Euphorbia ingens

candelabra tree
Cactus-like, candelabra-shaped succulent spurge can become grand and tree-like with age. Great in a pot.
Euphorbia ingensEuphorbia ingensEuphorbia ingensEuphorbia ingensEuphorbia ingens
height 10–15ft
width 10–15ft
tolerates Drought, Deer , Gophers, Heat, Pots, Rooftops, Neglect, Wind
Columnar euphorbias are very drought tolerant but will grow faster if they receive some summer water, usually every couple weeks to a month once established (let the plant dry out between waterings). If you aren’t getting summer growth you may be underwatering. These plants prefer a dry winter; outdoors in central California, they won’t need supplemental winter water once established.
exposure Part Shade – Full Sun
origin S Africa
13, 16, 17, 19–24

Sunset Zones Map

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.


Growing Notes

Columnar euphorbias can get surprisingly large, so be sure to note the size, and place your plant accordingly.
They respond well to pruning. They will look scarred for a while, but then will push new growth wherever they are pruned, often giving you several new growth points. Take care when pruning, as euphorbias have toxic sap that can cause a skin rash or damage to the eyes (make sure to rinse repeatedly with water if sap gets anywhere near your eyes).
They like a warm sunny exposure but do surprisingly well in shady areas as long as they aren’t given extra water during winter.
As columnar euphorbias grow they will transition from colorful and smooth new growth to dull, brown and rough older growth. This is called corking, and it is totally natural. Think of this like an oak tree where the new shoots are shiny and green, but then eventually you get a trunk covered in rough dull bark.
Soft dark brown spots on Euphorbia are usually a sign of rot. Carve these spots out with a sterile knife immediately (carve all the way back to healthy-looking tissue). Rot usually results from overwatering, but it can also be caused by drastic under-watering. Occasionally this will start at the base of the plant, which means the roots have rotted. If you’d like to save the plant you’ll need to remove the top above the rotten base, let the top sit for two weeks in a shady spot, and then replant in very sharp-draining soil. Place the cutting in a warm spot to re-root, preferably not in harsh sun.

Special Interest

In the movie ‘The Gods Must be Crazy,‘ a villain hides under a columnar euphorbia, only to be outwitted when his pursuer shoots the plant, pouring down toxic sap all over him. Clearly the screenwriter knew their plants!

These plants are often confused with columnar cactus because, through convergent evolution, they have adapted into a similar form. However, euphorbias are not closely related to cactus. In fact they’re more closely related to the holiday poinsettia. Some notable differences are euphorbia’s latex sap, insignificant flowers, tiny little leaves when in growth, and thorns instead of spines to protect themselves.

More Info

This plant also makes a great houseplant and easily transitions to a sunny warm room.
The impressive habitat picture of this tree was taken by our staff member Tyson Curtis on a trip to Africa. The aloe is Aloe excelsa.