How to Grow Crown of Thorns

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Many people are looking for an easy-to-care succulent, but they don't know where to start. It can be difficult to find the right plant that is easy to care for and beautiful. These two qualities don’t always come in handy, but if you do your research, you’ll find it in crown of thorns.

Crown of thorns is a great choice for novice gardeners. This drought tolerant succulent can grow in a wide range of soil types, making it an ideal plant for any home garden.

What is a Crown of Thorns Plant?

Crown of thorns, also known as Christ plant or Christ thorn, is a flowering plant native to Madagascar. It was introduced to France in the early nineteenth century. Crown of thorns is an evergreen succulent that continuously produces colorful bracts of red, pink, or orange around the mini flowers like the poinsettia. You should learn the difference between cacti from succulents if you want to better take care of crown of thorns as confusing one for the other is possible.

Crown of Thorns Plant
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Crown of thorns is low maintenance, easily adaptable, and can thrive as an indoor plant or outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11. Crown of thorns also has sharp, spiny stems and branches that excrete a milky sap when broken. If you're considering crown of thorns as a houseplant, note that they have high toxicity and can be poisonous to animals and humans if ingested.

How to Grow Crown of Thorns

While you can grow Euphorbia milii from seed, the seeds will only be viable for a short time and may take months to germinate. Alternatively, you can use propagation through cuttings instead of growing a new plant from seed. Propagate crown of thorns using the following method”:

Obtain Your Cuttings

When taking cuttings from a crown of thorns, it's important to use a sharp knife or pruner to not damage the stem. Cut a 4- to 6-inch piece of stem from an actively growing branch using sharp scissors or pruning shears. Make sure that the cutting includes at least two leaves and the tip of the stem.

Dry Your Cut Ends

Remove all but a few leaves from the top of your tip cuttings, and let the cuttings dry in a coll place until the end callus. Drying will take a few days but don't skip steps as planting fresh cuttings in the potting mix can promote root rot.

Set Your Cuttings

Prepare a soil mix that's a combination of peat, sand, and compost and place it in a four to six-inch pot. Bury the rooting end of your cuttings until it stands up firmly in the soil and provide moderate water to start.

Crown of Thorns Care

Crown of thorns is neglect tolerant and requires little maintenance. However, when caring for the crown of thorns, wear gloves, as the latex sap from this plant can cause eye and skin irritation. If growing outdoors, give the plant plenty of room.

Crown of Thorns Care
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A Crown of thorns makes an excellent specimen plant. Giving it some pruning at the end of the season, cutting away older, fading leaves to encourage new growth. To keep your crown of thorns thriving, follow the steps below:

Light Requirement

Crown of thorns should get full sun for three to four hours daily. Keep your plants in a sunny window where they can receive enough direct sunlight. Indoors, place your succulent plant in a west or south facing spot during winter. Euphorbia milii can also tolerate shade, however, its blooms while growing under a shade won't be impressive.

Soil Requirement

If growing outdoors, plant Euphorbia milii plant in well draining soil and full sun. In dry climates, it will appreciate some mid-day shade. Crown of thorns is a very adaptable houseplant. It needs a well draining potting mix, and you shouldn't plant it in a container that is more than about an inch or larger than the root ball.

You can also use about a third of pumice or perlite and mix it with two-thirds of regular soil to make an ideal potting mix for the crown of the thorns plant. You don’t literally need to know to test soil pH to plant your Euphorbia milii as long as the soil is well draining.

Water Requirement

The crown of thorns plant is reserved and less demanding when it comes to water. Its thick, spiny stems store water, keeping it hydrated for many days. Water only when the soil is dry about one inch below the surface. You can also wait until the top three inches of soil have dried before watering in the winter months.

Flood your Euphorbia milii but drain off the excess water. If the root ball sits on moist soil for an extended period, a dangerous fungal disease known as root rot will plague the plant. Crown of thorns will go semi dormant in the winter and need less frequent watering and not food.


From spring through fall, feed your crown of thorns with a liquid fertilizer. When the plant is more dormant in the winter, you can dilute the fertilizer and use it less often. Avoid fertilizing the dry substrate as this will burn the roots. The crown of thorns is a slow-growing plant, so be careful not to over-fertilize it, as this will lead to fewer flowers and thin, stretched-looking shoots.

Euphorbia milii is also very sensitive to micronutrients, especially boron, so be careful when using fertilizers loaded with huge amounts of micronutrients.

Temperature and Humidity

This desert plant will thrive in warm conditions as it's adapted to that. This makes at least half a day of sunlight a major requirement for the crown of thorns. Temperature-wise, a comfortable 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit is good.

The very cold temperature will cause the plant to slow down its growth and be dormant. Euphorbia milii can thrive in any humidity level. However, it's allergic to frosts, cold drafts, or freezing conditions.

Crown of Thorn Varieties

Brush Fire

This variety has thick, fleshy leaves and bright red flowers.

Creme Supreme

Creme supreme has strappy leaves and creamy white flowers.

Short and Sweet

Short and sweet plants have pretty red flowers and reach 12 to 18 inches tall.

California Hybrids

These varieties are bred for thick stems and large flowers. They're sometimes labeled Giant Crown of Thorns. Two good cultivars to grow outdoors are Rosalie and Saturnus.

Pruning Crown of Thorns

Crown of thorns is a slow grower and doesn't require pruning for a couple of years. Pruning is best done in dry and cool weather to avoid stem disease. It should be done in early spring and before the new growth begins. When pruning crown of thorns, beware of its milky sap and thorns, wear gloves when pruning it.

Pruning Crown of Thorns
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Remove leafless, crowded, and tangled stems at the end of the growing season with a sharp of snips every year. If you have more compact varieties, thin out the overpopulating branches at the base to allow adequate air circulation.

Propagating Crown of Thorns

Most modern crown of thorns are hybrids and are not started from seed. They're, however, easy to propagate from tip cuttings. To limit the amount of sap you come in contact with, wear gloves and dip each cutting in warm water, letting them sit in for a couple of minutes. After that, lay them out to dry and callus over a few days before planting. Also, make sure you know how to clean household leaves as a way of protecting your indoor plant. 

Common Pests and Diseases

Crown of thorns is susceptible to mealybugs, spider mites, and leaf spot diseases. Make sure you avoid overwatering, wet leaves and stems, and lack of air circulation. Pruning away old or damaged branches can provide hiding places for destructive insects. Always prune the stem at its origin point to encourage healthy, new growth.

FAQs on How to Grow Crown of Thorns

Is the Euphorbia milii succulent poisonous?

The crown of thorns sticky, white latex is toxic and can cause dermatitis and even partial blindness if a lot of it finds its way to the eye. All parts are poisonous when ingested, so keep them away from pets and toddlers. Also, watch out for the sharp thorns.

Where can you buy a Euphorbia milii succulent?

You can find Euphorbia milii succulent in greenhouses and local garden centers, especially during spring.

Final Thought on How to Grow Crown of Thorns

As you can see, growing a crown of thorns is easy and relatively carefree. With a little bit of attention, your crown of thorns will be healthy and thriving in no time. So, what are you waiting for? Get started on your crown of thorns garden today!


Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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