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Coral Cactus, or also known as Euphorbia lactea Cristata, is an incredibly unique succulent. It pretty much looks like a large coral reef with a green thick stem and crinkled cabbage-like leaves, which come in either purple, green, ruby, white, or yellow color edges and can only reach up to 2 feet tall when grown in a container.
Furthermore, this quirky-looking plant is very easy to care for and can survive relatively long without water. So if you are a busy office worker who tends to forget to water their plants or just someone who loves going on a week-long vacation trip, then this is definitely the perfect plant for you! Plus, with proper care, Coral Cactus can be exceptionally beautiful, which can bring a “wow” effect to just any garden.
Read on to find out all you need to know how to care for this unusual beauty.
Is Coral Cactus a cactus?
No, Coral Cactus is not really a cactus but is actually two succulents joined together to create one beautiful coral-looking plant, which has a lot of names, like candelabra plant, the crested candelabra plant, crested euphorbia, and crested elkhorn.
Like most succulents, Coral Cactus requires large amounts of sunlight but should not be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods, as it can damage the leaves and branches, especially during the intense heat of the day.
Although Coral Cactus can be grown in full sun conditions outdoors, it is still best to place it where it can get partial sunlight and shade, as the harsh afternoon sunlight may cause sunburn to the plant. But when grown indoors, choose a place where the plant can get at least 3 to 5 hours of good sunlight per day, like a south-facing window.
Also, it’s important to turn your Coral Cactus regularly. This will make sure all its sides will get an equal amount of sunlight, as it tends to grow lopsided when it only receives sunlight on one side.
When it comes to watering, Coral Cactus is a little trickier compared to most succulents and cacti. It requires a dense amount of water in small doses, as unlike cactus, this plant doesn't tolerate drought, and at the same time, root rot problems will most likely develop under soggy conditions.
To prevent drowning your Coral Cactus and help discourage root rot due to excessive watering, always check the moisture of the soil first before giving it a good soak of water. If the top 2 to 4 inches of the soil feels dry, then the plant is probably thirsty. Water the soil, but not the plant directly, until water runs out of the pot’s base.
The ideal temperature to grow the Coral Cactus plant is in an average indoor temperature, which is between 60-85 degrees. So if you are located in zones 10 to 11, you can grow this plant worry-free outdoors year-round.
However, if you live in a region where the temperature tends to drop 50 degrees, growing Coral Cactus in a pot or container, where it can easily be carried inside your home when the cold season arrives or leaving it indoors year-round is highly recommended.
Just like with all succulents, Coral Cactus hates sitting in the wet for too long. Therefore, well-draining soil is a must, whether planting it in the ground or a container. You can either buy a succulent or cactus soil or make your own by blending standard potting soil, perlite, and coarse sand.
As for the pot or container, make sure to choose one with good drainage, as this would help dry out the soil of your Coral Cactus quickly, preventing it from being overwatered.
The best time to propagate your Coral Cactus is when the plant is actively growing, which usually happen during Summer. However, do note that the process can be quite a challenge, as the plant has a milky-white sap-like substance that are toxic to some people, as well as to animals.
If you still want to try propagating your Coral Cactus, make sure to take proper precautions by wearing a protective eyewear and gloves, and follow the steps below:
Also, it is best to place your cuttings in a warm location. This will help the roots establish quicker under warm conditions and would usually take a couple of weeks for rooting to be complete.
While Coral Cactus is not as spiny as a regular cactus would be, there’s still a possibility for accidents. Keep in mind that all parts of this plant are poisonous and should not be ingested by humans or animals. So always use gloves and/or goggles when handling this plant as it produces a sap that may cause eye and skin irritation. Also, make sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets.
Although Coral Cactus is known to be immune to a lot of pests, due to its latex that tends to be a deterrent. There are still a few which might infect your plant, like mealybugs and scale insects, which can easily be removed by using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Spider mites may also strike your Coral Cactus. Remove them and their eggs by using a firm spray of water, and allow the plant to thoroughly dry on the surface.
While very rare, powdery mildew may still occur if your plant is placed in humid conditions with not enough airflow. So it is best to avoid putting your plant under these conditions to prevent them from getting powdery mildew, as some fungicides may damage the leaves of your Coral Cactus.
In case your plant is already infected by powdery mildew, dilute one tablespoon of baking soda in a gallon of water and use it to treat your plant's surfaces.
Root rot will most likely happen if you leave the soil of your plant too wet. To avoid this, it is highly recommended to use a cactus potting mix and no matter what, DO NOT overwater, as the damage is usually quite pronounced before it will even show any signs, making it almost impossible to save.
Fungal rots may also occur on the leaves of your Coral Cactus if it’s been damaged by cold. This usually shows as browned and mushy parts of the leaves and can only be treated by cutting off the severely damaged portions at the edges.
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