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Candelabra Plants

The candelabra plant (Euphorbia lactea) is a cactus-like shrub or small tree with upright three-angled branches that grows 6 to 7 feet tall, and 5 feet wide. It has gray or black spines and minute leaves that shed easily. The flowers are small and the plant rarely blooms. Originally from India, it grows in USDA hardiness zones 9B to 11 and is hardy to 28 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Desert Tropicals. It is also called dragon bones, elkhorn, false cactus, frilled fan, milkstripe euphorbia, monkey puzzle and mottled spurge.


The candelabra plant grows outside in sun to partial shade. It tolerates high temperatures and requires little water. Pruning is not necessary except to remove diseased or damaged branches.

Inside, the candelabra plant grows in areas with low to high light levels. Let the soil dry thoroughly in potted candelabra plants before watering. They are susceptible to overwatering, especially in winter. Water potted plants only once during the winter months.

Candelabra plants are propagated with cuttings. Let the cuttings dry three to four weeks before planting in well-drained potting soil.


Candelabra plants are used as large specimen interior plants, or grown outdoors in dry rock gardens and xeriscape gardens. They form a thick, impenetrable hedge when grown close together. The sap is used as glue and to treat rheumatism in India. Do not use the candelabra plant or any other plant for a medical reason without the advice of a licensed medical practitioner.


Euphorbia lactea "Cristata" has crested fan-shaped branches growing in clusters or ridges on the stems. Some have varieties with fans tinged with yellow, pink, red or purple. White ghost has white crests. The color of the fans intensifies with some afternoon shade.

Interesting Fact

Although the candelabra plant looks like a cactus, it is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family. Euphorbias have milky sap and when the spines are removed they pull some of the surrounding stem tissue off, too. Cacti have clear sap and the spines break off easily.


All parts of the candelabra plant are poisonous, especially the white, milky sap. It is mildly toxic if ingested and causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Minor skin irritations include redness, swelling and blisters. It causes severe irritation of the eyes. Wear a long-sleeve shirt, gloves and eye protection when pruning a candelabra plant or taking cuttings.

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