Devil's Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides) in the Euphorbias Database

Common names:
Give a thumbs up Devil's Backbone
Give a thumbs up Slipper Plant
Give a thumbs up Redbird Cactus
Give a thumbs up Euphorbia

Botanical names:
Euphorbia tithymaloides Accepted
Pedilanthus tithymaloides Synonym

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Shrub
Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 9a -6.7 °C (20 °F) to -3.9 °C (25 °F)
Plant Height: Can reach 6 to 8 feet in height
Plant Spread: 24 inches
Leaves: Evergreen
Flowers: Other: In the genus Euphorbia, the flowers are reduced in size and aggregated into a cluster of flowers called a cyathium (plural cyathia). This feature is present in every species of the genus Euphorbia but nowhere else in the plant kingdom.
Flower Color: Red
Flower Time: Summer
Late summer or early fall
Suitable Locations: Xeriscapic
Dynamic Accumulator: B (Boron)
Wildlife Attractant: Hummingbirds
Toxicity: Other: All members of the genus Euphorbia produce a milky sap called latex that is toxic and can range from a mild irritant to very poisonous.
Propagation: Other methods: Cuttings: Stem
Containers: Suitable in 1 gallon
Needs excellent drainage in pots


This plant is tagged in:
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Posted by plantladylin (Florida - Zone 9b) on Oct 15, 2011 8:20 AM

Euphorbia tithymaloides is native to tropical and subtropical areas of North America, Central America and Mexico. It is a shrub-like succulent that is drought tolerant, preferring a well-draining potting medium and a location of full sun to partial shade. The stems of this Euphorbia grow in a zigzag pattern, giving it one of its common names of Zig Zag Plant, and the small red flowers are described by some as resembling tiny red birds, giving it another common name of Redbird Cactus. The plant is easily propagated by taking stem cuttings and sticking them in soil. Contact with the milky sap of this plant may cause skin irritations.

I received a cutting of this plant in a trade in 2007. It rooted quickly but grew a bit scraggly and wasn't a favorite of mine at first. After a while I moved it into more sunlight and pruned it up a bit. I like the interesting zigzag growth habit, and the foliage sometimes takes on a rose blush which is quite attractive. I grow this plant on the dry side. It only gets water when we have rain and from the irrigation system once a week.

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Posted by SongofJoy (Clarksville, TN - Zone 6b) on Feb 4, 2012 3:26 PM

Euphorbia tithymaloides has a large number of common names. Among them are buck-thorn, cimora misha, Christmas Candle, Devil's Backbone, Fiddle Flower, ipecacuahana, Jacob's Ladder, Japanese Poinsettia, Jew's Slipper, Jewbush, Milk-Hedge, Myrtle-Leaved Spurge, Padus-Leaved Clipper Plant, Red Slipper Spurge, Redbird Cactus, Redbird Flower, Slipper Flower, Slipper Plant, Slipper Spurge, timora misha, and Zig-Zag Plant.

In other parts of the world, it is known as gin-ryu (Japan); pokok lipan and penawar lipan (Indonesia); airi, baire, and agia (India); aperejo (Yoruba); sapatinho do diablo (Brazil); itamo real (Puerto Rico); pantoufle (France); and zapatilla del diablo (Mexico).

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Discussion Threads about this plant
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
This looks like the variegated variety ... by plantladylin Mar 6, 2017 3:37 PM 1
Show us your variegated plants by rockdale2017 Apr 20, 2018 5:58 AM 40
Received a few succulents but don't know their names by greennose Mar 16, 2018 5:36 AM 11
Please help ID this (Plant E) by PlantTanzania Mar 9, 2018 4:02 AM 3
Dying ?rope hoya by IJsbrandtGA Feb 12, 2018 12:11 PM 6
Mystery Plant by ConfusedPotato Nov 17, 2017 2:02 PM 11
Red Bird cactus by jojo1952 Mar 30, 2017 6:26 PM 2
What plant is this? by tekac2 Mar 19, 2017 7:07 AM 3
Need Help by GreenThumbJ Mar 5, 2017 11:08 PM 4
Please help me identify this plant by RozMorgan Jan 13, 2017 12:19 PM 5
Cactus and tender succulents chat 2017 by Dutchlady1 Jan 1, 2018 2:23 PM 1,213

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