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The euphorbia genus has several hundred species, most hybrids and cultivars cultivated by enthusiasts, widespread in nature in a large part of the globe, especially in Africa and South America; there are euphorbias of all kinds, some are lively shrubs also common in the Mediterranean scrub, others are large, well-branched shrubs widespread in Mexico, such as poinsettias, others still look like large cacti, reminiscent of the large cacti of American deserts. Between euphorbia succulents, in particular, there are species with a bizarre and peculiar appearance, not very widespread in cultivation, but much loved by the lovers.
Generally when talking about euphorbia succulent, one immediately thinks of euphorbia trigona or euphorbia ingens, that is to say those euphorbias often confused with cacti, with an erect, little ramified, triangular or quadrangular section, with ribs bristling with thorns.
In reality, the species of succulent spurge are almost a thousand, and include shapes of all types and sizes.
Some are tiny, others form large colonies of cylindrical stems, some are completely without thorns, others are almost entirely covered.
The strangest euphorbias: the euphorbia tirucalli
Among the euphorbias of particular shape surely the euphorbia tirucalli occupies a predominant place; it is a succulent form of euphorbia, which produces large, very singular shrubs, in fact it develops thin, cylindrical, very branched stems, which give rise to large colonies of strange clear and thin stems, similar to hypertrophied mistletoe. Small leaves grow on light green stems, but only when the climate is particularly mild, fresh and not dry. These euphorbias have African origins, but are widespread in most countries with a dry climate, even in Asia and in South America.
They are very well adapted plants to particularly severe climates, where few other plants would resist, as happens in the African savannah, where for many months a year the rains are only a memory.
Euphorbia horrida and other spiny euphorbias
There are dozens of species of succulent euphorbias that develop squat, cylindrical, green-tipped apex stems, very similar to cacti, often with evident ribs, provided with sharp spines. Often in the euphorbia the thorns have a different color than the stem of the plant, red, brown or black, which makes them very evident. Many of these species of euphorbia produce large clumps over time, which spread out on the ground like ground cover plants.
They are very long-lived plants, with few crop needs, and also very pleasant in appearance, especially the species with colored spines; further particularity of these euphorbias lies in the fact that they often produce floral petioles identical to thorns, at the apex of the stems, on which the particular inflorescences of euphorbias, ciazi, bloom. Therefore a rather particular effect is obtained, because the plant has flowers at the apex of the spines.
There are some species, such as euphorbia flanagani and euphorbia caput-medusae, which produce a flat central body, with a gibbous aspect, from which numerous small stems branch out, which make the plants similar to the head of Medusa, with a thousand small snakes.
Euphorbia obesa is a typical example, there are some euphorbias that have an almost spherical body, or a squat cylinder, just like many cacti.
Grow succulent euphorbias
Our journey through the euphorbias of particular shapes could go on and on, given the number of species; all these plants have similar cultivation needs, having adapted to living in areas with an arid climate. So they love very loose and not particularly fertile soils, they prefer bright locations, possibly sunny or semi-shaded.
They need regular watering in the warm months, while they prefer less water with lowering temperatures: the more they are cultivated in the cold, the less watering is required.
In general we tend to water the plants only when the soil is well dry, so in July they could need almost daily watering, while in October a watering a week can be enough.
These plants don't like frost, and they don't tolerate temperatures below 4-5 ° C, in winter they should therefore be grown under shelter, or in a slightly heated stairwell, or in a cold greenhouse if we have one, or on the terrace, in a sunny position. , where they do not receive rain water.
Usually they are fairly slow-growing plants, so they do not need frequent repotting; quite small containers are used, with a soil consisting of little peat, mixed with sand, pozzolana, pumice stone, in short, any inconsistent substrate.
The fertilizations are practiced in the vegetative period, between April and September, using a specific fertilizer for succulent plants, poor in nitrogen and rich in potassium.