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How to Grow a Firesticks Succulent Plant

Also called pencil tree or pencil cactus, the firesticks (Euphorbia tirucalli) is a stunning succulent plant that grows as a houseplant, patio container plant or a landscape shrub outside. It is comprised of a single of multiple trunks that support a mass of tangled pencil-thick branches with very few leaves. Provided optimal growing conditions, the leaves turn hues of yellow, orange and then red. The sap every firesticks plant contains is toxic and irritates exposed skin it comes into contact with.

Indoor Growing

Place a decorative container near a western or southern window that receives plenty of sunlight most of the day. Drill drainage holes in the base of the container if it lacks them.

Fill the container with cactus growing mix until half the way. Wear gloves prior to handling the firesticks succulent plant, to prevent toxic milky sap that oozes out from broken plant parts from coming in contact with exposed skin.

Plant the firesticks at the same depth as the nursery container. Add growing mix until an inch below the rim.

Water the container until the mix is evenly moist. After that, water only when the soil feels very dry. Over-watering the firesticks is harmful as it stores some in its leaves.

Feed the plant a balanced fertilizer in liquid or granular form in late spring. Spread pellets around the base. Prune dead or dying branches to maintain appearance and control shape and size.

Outdoor Growing

Dig a hole in an outdoor spot when the danger of frost has passed. Use a shovel to dig a hole as deep as the root ball but twice as wide. Make sure the spot receives plenty of sunlight most of the day with well-drained and fertile soil.

Wear gloves to prevent skin contact with any sap. Lower the firesticks' root ball into the hole carefully, ensuring the top is in line with the top of the hole. Add or remove soil if necessary. Backfill with soil to cover it completely and tamp it down to prevent air pockets.

Water the planting site lightly so the soil settles in place. After this, water only when the soil feels dry. Spread a blanket over the plant in the winter to protect it from low temperatures. Severe cold could kill the firesticks plant.

Spread fertilizer pellets over the soil in spring to feed the firesticks' succulent plant essential nutrients. Follow label directions for application.


Do not fertilize the firesticks succulent plant during fall or winter. Plenty of direct sunlight encourages the foliage to grow sturdy and deepen in color. Let the soil get drier than usual in the winter before watering it.

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