In the countless variates in the cacti family, if something has a pet name that includes “monster” in it, it definitely tells a lot. Recently, we went over a few quite rare species here, so this is the last addition to that list. Coral Cactus is another crested version of a common species, but with enough care and some luck, it can easily bring that “wow” effect every gardener goes for in their collection. Let’s meet this cute little weirdo.
Coral Cactus– Nature`s Experiment Goes Right
First of all, Coral Cactus is not really a cactus, not in the form we`re used to. This is a combination of two succulent varieties- Euphorbia neriifolia in the base and different Euphorbia species in a grafted part. The most common top species is crested Euphorbia lactea. Once these two succulents are grafted together, they form an unusually, coral-looking species that has a lot of names. Coral Cactus is also called candelabra plant, the crested candelabra plant, crested euphorbia, or crested elkhorn.
Euphorbia neriifolia gives this plant a straight-growing, cactus-like stem. Depending on a top crest, the coral-shaped fan can be white, red, green, purple, or yellow ruffled. The color comes from crinkle leaves hues that grow on a rim of the fan. Both the base and the crest are covered in sharp spines. Coral Cactus rarely blooms. When it does, flowers are tiny and easy to miss. Comparing to the plant itself, they are not that breathtaking and they usually appear in purple and pink color. Usually, only older plants bloom, but Coral Cactus may not bloom at all during its lifetime.
Euphorbias are widely known as very toxic succulents. They produce a poisonous sap, known as latex, which can be quite dangerous to both humans and animals. Therefore, you need to be extra careful when handling Coral Cactus. The latex is white and thick, so you can’t miss it. If touched with a base skin, it can cause irritations. If you make a contact and touch your eyes, this sap can even cause temporary blindness. Finally, when ingested, sap causes vomiting and nausea. Therefore, keep Coral Cactus away from kids and furry friends.
Also, keep in mind that this latex stays toxic even when it dries. Since it’ll become clear then, it`s best to be cautious every time you’re handling this plant. If you need to pick it up or touch it in any way, use thick gloves and hold it by the pot. You can also use barbecue tongs for lifting. Just be careful not to hurt the plant.
Grow and Care Tips
Regarding the name, Coral Cactus have somewhat different care needs than most of the other members of the cacti and succulent family. As for the temperature, this plant is not particularly cold-hardy. Depending on where you live, you can grow it outdoors year-round. However, if temperatures drop below 60℉ (15.5℃), you should bring it inside. The ideal temperature range for Coral Cactus is from 60℉ to 85℉ (15.5℃ to 29.4℃).
Coral Cactus prefer full sine to partial shade. Ideally, you should plant is somewhere it can get a few hours of shade a day. This especially goes in the summer, when harsh sunrays can seriously burn the plant. If you’re starting with a young plant, its best to grow it in partial shade at first and slowly expose it to full sun. This way, it’ll have time to adjust properly. For indoor growing, choose the window where it can get 3-5 hours of direct light. Also, make sure you turn it regularly, so it doesn’t stretch.
When it comes to water, you should add it when the soil is at least 2 inches deep dried out. Coral Cactus doesn’t tolerate drought as well as most of the other succulents but also hates soggy soil. If you overwater it, it’s most likely to develop root rot. Coral Cactus is a summer-grower, so you should water it more frequently in spring and summer. In that period, you can cut the amount of water to make sure that you’re not drowning the plant. As for the soil, a commercial cacti potting mix will do just fine. Finally, Coral Cactus loves the humidity and good airflow.
Since the Coral Cactus is a grafted plant, there are no guarantees that a new plant is going to be the same as the mother. However, you can always try with cuttings. Just use a sterile knife and thick gloves to stay on the safe side. When the cutting callus after a day or two, plant it in a fresh cactus potting mix. If you have some experience up your sleeve, you can try to graft a Coral Cactus yourself. Its always fun to experiment, right?