for you? If not, check its appearance. 

As you can notice from the picture above shows branches like a succulent, but the leaf looks like a cactus. It has colors ranging from purple and white to red, pink, and green (sometimes even yellow). And what’s even stranger, it also has spines.

Still, like most succulents and cacti, it loves desertic environments. Native to Africa and Asia, it requires slightly dry settings to thrive. And for that reason, it’s generally a no-brainer to grow and care for.

Now, how big does a coral cactus get? 

When thriving, they can grow as tall as 20 inches (or a bit more). The coral cactus lifespan goes anywhere from a few years to several decades, so it may take a few years to reach that height. 

The surprising part, however, is that coral cactus is poisonous to cats. It produces a sap called “latex” that could produce severe dermatitis and other skin problems. For pets and children, it is fatally dangerous.  

And lastly, it produces blooms every few years or so. But it may have none in harmful conditions. 

Coral Cactus Plant Needs 

Coral Cactus Plant

What are bad conditions for the coral cactus, then? We could say the opposite of these:

Space and Potting

As a succulent, this plant thrives in almost any space. You could plant it out in the garden without problems. And it could also work in a pot.

The plant doesn’t require more than a few inches of living. Like a succulent, it also thrives in small spaces, so there’s not much to worry about.

Just be careful, as a succulent, it requires well-drained pots. In case you decide to grow it indoors, make sure the pot doesn’t accumulate much water. 

Water and Humidity 

How much irrigation does the coral cactus need? 

As a safe amount, it should be watered only when it’s ALMOST dry. That typically means every 1 to 2 days. 

It’s important to not overwater, though. While it actually likes a bit of humidity, having too much can cause rapid root rot. Like most succulents, it prefers dry soil over humid.

Soil and Fertilizer

The coral cactus plant requires well-drained soil then. To ensure low humidity and zero diseases, this soil needs to be sandy but well-fertilized.

In case you can use cactus or succulent soil, then go for it. That’s a great alternative. Add some mulch or gravel to the starting mix if you want.

As for fertilizer, you don’t need much. A slow-release fertilizer every month should suffice. If you fertilize it less than that, the plant wouldn’t mind either. 

Light and Air

It is not a mistake when we say it requires as much sun as you can provide it.

If you live in a sunny area, leaving it outside for at least 8 hours should be the way to go. Growing it indoors may not give these conditions, so it’s worth giving at least 6 hours of sun exposure.

As a minimum, let it receive 4 hours. Anything less than that will probably kill the plant over time.

Like a succulent, luckily, it thrives regardless of ventilation. But it’s worth giving it some airflow, especially in humid areas (this prevents mildew). 

Temperature and Environment

So, does it need a warm environment like other succulents? You guessed right.

Anything lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit could cause trouble with the plant. For the best experience, keep it between 70 and 80 degrees.

It thrives outdoors, around other similar plants, rocks, and in sandy environments. Yet, you can also grow it indoors, given you pick quality soil and a well-draining pot. 

How to Take Care of a Coral Cactus 

Take Care of a Coral Cactus

You won’t have to do much to care for coral cactus.

The plant thrives pretty much anywhere as long as you can ensure a decent environment. This includes all the requirements above. 

But if you want it to live a long time and BLOOM when it’s time, follow these tips:

Water as Perfectly as Possible

The most important part of taking care of a coral cactus is watering.

You CAN’T water too much. If you do, it starts to degrade rapidly. Once it develops root rot, there’s no way back.

That’s why you should water only once a week in humid seasons (fall and winter). In rainy seasons, you shouldn’t water at all.

In summer and spring, you should only water once every 2 or 3 days. More than that could cause trouble. 

If possible, only water 1 inch per session. And before watering, make sure the soil is not humid already. Otherwise, you’d be promoting overwatering (YOU DON’T WANT THAT!).

Keep it Fertilized

While succulents don’t often need fertilization, the coral cactus will actually like it.

The plant prefers slow-release fertilizer, as it is not a heavy feeder. And for that reason, you may also want to only drop fertilizer once a month or less. Some compost may also help every few months. 

For the choice of food, try to pick something rich in nitrogen. That’s the nutrient this plant prefers. 

Prune Consistently (Without Fault)

When you look at the plant, you will notice that pruning won’t be easy.

How does anyone prune a cactus-like succulent like this?

Well, it’s easy. 

You only need to remove the dead parts and those sections of the branches that look sick.

Whenever the vibrancy disappears from the leaves, then it’s time to get rid of them.

Why should you prune? Well, these sick sections tend to consume nutrients. Getting rid of them promotes faster growth of the healthy parts. And more importantly, it prevents unhealthy parts from spreading. 

So, you may want to prune every time the plant develops something you don’t

Control Pests

A succulent this weird shouldn’t have many pests, right?

You’ll be surprised!

Bugs going from white mealybugs to bumpy brown scales tend to attack this plant crazily. Due to the “toxic” sap it has, the plant is actually a dessert for some insects.

Growing indoors, the plant is unlikely to catch any bugs. But if you decide to grow it outdoors – be careful.

It’s worth checking for signs of insect damage at least once every month. If you find insects, then getting them off with a cotton swab and alcohol should be easy. 

Avoid insecticides and soaps. They are damaging to the plant. 

Prevent its Common Diseases

If you see coral cactus brown spots, that’s a sign of powdery mildew. Another reason could be fungal rot that happens from overly cold environments (which is not suitable for a succulent like this). 

You’ll want to keep the plant as dry as possible, away from other sick plants, and under the sun for most of the day. When it’s healthy, it’s unlikely to catch diseases – so that’s what you want to ensure.

How to Grow Coral Cactus Properly

How to Grow Coral Cactus

As for growing, you will have to follow a few steps, but nothing out of the extraordinary.

The coral cactus pretty much grows by itself once you give it a proper environment and soil to grow on.

Here’s how to make that happen:

Prepare the Cuttings

You can start with either a cutting or a seedling. Either way, you’ll have to prepare it.

But unlike many other plants – this one is not as easy as getting the seedling and planting.

Instead, you’ll need one Euphorbia lacteal and one Euphorbia neriifolia. 

The “neriifolia” will work as the basal plant. Meaning it will go directly into the soil. The “lacteal” is the weird alien-like part that goes on top. 

You’ll have to cut a part of each of these succulents. For the neriifolia, you’ll need an entire stem. And for the lacteal, you’ll need a branch (preferably one that can be inserted inside the nerifolia).

Once you have them together, cut a V-shaped section on the Euphorbia neriifolia and then cut a V-shaped form in the lacteal that fits on the cut from the neriifolia. 

This should keep them together nicely. Then you can proceed to plant them.

Ready Up the Soil

if you can get a cactus or a succulent soil mix – that’s enough.

Otherwise, try to prepare a sandy or light soil mix with some compost. You can also add a bit of slow-release fertilizer for an extra touch of nutrients.

Set the Pot or Garden

With the soil ready, you can proceed to pour it into the pot or garden as necessary. For the pot, make sure to open draining holes first (if it doesn’t have any).

Otherwise, just prepare the soil in the planting area. It should be enough to cover at least a couple of inches from the bottom of the plant. 

Plant the Coral Cactus

Once done with the pot or garden, then set the weird mutant in.

No need to prepare much. Just insert the neriifolia a few inches into the soil. That should get the job done.

You may want to compact the soil a little after, just in case. This could prevent the plant from falling (if the soil is too loose or the portion on top is too heavy).

Let the Plant Grow

As you can see, there’s not much more to do. Once you plant, it’s just about leaving the succulents to grow.

It’s essential to know the plant doesn’t require any water right away. In fact, letting the plant get accustomed to the new soil is helpful. And this means not irrigating for a few days.

Then, start watering every couple of days and wait for the plant to grow. After a few months, it should look like this:

Coral Cactus Growing

Get that Coral Cactus Growing!

So, feel like a coral cactus could be an excellent addition to your garden or indoor decoration?

Then don’t hesitate and grow it right now!

With our advice on caring for it and how to start it, you shouldn’t have any excuse.

Once you see how beautiful that plant can grow… You won’t regret the effort.

So, what are you waiting for?

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