Crown of Thorns

Euphorbia milii

Crown of thorns likes it hot, dry and sunny - making it a perfect plant for spots where nothing else wants to grow. One of South Florida's most drought-tolerant plants, it flowers nearly year round.

Thai hybrid crown of thorns with salmon-pink flowers

This is not your grandmother's crown of thorns...newer cultivars feature fuller plants, brighter colors, bigger leaves and flowers than the old-fashioned varieties.

Color choices run the gamut from the typical red to yellow, pink, salmon, and creamy white.

The newer varieties include the Thai Hybrids with the largest leaves and flowers, and smaller plants such as Karolla with its shiny bright green leaves and brilliant red blooms.

Like many succulents, this plant's stems contain a milky sap - avoid the stickiness (and the thorns, too) by wearing gloves anytime you trim.

Thorns are "softer" in the morning, according to one grower, so that's a better time to handle the plant.

'Karolla' variety with little red blossoms

Plant specs

Thai hybrids grow the largest - as much as 3 feet, though you can trim to 2 feet tall.

Karolla and other small varieties can be kept 1 to 2 feet tall.

These evergreen plants are slow growers, love full to part sun, and do best in Zone most succulents they can be cold-sensitive.

All varieties are considered deer-resistant, though nothing is really deer-proof.

Plant care

If you place these shrubs correctly, caring for them is a snap.

Water during dry spells or, better yet, run irrigation on a regular basis. Make sure this plant has plenty of drying-out time between waterings.

Crown of thorns that look leafless and leggy have probably not received enough regular water to keep the foliage full. They'll live...they just won't be as pretty.

Fertilize with a good granular fertilizer 3 times a year (spring, summer and fall). You can supplement feedings with bone meal to promote more flowering.

No soil amendments are necessary.

You'll rarely have to trim - but if you see tall thorny stems with no leaves, feel free to cut them way back. Do this during warmer weather so any new growth won't be damaged by cold.

If necessary, protect these plants from frost with frostcloth or another covering (see Cold Protection for details).

NOTE: Be sure to wear eye protection when cutting the stems of this plant. They contain a milky sap that can splash your eyes.

Thai hybrid yellow flowers

Plant spacing

Place Thai hybrids or other large varieties 2 feet apart.

Smaller varieties can go as close as 1 to 1-1/2 feet apart.

If you're planting close to the house, come out at least 2-1/2 feet to allow you room to walk safely behind them for siding or window maintenance.

Containers work fine as long as the plants get plenty of sunlight and are allowed to dry out between waterings.

Landscape uses for crown of thorns

  • plant for front of the border
  • under low windows
  • accent in a garden bed
  • around the mailbox or lamppost
  • along a walkway
  • around decorative boulders


COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: Dwarf clusia, juniper, drift rose, croton, carissa, lantana, gold mound.

Other plants you might like: Dwarf Bougainvillea, Desert Rose

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