Ask a Question forum: Coir for Euphorbia

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Name: Reine
Porter, Texas (Zone 9a)
On the 3rd day God created plants.
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Reine
Apr 5, 2017 6:57 PM CST
Will small Euphorbia caudiciforms do well in a soil mix using coir? I've never used it before. After reading different articles and comments about coir, I would like to try it.

Several times a year, it can rain for 3-4, or more days in a row. Since coir has good water retention properties will this be a problem? But the rest of the time it is hot and dry.

Also, I have started using a few non-porous pots (the bulk of my plants are still in unglazed terra-cotta), will days of rain and plastic pots create a problem?

Will a mix of 1 part compost, 1part coir, 1part pumice, 1 part perlite (I can't afford all pumice) be suitable? Does anyone recommend a different ratio? Or something else to use?

Thanks.
Reine
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 5, 2017 7:15 PM CST
I have had good luck with those Euphorbias in my usual mix of 25% coir. It is quite moisture absorbent so I would cut it with an equal amount of pumice. The ratios you describe with compost and pumice/perlite sound about right. Check the grade of the coir you use so it's not too fine or too coarse for this purpose. You may choose to fine tune the amount of drainage for particularly rot-prone plants (add more pumice for example), be a little extra careful with buried caudexes, and I would screen the pumice (with like a window screen mesh or maybe a tiny bit larger) to remove the fines.

Days and days of rain may be problematic. If it comes during the normal warm growing season for your plants, it is much less of an issue. If it comes while they are dormant, you would do well to protect those plants from overhead water by parking them under an overhang, maybe. Or bring them in from the rain, whatever works for you. I use an overhang (eaves of the house) to keep sensitive plants from getting waterlogged for too long during our winter rains. But extended rain is somehow much less problematic for most of these plants than repeated watering (the equivalent amount of water in human-delivered form).

Using excellent drainage (say 50% rock minimum) and pots that aren't overly deep helps ensure the orderly exit of water from the container, and if you can provide as much light as reasonably possible, that will aid in evaporation whenever the sun comes out.

I only use unglazed clay containers for the clumping cactus-like Euphorbias (like polygona, makallensis, fruticosa, etc.), mostly out of habit and not any great necessity. One thing you will notice if you switch to this kind of container is how evaporation of the water through the sides can provide a dramatic cooling effect in the sun (while it lasts), which may work to your advantage. Put your hand on the side of an unglazed clay container an hour after watering it well, and you will notice the difference in temperature. Another thing to bear in mind is that unglazed clay pots dry out much faster than the plastic or ceramic equivalent, especially in really hot and dry weather, especially in the sun, especially in the summer. So you may have to adjust the watering frequency accordingly (depending on conditions). I have found very small clay pots (say in the 4 inch range) borderline useless for most plants because they dry out too fast (and I'm not willing to water them that much more often). The sweet spot is in the 6-8 inch range and above, in my experience.

For more of the ins and outs of growing these plants I would recommend spending some time with Philippe de Vosjoli's two Pachyforms books, which include excellent illustrations and lots of helpful care info.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 5, 2017 7:38 PM (+)]
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Name: Reine
Porter, Texas (Zone 9a)
On the 3rd day God created plants.
Cactus and Succulents Adeniums Spiders! Houseplants Bee Lover Critters Allowed
Frogs and Toads Enjoys or suffers hot summers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Seed Starter Region: Texas Dog Lover
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Reine
Apr 5, 2017 8:30 PM CST
Thank You! @Baja_Costero

I really appreciate your information. Smiling

The soil mix sounds good, it is in the range I was thinking on. Most of the smaller or younger Euphs are in clay pots in the 4'" range. I make a lot of pots and do make them on the shallow side. Will making the pots thicker walled help slow down evaporation?

Watering every other day is normal for me in the summer. Though it can be quite a chore at times, I enjoy the time with my plants. Smiling

The 2 books you mention are already in my collection. I will read them again.

Thanks again for your time, Baja.

Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
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Baja_Costero
Apr 5, 2017 8:43 PM CST
As far as I can tell a thicker wall does not slow evaporation. Probably the opposite, actually. For a while I used a thick-walled hunk of pumice with a drilled out hole in the middle for a container, and it dried out as fast or faster than an equivalent clay pot. I think the key variable is the combined total surface area exposed to the air. The reason why small clay pots are tricky for me is that they have a much higher ratio of surface area to volume, if that makes sense. More area for the water to exit the container, and less volume inside to store it up, in a relative sense.

One thing to know if you're interested in modulating the effect of clay pots is that you can place them right inside a slightly larger plastic container and get a result that's something in between the two. Water will still pass through the sides of the clay pot (it can still leave the soil from the sides into the clay) but it will only exit through the top, so the overall rate of evaporation is less.

The start of the first Pachyforms book (which I was rereading today) has a bunch of great random pointers about care. There aren't a lot of different Euphorbias in there, but lots of common sense and useful observations.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 5, 2017 8:46 PM (+)]
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Name: Reine
Porter, Texas (Zone 9a)
On the 3rd day God created plants.
Cactus and Succulents Adeniums Spiders! Houseplants Bee Lover Critters Allowed
Frogs and Toads Enjoys or suffers hot summers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Seed Starter Region: Texas Dog Lover
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Reine
Apr 5, 2017 10:09 PM CST
I have thought about doing a partial glaze on pots Smiling And I'm already doing the clay in plastic this year. I'll see how that works out. Crossing Fingers!


Thanks again Smiling
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator
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Baja_Costero
Apr 6, 2017 1:15 PM CST
Wow, Reine, I just looked at your plant list and I gotta say it's like an encyclopedia of cool weird plants. You have some great stuff there and have obviously been at this for a while. I'm looking forward to seeing how they grow up! I tip my hat to you.
Name: Reine
Porter, Texas (Zone 9a)
On the 3rd day God created plants.
Cactus and Succulents Adeniums Spiders! Houseplants Bee Lover Critters Allowed
Frogs and Toads Enjoys or suffers hot summers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Seed Starter Region: Texas Dog Lover
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Reine
Apr 6, 2017 2:24 PM CST
Thank you, Baja.

Caudiciforms have been a passion since 1980. Lovey dubby The longest owned and probably the oldest of them is a Pachypodium saundersii. This was a Mother's Day gift in 1981. No bigger around than a soda can.
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But Euphorbia caudiciforms are my favorites They are awesome. Plus they don't get so big. Big Grin

Reine
You have a wonderful collection yourself. I tip my hat to you. Though I really like them, and I do, I quit liking all the photos or I would overload your system messages. Rolling on the floor laughing

Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Apr 6, 2017 2:36 PM CST
Reine, from what I have seen with my Euphorbia succulents, they really hate too much water retention. So I don't mix coir on them ever.

The only time I do mix in coir to my succulent media, it is for epis. All the rest, particularly Euphorbias, coarse and well draining, so just cacti mix with lots of pumice or perlite.
Name: Reine
Porter, Texas (Zone 9a)
On the 3rd day God created plants.
Cactus and Succulents Adeniums Spiders! Houseplants Bee Lover Critters Allowed
Frogs and Toads Enjoys or suffers hot summers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Seed Starter Region: Texas Dog Lover
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Reine
Apr 6, 2017 4:15 PM CST
@tarev

Thank you for your reply.

Some of the small, younger Euphorbia aren't thriving. So I am looking for a better soil mix for them. I don't know if using a peat based soil is part of the problem or not. The soil mix is about 5 parts peat based potting soil and 3 parts perlite/ pumice mixed. Sometimes half soil, half pumice/perlite. I've also add a little Azomite to the soil mix.

The small clay pots could be a factor, as Baja mentioned. They are top dressed with small river rock, but not as small as pea gravel. I use the same liquid fertilizer for all my plants and they all seem to be thriving except those mentioned. I use Medina Hasta Gro Plant food. 6-12-6 at half strength twice a month.

The products I have on hand are MG potting soil, garden soil, compost, coir, perlite and pumice. I don't care for the sand in cacti succulent mixes. I don't use the garden soil in pots, but do use some in large tubs.

Do you think I can make a good soil out of these items? Your suggestions are appreciated.

Reine
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator
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Baja_Costero
Apr 6, 2017 5:00 PM CST
Reine, by way of comparison with your amazing mature plant, here are my babies in 8-10 inch pots. It took me a while before I realized how much I was underwatering them in the summer, but I have changed my ways. Smiling I think the underwatering is why the main stems both died back.

Thumb of 2017-04-06/Baja_Costero/0c22b6 Thumb of 2017-04-06/Baja_Costero/af4e05
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Cat Lover Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Region: California Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
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tarev
Apr 6, 2017 7:08 PM CST
Reine, to be honest, I am bad with using fertilizers for my succulents, I hardly use them. Only my Plumerias and epis do get some and just some slow release ones when conditions are warm and stable for them.

We all have our media preferences for our succulents. I don't use garden soil for them either. I just stick with cacti mix and pumice/perlite if possible and I have liked the used of chicken grit (insoluble crushed granite) for their top dressing.

I am wondering if your Euphorbias have entered a certain period of dormancy so they seem to be not thriving. The dormancy aspect is what finds me on the sidelines at times, and these succulents do manifest different times of doing it. We got varying microclimates in our individual gardening areas and Spring is still unstable at times.
Name: Reine
Porter, Texas (Zone 9a)
On the 3rd day God created plants.
Cactus and Succulents Adeniums Spiders! Houseplants Bee Lover Critters Allowed
Frogs and Toads Enjoys or suffers hot summers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Seed Starter Region: Texas Dog Lover
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Reine
Apr 6, 2017 10:00 PM CST
@Baja_Costero

They look great and very compact. I like them this way.
And yes, they like lots of water during the growing season and no water during dormancy. Dormancy can last 5-6 months in my area. When I first started growing caudiciforms, it was hard to not water for months and there wasn't much info on cultivation. I've learned some things during the years and will continue to do so. And have lost some great plants, that I try hard not to do. Also, thank you for the compliment on my old pachy. Smiling

@tarev

Years ago I hardly ever fertilized. The info at that time was to grow them hard. Thank you for mentioning microclimates, I haven't given that that much thought.

Well, I'm going to take some photos, adjust the soil on some of them, then take photos in the fall and see how the plants have progressed. Smiling
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator
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Baja_Costero
Apr 7, 2017 10:01 AM CST
Reine, just out of curiosity, which are the plants that aren't thriving? Maybe there's something specific related to their individual needs.

I suppose my own experience with nutrients (or lack thereof) might be a bit of a bridge between Tarev's and Reine's. For a few years I did not ever fertilize my plants, assuming that it was not necessary or maybe even that there would be some advantage to growing them extra hard. I was pretty happy with the results. Then a few years ago I switched up and decided to experiment with the lowest level of nutrients I thought would have an effect. (A quarter the recommended dose on my bottle, 1/20 the dose recommended on the MG solid fertilizer, the equivalent of half a teaspoon per 5 liters of your 6-12-6 formula.) I saw a bunch of differences that I liked. So I kept with it.

It may be worthwhile to check the pH of your tap water because if it's alkaline like ours (like pH 9) then the nutrients tend not to be as effective without first adding some acid to bring the pH down to neutral (or even slightly acidic, like rain water). Again, I never did this for years, and then saw things I liked when I started doing it.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 7, 2017 10:15 AM (+)]
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Cat Lover Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Region: California Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
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tarev
Apr 7, 2017 10:14 AM CST
My Euphorbia obesa started going mushy at the base around March 2016, I thought it was safe to give it some water since it was indoors during winter and has been dry for a very long time. I guess I should have waited till it was outdoors.

But it did recover thankfully, once out in the open with more airflow and more warmth, but the mark of that threatening rot is left there now like a bad tattoo, a reminder that it prefers to be kept dry during the cold season.

Thumb of 2017-04-07/tarev/998ebc Thumb of 2017-04-07/tarev/9f4a99
Name: Reine
Porter, Texas (Zone 9a)
On the 3rd day God created plants.
Cactus and Succulents Adeniums Spiders! Houseplants Bee Lover Critters Allowed
Frogs and Toads Enjoys or suffers hot summers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Seed Starter Region: Texas Dog Lover
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Reine
Apr 7, 2017 1:43 PM CST
@Baja_Costero

One is an E. stellata, quite small when I received it 2 years ago and no growth to speak of. I know these are slow growers, but the older E. stellatas have noticeably grown.

The other is E. decidua, very slow! Very little growth in 2 years.

Then there are E. moratii, labatii, subapoda and waringiae seedlings. very little growth in 2 years. The first 3 of these I have in golf ball size or large and they have grown some.

Or are all of these very slow growers. And I'm just fretting over nothing? Hilarious!

Reine

Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator
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Baja_Costero
Apr 7, 2017 5:45 PM CST
I have no experience with any of those plants. I would imagine they are not fast growers. Smiling If you take pictures every so often (freeze frames in time over years) and you see no change at all, then maybe there's something going on. The caudex usually stops growing after it's been lifted, or maybe it's better to say that the only part which really continues to grow is underground for the geophytes like stellata etc. But I'm assuming you're talking about top growth instead.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator
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Baja_Costero
Apr 7, 2017 7:01 PM CST
And since you brought up dormancy for that Pachypodium, they seem to never actually go completely dormant here. Interesting, that difference. We get down to about 45F minimum in the winter but it always warms up in the day. They lose most of their leaves a little while after they flower but will actually sprout a whole bunch of new ones after our winter rains (yes, I leave them out in the rain!). We had a pretty wet winter this year and that's why they are so leafy for this time of year. Other Pachys will go dormant for a while (geayi and the dwarves) but not saundersii, lamerei, or the geophytes.

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