Updated: Sep 11, 2022
Pencil Cacti is a simple and low maintenance cacti, but without the painful thrones. Their unique shape and vibrant colors make this houseplant a must have!
Botanical Name: Euphorbia tirucalli
Common Name: Pencil Cactus, Pencil Tree, Sticks on Fire, Firesticks
This plant needs as much sun as you can give it. Direct sun will allow Pencil Cacti to thrive and enhance their color. If you have the red tipped variety, these need direct sunlight to keep their red tips otherwise it will fade to their yellow/green color. These can survive just fun without direct sunlight but just know they may grow slower, may become more leggy and color will fade.
Since it is a succulent variety, you need to allow it to dry out before watering again. This is a great plant for someone that may forget to water since they are so resilient to drought-like conditions.
Humidity is not something you need to worry about with these plants since they thrive in very dry environments.
As I always say, there are LOTS of ways to fertilize plants. Unless you are extremely over-fertilizing your plant, there isn't necessarily a wrong way to do this. I currently use Fox Farm's Grow Big Liquid Fertilizer and I normally fertilize every 2 weeks (when I water my plants), and when I start to see new foliage producing. I stop fertilizing when I see foliage production reduced in fall or winter. For Pencil Cacti specifically, I fertilizer about every month or so since these are not heavy feeders. They do benefit from fertilizer during their active growing season but they need less than the average houseplant.
There are MANY ways to fertilize and it is completely up to you! There are tons of products out there you can try but an overall rule of thumb for houseplants is that it is best to under-fertilize, rather than over-fertilize. Always use the recommended amount, or less, when applying your fertilizer to houseplants.
Taking stem cuttings is the best way to propagate a Pencil Cactus. Like most succulents, I would recommend you let the cut part of the stem callus over before planting in potting mix. That can take up to a week. After it's callused over, place it in potting mix. Keep it at medium moisture to help root growth and place in a bright window.
Part of the Euphorbiaceae family.
Native to Africa and India.
In nature, these plants can grow upwards of 30ft but as a houseplant you don't usually see them any larger than 3ft.
I've seen these sold at garden centers in small, 4" planters (which is the size I have) or even larger plants sold in 10" planters as well! If you are looking for a well established Pencil Cactus, you may be able to find one! Here in the Wisconsin, Stein's usually carries them frequently in ranging sizes.
When Pencil Cacti are young, they have some small leaves but as they mature, those will disappear.
Pencil Cacti are toxic to pets and humans. When you are trimming this plant be careful of the sap because it can cause irritation. If you are interested in learning about more pet friendly plants, check out Podcast Ep#31 for more info or the corresponding blog post!
I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for the Pencil Cactus...
"What makes it grow the way it does...so pencil like?"
These are called Pencil Cactus simply because their growth has a similar space and width as a pencil does.
"How much sunlight does it need? Does it do better indoors or outdoors?"
If you can give this direct sunlight, that would be ideal. Outdoors in direct sunlight will provide the most dense growth and brightest colors. They do great indoors as well but may not be able to produce the same brilliant colors.
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Always written with extreme plant passion!
Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)