African Milk Tree

African Milk Tree – Information & 9 Tips To Care It

The African milk tree, which is called Euphorbia trigona, comes from Central Africa. It is often used as a hedge because it grows quickly and strongly.

This plant looks like a cactus, which is why it has names like candelabra cactus, cathedral cactus, friendship cactus, and good luck cactus.

However, it is actually a succulent plant. It has three sides that are all different and have ridges along the seams. The ridges have thorns and leaves that look like teardrops.

During the growing season, this plant stays green and lush, and its new growth has a light green color.

The Rubra, or Royal Crimson, variety is known for its striking colour, which becomes more red as the season goes on.

About African Milk Tree

Like cacti, the African milk tree lives a long time and grows quickly—about 1 to 2 feet each year, up to a height of 9 feet. But when grown inside, this plant will only grow to about half its full height.

African milk tree can only be grown outside in North America by gardeners in desert areas (parts of Texas, California, Florida, and Arizona) where the temperature at night stays above 50 °F.

For these lucky people, the plant is a beautiful addition to their gardens that isn’t often seen in gardens across the United States.

African Milk Tree

The sap from the African milk tree is dangerous for both people and dogs. It can irritate the skin, eyes, and mouth. so much so that if it is eaten, it can cause blisters, severe eye irritation, and even fits.

Common NameAfrican milk tree, African milk bush
Botanical NameEuphorbia trigona
Plant TypeSucculent
Mature Size6-9 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide
Sun ExposurePartial
Soil TypeLoamy, well-drained
Soil pHNeutral
Bloom TimeSpring, summer
Flower ColorWhite
Hardiness Zones9b-11 (USDA)
Native AreasAfrica
ToxicityToxic to humans, toxic to pets 2

African Milk Tree Care

African milk tree is a popular landscape plant and container plant in South America and parts of Europe near the Mediterranean Sea. Its large size makes it a popular plant with gardeners, even though it may need to be trained by trimming and staking to look right.

Because the African milk tree’s roots aren’t very big compared to how tall it is, it can easily fall over if it isn’t taken care of. This succulent, which looks like a cactus, is easy to grow again.

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Just cut off one of the “arms” and plant it in potting soil. (Always do this with your gloves on.) This plant does well in areas that require xeriscaping and can grow in Zones 9b through 11. It can only live in Zone 8 if it is protected from the winter.


The African milk tree likes bright light that comes from the side. For indoor cultivation, a window facing south and an outdoor spot with some shade are ideal.

A place that gets full sun is fine as long as it doesn’t get too hot all the time in the summer. In this case, the hot, direct sunlight may mean that the plants need more watering.


This succulent doesn’t care where it lives. Still, proper drainage is important. Change the thick clay soil so that it drains well and has the right pH.

The African milk tree does best in soil with a pH between 6.1 and 7.8. This plant does well in xeriscaped areas where the soil is sandy or sandy loam.


The milk tree in Africa doesn’t need much water. Only if there is a severe drought should you think about adding more irrigation.

Otherwise, the typical rainfall in your area should be enough. Indoor plants should be watered gently once a week, but the soil should be allowed to dry out in between waterings to mimic how they would grow in nature.

African Milk Tree

Temperature and Humidity

This plant likes a dry or arid environment and can handle a moderate amount of heat. If your growing area has hot summers, place the plant in a location with indirect sunlight or partial shade to minimize overheating.

This plant doesn’t need more humidity, and growing it in a humid place could cause stress, which could lead to fungi or insects infecting it.


Half-strength, water-soluble fertilizer should be given to your African milk tree once a month in the spring and summer, when the plant is growing. Don’t feed your plant when it’s not in the growing season. Instead, let it fall asleep on its own.


The African milk tree grows to be quite tall, but its roots are small and not very deep. Elder plants may become top-heavy or even fall over, so they need to be trimmed.

African Milk Tree

When you prune, you should always wear gloves and cut the stems off with a clean, sharp knife. The cut will heal on its own and form a callus.

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Keep the plant balanced on both sides to avoid putting too much weight on one side and pulling it out of the ground.

Propagating African Milk Tree

It’s easy to grow new African milk trees from cuttings. Because the plant is dangerous, wear safety gear like thick gloves when spreading it, and wash your hands right away if the milky sap gets on them.

How to Grow Cuttings of an African Milk Tree

  • You’ll need a sharp knife or hand pruners, alcohol wipes, potting mix in a 4-inch container, and coarse gravel.
  • After putting alcohol on the blades of your knife or scissors, cut off the base of one of the plant’s “arms.”
  • Rinse the arm under cold, running water until the oozing stops.
  • Let the arm sit on a paper towel in a dry place for five to seven days, out of direct sunlight, so that the cut tip can harden.
  • Note: Many growers skip the step of making a callus and just put the cutting in the soil. This method should give the plant roots in three weeks, but it makes the plant more likely to get root rot.
  • After the callus has grown, put the arm in the pot with the end about an inch below the soil.
  • Add gravel on top of the soil to help keep the cutting straight.
  • Put the pot somewhere warm, well-lit, and between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but not in direct sunlight. The cutting should grow roots in two months.
  • As soon as you see roots growing, move the plant to a 6-inch pot, which is a little bigger.

African Milk Tree

How to Grow African Milk Tree From Seed

It is possible to grow an African milk tree from a seed, but it is not a good idea. It can be hard to get seeds, and it can be even harder and take more time to get them to grow. Use the cutting method to spread the plant instead.

Potting and Repotting African Milk Tree

When you put an African milk tree in a pot, it’s important to make sure it has enough drainage and not to water it too much. This succulent grows well in a porous clay pot that soaks up extra water.

Avoid glazed pots, which make it more likely that you will overwater your plants. The best way for water to drain is through sandy soil or potting mix made for succulents, especially when pumice or perlite is added.

As the plant grows, move it to a bigger pot every year or two. This will make sure that the roots have enough room to hold the plant in place (with a little help from stakes).

Always wear gloves, and if you want to make sure that repotting a big plant doesn’t hurt it, you might need two people.

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African milk trees will perish in the cold. They don’t usually do well in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so you should only plant them in the ground if your climate allows it.

African Milk Tree

Bring potted plants inside when the weather gets cold. Place your succulent in a well-ventilated room with low humidity and near a well-lit window that gets indirect sunlight.

Common Pests & Diseases

Most pests and diseases don’t bother a healthy African milk tree. But watch out for the cotton-like threads that mealybugs leave behind.

To get rid of them, mix water with a few drops of mild dish soap and wipe them off with a towel that has been soaked in the solution. You could also use a paper towel and rubbing alcohol to get rid of bugs, or you could spray them with water from a garden hose.

If you give your plant too much water, it could get fungal problems like cork disease, which makes the stems look like cork.

Cut off the sick parts of the plant to save it. Yellowing or browning on succulents could also be a sign of root rot from overwatering. In this case, you will probably have to get rid of the plant completely.

Common Problems

One of the most common problems with the African milk tree is that its leaves turn yellow. Even if you don’t pay much attention to your plant, its leaves might change colour and fall off. Overwatering, underwatering, or frigid conditions are generally to blame.

This problem is much easier to avoid than to fix, so put your plant in a warm place and water it just enough that the soil dries out between waterings but isn’t always dry.

African Milk Tree


Why is Euphorbia trigona called a “milk tree”?

When this succulent is cut or hurt, it makes a white, milky sap. When you trim, be careful to keep yourself safe and keep the plant out of reach of kids and dogs.

Does African milk tree flower?

If you grow a tree inside, it is less likely to bloom. But in the spring or summer, white or yellow flowers can grow on both outdoor and wild plants if the right conditions are met.

Is African milk tree really a “tree?”

When grown outside, this big succulent can take on its unique candelabra shape and grow up to 9 feet tall. Because of this, some people call this plant a “tree.”

See more articles in this category: Outdoor Plants

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