Pencil cactus is also called Euphorbia tirucalli and Milkbush plant. It has long upward growing pencil-like stems. If you like to have succulents in your indoor plant collection. Then you must grow this plant indoors. Pencil cactus care is easy for even beginner growers.

It produces brilliant orange and pink stem tips. This extraordinary cactus needs indirect bright light, moderate water, and occasional fertilizing to grow strong. Do not grow it outdoors because it cannot survive in too hot or cold weather.

About the plant

The pencil cactus plant is a moderate grower. In ideal growing conditions, it can grow up to 30 feet. To gain its maximum height you need to grow it outside. In containers, it only grows 4 to 6 feet tall depending on the size of the container.

Keep in your mind that when you break or squeeze the stems. This plant release milk-like liquid. Which is not milk at all it is toxic to humans and pets.

If you have children at home keep it out of their reach. Because ingesting the milky liquid can cause stomach and throat problems. Skin irritation, sore throat, and stomach pain are few common symptoms.

It is advised to wear gloves while trimming the plant. I also wear safety glasses with latex gloves.

Light Needs

In their natural place, pencil cactus plants grow in direct sun rays. This means when you grow one of them indoors you need to give the same growing conditions.

Find a sunny spot in your home and place the plant pot there. Do not use grow lights to grow pencil cactus. Because it needs direct sunlight and sunlight is free for all. Therefore, no need to spend money on artificial grow lights.

Moreover, these lights also consume electric power and will increase your electric bill.

Put it on the sunny window sill and have a green and vibrant pencil cactus shrub at home. In low light condition, this plant show stretchy growth. And do not produce vibrant green pencil-shaped stems. Low light is the main cause of Euphorbia tirucalli plant death.

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Potting Soil

For best pencil cactus care use soil that is specially made for succulents and cacti. Because this type of soil has everything that a cactus plant needs to grow. The manufacturers mix succulent and cactus fertilizers in the soil. By using it you do not have to worry about the nutrients.

Never use your garden soil with sand or any other ingredient for growing cacti and succulents. The garden soil always becomes compacted when watered. If accidentally overwatered then root fungus is sure to occur.

So, to avoid all the soil-related problems always use special cactus soil for growing cactus plants. Some people advise using regular potting soil. But I am against it because the regular potting soil also becomes compacted for pencil cacti plants. This cactus plant needs a good flow of fresh air.

Which can be only delivered by using lightweight well-draining cactus and succulent soil.


You will be relaxed to know that this plant does not need much water. It has the ability to store a good amount of water in its pencil stems.

This means you do not need to worry about watering pencil cactus.

For good pencil cactus care, water it only once in 2 weeks in the summer season and once in 40 days in winter. Also, check the soil condition before watering it in the winter months.

Remember that overwatering can cause root rot in just one day. The roots of this plant are soft and like to live in less moisture. An extra cup of water can damage the root ball and results in the death of the plant.

Note: For good care of your pencil cactus plant learn the watering techniques. The water you use for watering has to be filtered water or treated water. It should not contain heavy minerals they can damage the plant roots permanently.

Temperature & Humidity

Your cactus pencil is native to INDIA, which means it needs warm weather. So, you have to keep the room temperature above 65 degrees F. If it drops below this point the plant will start suffocating in the room.

As long as humidity is concerned you do not need to worry about it. The general room humidity in our country (USA) is good for pencil cactus care and propagation.

But if you feel your home humidity is low you can use the pebble tray method. For this plant, you will not need to use the room humidifier.

Also grouping the plants will solve your problem.


If you are using soil made for succulents and cacti you do not need to buy extra fertilizers. This soil contains all the essential nutrients that are required for caring pencil cactus.

And if you do not use special soil then you need to buy fertilizers and give them to your plants.

The general guidelines are fertilizing pencil cactus once in 30 days with a slow-releasing nutrient supplement.

Buy a special succulent and cactus fertilizer that has some type of organic material in it. Then dilute the required quantity with water and pour it directly to the base of the plant.

Do not spray nutrient-rich water on plant stems. This will result in stem fungus and you will face a new problem.


For 2 to 3 years grow this plant without worrying about the repotting. This is a slow-growing plant when grown in containers. Terra cotta will be the best pot for repotting it.

Once you see the roots on the top surface of the soil then you need to repot it in the new pot.

When repotting inspect the root ball. If you see any damage then take sharp shears and cut the damaged part. This will save your plant roots from further decaying and also save your plant from dying due to root damage.

The new pot must have one or more draining holes at the bottom. This is required for draining the extra from the potting soil.

Pencil cactus toxicity

Euphorbia tirucalli aka Milkbush is toxic to dogs, cats, horses, and humans. The sap of the plant has toxic juice. The white latex that comes out when you cut the stem is a toxic material.

It can cause sore throat, stomach pain, vomiting, skin irritation, etc.

In case of these symptoms call the doctor immediately.

Pencil cactus propagation

To propagate the pencil cactus, you should cut the healthy stem of the plant. Then let the cutting dry and drain the white milk-like substance.

Then use a soilless growing medium and plant the cutting in it. Spray water to keep the growing medium moist and put it in warm weather.

Before taking the cutting, wear safety glasses and gloves. This will help you to stay protected from the toxic effects of white milk. Also, make sure that you should not touch your eyes while making the cut or after making the cut.

You can also use water to propagate pencil cactus. Take a glass of water, dry the cutting, and put it in the glass. Change the water once in 7 days or when it gets unclear. Within few days your stem cutting will develop white roots.

Then you can transfer the cutting to the final pot.


If you want an extraordinary eye-catching cactus plant then pencil cactus is the answer. You must keep it away from the reach of your pets and children.

Always wear protective gloves and eyeglasses before cutting the stem for propagation.

Water it less to grow it successfully. Pencil cactus care guide ends here for more questions contact us anytime.


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