How to Propagate a Pencil Cactus Plant with Simple Methods

Written by Ivy

Jan 20 2023

How to Propagate a Pencil Cactus Plant with Simple Methods

Are you one of the fortunate people who has a pencil cactus indoors or in your backyard? If so, are you unsure of the best way to propagate pencil cacti? Consequently, you have arrived at the appropriate page.

The pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli), with its distinctive, pencil-thin branches, serves as the centerpiece of an indoor garden. Hardy in American gardens without frost. This native of Africa, India, and Indonesia is typically grown as a houseplant and is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 12. Pencil cactus plants, also known as African milkbush and Indian tree spurge, can be propagated by planting succulent cuttings in moist sand or cactus mix, but you should be aware that the milky sap can irritate your skin and eyes.

Let's investigate the pencil cactus propagation strategies.

Different Methods to Propagate Pencil Cactus

In general, there are four main ways to propagate the pencil cactus, which we will briefly touch upon in this section. They are as follows.

  1. Propagation them in water
  2. Propagating them in soil
  3. Propagating them through division
  4. Propagating them through offset

How to Propagate a Pencil Cactus Plant

These stem cuttings make it simple to multiply a pencil cactus. Use a sharp, clean scissors or razor blade to cut a 4"-6" piece from the end of a healthy stem just below a leaf node. Where a leaf attaches to the stem forms a node. Dip the cut end of the stem into a small amount of rooting hormone that contains a fungicide. Place the stem in a 4" pot with moist potting soil and drip holes in the bottom. To increase humidity and prevent the soil from drying out, cover the pot with clear plastic. Every few days, make sure to check on the plant to make sure the soil is still moist. After a few weeks, tug on the stem cuttings; if resistance is felt, roots have grown and the plastic can be removed, indicating that the propagation was successful.


Pencil Cactus Propagation in Water

Pencil cacti, as you may already know, are tough, adaptable plants that can endure hot and dry weather.

However, they could also root in water. However, the type of plant and the environment in which it grows will all affect how much water is used to propagate it.

When propagating pencil cactus in water, their chances of success are increased.

How to Conduct Water Propagation?

To start off, you need to obtain the specimen from the mother plant first. After that, you can put the cuttings somewhere where they will get enough sunlight to dry.

Prior to placing those cuttings in water to root, it's crucial that they develop calluses. Generally, the duration of this process would be one week.

Secondly you could choose a glass jug or even a vase which you have filled with water.

The length of the cutting you used must be used to calculate the depth of the water. Make certain that the water contains only the roots and none of the leaves.

The next step is to locate the cutting while maintaining the stem's cut end inside the water.

Generally speaking, it would take one month to complete. As a best practice, you should test the water, and if necessary, you should replace it.

By changing the water, you may be able to prevent the emergence of bacteria and fungi that could attack the water and harm the plant. You will notice where the roots have grown in the water.

The pot could be placed wherever you like—inside or outside. To avoid this, make sure the soil is damp and that the soil medium you used has good drainage.

Do not forget to grow them in the proper type of pot as well.

Advantage of Water Propagation

Anyone can complete this process with ease. Observing those tiny roots growing would make you happy. The process of making pups from cuttings would then be even more pleasing.

If you want to grow plants in water, you should try propagating them there without any reservations.

Another benefit of growing pencil cacti in water is that you can produce a large number of new plants without needing to buy them from a store.

Due to the fact that you have to spend nothing on these, it may also be advantageous financially.

Pencil Cactus Propagation in Soil

Additionally, you could spread the pencil cactus through soil. Depending on what time of year you want to grow new plants, you could cut a cutting from the plant.

Put on safety goggles, gloves, long sleeves, and other protective clothing before you start to protect your eyes and skin from the milky sap, which can cause temporary blindness, skin irritation, and, in sensitive individuals, breathing issues. All plant materials, including the sap, have the potential to cause digestive problems like vomiting and diarrhea if consumed. By wiping the blades of your cutting tools with rubbing alcohol, you can also sterilize them. The metal blades of your tools will corrode if you use solutions containing chlorine bleach.

Snip 4- to 6-inch cuttings from the plant just above a young branch intersection. A callous should have formed on the cut end of the cuttings after a week of storage. Place it in a brightly lit area out of direct sunlight with the cut end inserted into wet sand or cactus mix. Until new growth appears, water sparingly to maintain a barely moist potting mix.


Pencil Cactus Propagation by Division

Make sure you are wearing all of the necessary safety equipment first so you can shield yourself from the toxic sap they produce.

You must, as usual, wait a few days for those to wither. After that, you could fill the pots with coconut fibers or a lean substrate. Place a cutting and supply rainwater, and make sure to.

The best place for them to be is in a vessel in a heated greenhouse with adequate light. A healthy root system can form when the substrate is kept moist.

Advantage Of Division Propagation

This method could undoubtedly be used if you want new plants that resemble your original plants.

This also applies to variegated plants since you would get plants with the same vibrant leaf edges and margins if you divided them for propagation.

Can a Pencil Cactus Propagate by Offsets?

The pencil cactus may also be propagated through offsets. The drawback of this method of propagation is that it may take years for the mother plant to produce offsets.

The offset from the mother plant could be removed using a sharp knife. Get rid of the older soil surrounding the plant before removing the offset from it.

Additionally, you might take into account seed-based propagation. But it should be noted that this is not the ideal course of action.

The seeds must be grown in a potting medium that allows for good drainage in order to achieve this, though. The best option is to limit your practice to outdoor pencil cacti.

About the Pencil Cactus Plant

Though the common name includes "cactus," the pencil cactus is actually a succulent. When the branches are broken or cut, they exude a white latex sap, a characteristic of nearly all Euphorbiaceae members. When grown indoors, the species plant can be pruned to remain under 8 to 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide, despite the fact that it can reach heights of up to 30 feet in its natural habitat. The colorful red-gold cultivar ​Euphorbia tirucalli​ 'Rosea' remains smaller at 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, while ​Euphorbia tirucalli​ 'Sticks on Fire can reach heights of 6 to 8 feet.

The plant's main stem thickens and turns woody as it ages. The main branches also thicken and darken. The plant's new branches, which can be green, red, or orange-gold depending on the cultivar, are the pencil-thin growths that give it its common name. Inconspicuous flowers occasionally bloom at the junctions of the branches, while tiny leaves develop at the tips of the branches.


Pencil Cactus Care

Care for pencil cacti and other succulents is fairly easy. So that it receives the most sunlight possible, place the plant in a bright south or south-east window. In any other case, a grow light or fluorescent light fixture suspended a few inches above the plant can add to the light that is already present. Maintain a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees for the plant.

In the summer, water should be applied once every two to three weeks, and in the fall, water should only be applied once per month. Do not water at all during the winter; instead, wait until the weather warms up in the spring before starting to water again. In the spring, fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 20-20-20, or every week with a liquid fertilizer diluted to one-fourth strength.

Repot Your Pencil Cactus

Repot your pencil cactus when it outgrows its container. Wait until the summer, when the weather is warm, if you can. The plant's delicate thin branches should be handled with caution when being removed from the pot. Trim any diseased, damaged, or dead roots, and then apply a fungicide to the cut ends.

Place fresh cactus mix in the flower pot, then place the plant inside the potting soil. Up until the plant is at the same depth as it was in the original pot, surround the roots with fresh mix. Prior to watering, let the potting mix sit for a week, then lightly mist it.


Once you have propagated these plants, you must give them the general care treatments. Chances are they won't provide you with the outcomes you were hoping for.

But for their best development, it would be advantageous if you offered the following circumstances.

For instance, you must give them access to the proper pot, amount of water, and temperature, as well as bright, indirect full sunlight.