Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: African Milk Tree Help

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Dec 15, 2017 9:23 PM CST
Hello guys,

My wife and I recently bought a house at the end of summer and it came along with a 30 year old African Milk Tree (Euphoria). We are complete beginners when it comes to plant care. To make the long story short we live in Central North Carolina. The first frost didn't come until mid November. We had been watering the plant up until mid November but I started to get concerned about the appearance of the plant. We were told to move it inside the garage once the first frost came. By the time I moved the plant into the garage I started noticing withering parts on the plant.

Now it is a month later and I see that part of the plant is hurting. It is a large plant and I see that one side looks fairly healthy. The other side of the plant is in pain and I need help on how to curate it.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Dec 15, 2017 11:38 PM CST

Beautiful Plant!

Have you moved or turned the plant since you inherited it? Is the damaged side also the side that was towards the weather? Are the inside branches okay? Or is the damage more like a pie section of tree? How deep does the damage go?

PS: Euphorbia trigona
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Name: Lin
Florida Zone 9b, 10a

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Dec 16, 2017 12:38 PM CST
I don't grow African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigona) I tried one years ago but it didn't like our high humidity here in Florida. I wonder if your plant suffered from exposure to damp, cold weather for too long? They like lots of sun and I believe they can withstand brief periods of cold temp's but they usually do best in zone 10 and higher. I don't know if the plant will survive winter in a garage in N.C.
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Dec 16, 2017 2:20 PM CST


The potential for cold damage is pretty big. But the fact that the plant grew so large under the care of the previous owners means it should be possible to get the Euphorbia through the winter unscathed. Is there any way you can ask them what the trick was? Smiling

E. trigona goes through periods of active growth (during which the leaves are evident) and rest (when the leaves fall). You can assume the plant wants very little water through its rest phase, during cold temps, and in low light situations (all three boxes checked here). After some kind of serious life-threatening shock like what's evident above, these plants are particularly sensitive to rot in response to excess water.

But I see some green so I don't think you should give up. Give the plant a chance to sort out its business through the winter and then maybe in spring there will be dry brown parts you can prune and succulent green parts you can leave to grow on.

Dec 17, 2017 9:15 AM CST
The damaged side was exposed to the weather. From what I can tell the damage is only on the first layer (outer most layer). I never rotated the plant when it was outside, I never thought about that.

The previous owners took care of the plant in NC all along. The only instructions they left me, was to put the plant in the garage once the first frost came and everything should be fine. I am thinking I just moved it into the garage too late.

I can try to reach out and see what exactly they were doing.

Should I be trimming away any of the damaged parts?
Do you guys think it will help if I position a grow light at the damaged part of the plant ?
By the way, the garage gets a small amount of natural light for about 6 hours a day. But it is very minimal.

Thank you guys.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Dec 17, 2017 7:33 PM CST
Yes, I think its cold damage also but I wanted to make sure you were not developing root rot. If the damage is only one layer deep, its cold damage. If it was a pie wedge into the plant, it would be root rot. I never give the answers ahead of time though because I want your unbiased answer. Smiling

No, don't turn it. Make sure the same side is facing out all the time. Plants adjust their growing habits based on what side faces what direction - don't confuse.

If the previous owners had the plant for that long and gave you their care instructions (including putting in the garage in winter), it should work. Don't prune anything right now - let those brown spots dry (by spring, they should be nice and crispy) back on their own then cut them out next spring. Don't water anymore this winter. Don't put a light on the brown spots but if you want to supplement light on the green part, the plant would probably appreciate that.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost


Dec 18, 2017 9:07 AM CST

Thank you for the advice. I will follow your instructions and update sometime later. I am hoping everything turns out fine and I can share some nice pictures in the spring.

I really appreciate your help.

Thank you.
Name: Deborah
midstate South Carolina (Zone 8a)
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Dec 18, 2017 9:21 AM CST
I agree with all the above advice. BTW, Welcome! to NGA and the C & S Forum. Please keep us updated on the progress of that awesome plant. Lovey dubby Keep hanging around (actively participating) and you'll soon have to adjust your screen name. nodding
Name: Will Creed
Professional indoor plant consultan
Dec 19, 2017 12:20 PM CST
Other than possible cold damage, I would be concerned about possible damage to the roots. The pot looks quite large. As the days got cooler and shorter, it was important to allow the soil to dry deeper into the pot. The large pot tends to retain moisture for a long time around the roots. If you did not make that watering adjustment, root damage could easily occur. Given its current condition and greatly reduced light, it is important to water very sparingly through the winter.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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