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PlantFiles: Variegated Devil's Backbone, Japanese Poinsettia, Slipper Spurge, Redbird Cactus, Christmas Candle
Euphorbia tithymaloides 'Variegatus'

Family: Euphorbiaceae (yoo-for-bee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Euphorbia (yoo-FOR-bee-uh) (Info)
Species: tithymaloides (tith-ee-mal-OY-deez) (Info)
Cultivar: Variegatus

Synonym:Pedilanthus tithymaloides

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

59 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Partial to Full Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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There are a total of 45 photos.
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22 positives
3 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive gaagee On Apr 1, 2015, gaagee from Rocky Point, NC wrote:

I've had one of these plants for at least 10 years. it has never bloomed. This year for some reason it is dying and I am very sad about it. I have tried to take some of the pieces that are still green and repot them but they also are dying. I would really like to get some more cuttings if anyone has any. I am in North Carolina on the coast.

Positive Huck_Treadwell On Jan 16, 2014, Huck_Treadwell from Fort Payne, AL wrote:

I took a clipping off one of my mother's plants and she got got a clipping from her mother's plant. It's very easy to grow. I had one about six feet tall that I cut back to about two feet because it got to difficult to manage. I rooted about 40 cuttings from that.

I moved about three years ago and stashed a couple of these on my mother's front porch while I was moving. She called me a few days later and told me to come look at the plants. They had tiny red blooms all over them. I've had one for 10 years and it never bloomed. My mother has been around them all her life and that was the first one she had ever seen bloom.

Positive carmag On Oct 2, 2012, carmag from Chicago, IL (Zone 6a) wrote:

I have had this as an indoor plant since my son was about 4 years old. He is now 46. It is easy to grow just don't over water. I have shared cuttings with many people in my old neighborhood of Kenwood in Chicago. One problem, how do you make it bloom? Great color on leaves in summer since it is outdoors in the morning sun, but never a bloom.

Neutral Lindabgood On Sep 27, 2012, Lindabgood from Ainaloa, HI wrote:

I would of never gussed that this crooked, varrigated, spindley plant growing in my garden was in fact this wonderous herb.
According to this other site ( Here is an herb(Devil's Backbone) that is qute the miracle. This site claims,
"the Wests discovery of an ancient Eastern substance that heals injured muscle, tendon, ligament, and joints...even brokenbones and old, chronic pains...faster than anything everseen by classic medicine." Here I thought all this time that the plant was toxic! I must really do more research. If all this is true then this plant has an overabundance of merit and I will begin earnest propagation by cuttings immediately! More research will tell me if this a hoax.

Positive sunkissed On Jan 22, 2011, sunkissed from Winter Springs, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I took a clipping a few years ago off my brother's plant which he has planted in the ground. I kept that one in a pot and in one year it grew quite large, took another clipping off it and now have two in huge pots. They can tolerate pretty cold temperatures, however last year I left them out in temperatures down below freezing and they lost all the leaves and several branches. They did rebound and grew back the leaves and looked great by the mid summer, but this year if the temperatures are below freezing I've been taking them in the porch. They are both in mostly shady areas, seems to like morning sun and afternoon shade. They have tinges of pink on some of the more mature brances. My brother's is very big and survived the freezing temperatures with just minimal damage. They are noticed by anyone that is strolling through my garden.

Positive blodwedd On Aug 25, 2010, blodwedd from Covington, LA (Zone 8b) wrote:

The plant I have now on my front porch is from cuttings of my mothers plant, which is well over 5 feet tall. Her cuttings came from my great grandmother who had them planted by her front porch and a huge pot in her kitchen.

I tend to keep mine in the dappled shade as it tends to burn if I sit it out on the back patio. Those are my only choices, shade, or bright, bright too hot sun.

I love being able to share it so freely, a long stem, snapped into pieces and someone else has a lovely pot to eventually share.

Positive CostaRica On Mar 25, 2009, CostaRica from Guayabo de Bagaces, Guanacaste
Costa Rica (Zone 10b) wrote:

I must proclaim the merits of Pediilanthus tithymaloides, commonly called called Jacob's ladder or Zig-zag plant.
If you live in or have a hot and dry area, please try this plant! It may only be sold in your area as a houseplant, but if it is ignored in the full sun, it will be covered in these tiny red blooms...which I know for a fact the Ruby throats and other hummingbirds love...for an extended period.
If given shade and water, it will stay 'green and dull...'

Positive riddler On Nov 15, 2008, riddler from Saint Petersburg, FL wrote:

Years ago I was given a cutting from a very old Devil's Backbone plant. I stuck the cutting in a pot in back of the house and forgot about it. The plant continued to grow and never complained about the lack of attention. After a year or two I realized the plant was a survivor so I stuck it in the ground in a hot part of the yard. It receives direct sun during the first half of the day and so far it has happily endured several Florida summers in its new location. I'm posting a picture that I took earlier this year when the plant was slightly smaller. Lately it has become bushier and today the plant is over 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Some plants die of fright when they see me coming so I'm always happy to find one that can thrive under my care.

Negative adajean On Jul 19, 2008, adajean from Pompano Beach, FL wrote:

Have to constantly check plant for CABBAGE WORMS & remove them. Hard to locate them, look just like the stem
and they bite!!

Positive vossner On Jul 18, 2008, vossner from Richmond, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

a dear DGer gave several cuttings and it rooted effortlessly. While I was rooting it, I had it in full shade. I have since transplanted to a nice pot and moved it to part sun. Today it looked a little wilted but I'm hoping it will adjust. If it doesn't then I'll move it.

this is a great plant.

Positive goofybulb On Jun 16, 2008, goofybulb from El Paso, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Happily growing in Miami Fl. Interesting, decorative leaves and zig-zagged stems. Easy to root in soil. I've grown mine in dappled shade and full afternoon sun.

Positive tgif On Aug 28, 2007, tgif from Starkville, MS wrote:

I'm above its native zone (I'm 7b), but by moving the planter into a greenhouse for winter it does well here and stays green/white - less pink until its back outside for the summer - year round. I have seen hummingbirds at the flowers. Roots easily in water or moist soil. Makes a great color accent in the yard.

Positive Jode On Jul 18, 2007, Jode from Rowlett, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I got mine from one of my terrific neighboors. I've always loved its uniqueness and how well it grows with hardly any maintenance whatsoever. My neighboor called it "Adam's Rib" but I never could verify it otherwise until DG. Thanks a TON you guys for helping. Now I know what to call this feller. Sorry ya'll, my Texan is coming out. :)

Positive crowellli On Jul 29, 2006, crowellli from Houston, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I have grown this plant here in Houston in a large outdoor pot for years. It is a very easy care plant with no disease or pest problems. I do cover it with a sheet if we have a hard freeze predicted. The edges of the leaves turn a beautiful pink color with cooler weather and sun. Mine is in a full sun location.

Positive DonnaA2Z On Jul 29, 2006, DonnaA2Z from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Very hardy plant. Roots very easily. Pinch off center leaves to promote fuller growth.

Positive wyvern_ryder On May 23, 2006, wyvern_ryder from Lakeland, FL wrote:

This is one of my fevorite plants! We took our mother plant with us when we moved but found that it did not agree with the sunny spot we put it in. When we moved it under a tree in sandy soil it thrived. We have red tipped leaves most of the year and adorable red flowers in spring.

Positive JaxFlaGardener On May 22, 2006, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I received one pot of this plant from a friend and now have dozens of them. It roots easily just by breaking off a stem and sticking the stem in the soil. My many plants came about as a result of my neighbors pit bulls getting into my temporary vizqueen plastic greenhouse one winter, turning over the pot of Pedilanthus which had grown profusely to about 4 ft high, and breaking most of the stems into bits and pieces. I repotted most of the larger pieces and they all grew.

I gave away as many of the potted up plants as I could, but most everyone in this area already has the plant. Last year, I planted all the remaining pots of Pedilanthus directly into my garden in various spots, in both sun and shade. They survived this past winter with temperatures as low as 28 F on a few nights with little damage.


Positive artcons On Oct 23, 2005, artcons from Fort Lauderdale, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

Variegated Devil's Backbone, Pedilanthus tithymaloides is a succulent shrub with zigzagged stems native to dry tropical forests of Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America.

The plant exudes milky sap when broken. The sap has been known to cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.

It's easy to grow, and can add nice year round color and interest to gardens in the zone 10 area. Light has a lot to do with the colorations of the leaves. More light and the leaves get a rosey edge. Less light provides green and white leaves. The plants will bloom easier if they get more light.
This plant is a Florida native.

Positive Forrest05 On Sep 9, 2004, Forrest05 from Louisville, CO wrote:

I grew this plant as a houseplant in Houston. It thrived very well. I live in Colorado now and would like to obtain another one. Who sells this plant?

Positive MotherNature4 On May 8, 2004, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Pedilanthus grows in a hot, dry, half sun area where nothing else would grow. It is always colorful. It is hardy in this protected area of our yard.

Positive sunnyfla On Apr 22, 2004, sunnyfla wrote:

I live in the Orlando Florida area. I have had my Devil's Backbone for at least 18 years. If it is kept in the sun, the white on the leaves turns pink. Mine is covered during the cold snaps but is otherwise left outside. It has grown so much that I've had to repot it several times. It is now in a 24" round pot and is still growing. I guess the next time I repot it, it will have to go in the ground. It is a really easy plant to care for.

Positive miseryschild On Sep 18, 2003, miseryschild from Monterey, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

I have a start of this plant that I'm trying to root. The mother, however is HUGE!!! The lady that gave me my cutting has had the plant for years. It is well over 6 feet and absolutely gorgeous!!! She has it in a big pot. I was starting to worry it wasn't going to root. I just checked it and it has 2 roots on it. The lady told me it would root in water. It will, but it takes about 2 months.

Positive easter0794 On Apr 17, 2003, easter0794 from Seffner, FL wrote:

This plant was growing on the side of my house when we bought it nine years ago. I installed a trellis behind the plant and trained it upward. It is doing great, and is a conversation piece. Propagating is easy - I just cut off a piece and place it in the ground to start a new plant.

Positive Chamma On Dec 18, 2002, Chamma from Tennille, GA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I find this plant extremely attractive in raised beds with other tropical plants. Mine have bloomed with tiny red flowers from slipper shaped bracts. The plants are extremely easy and will tolerate half a day's sun and a very well draining soil. If the soil becomes too wet I find the leaves will drop off.

Neutral Dinu On Apr 24, 2002, Dinu from Mysore
India (Zone 10a) wrote:

It is also called 'red-bird plant'. The little flowers at the tips of new growth resemble a bird.

Neutral smiln32 On Aug 31, 2001, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

It thrives in partial shade and well-drained sandy soil. Planting should be done in the spring. Devil's backbones do best in bright indirect or curtain-filtered sunlight; if only artificial light is available, provide at least 400 foot-candles. High humidity, nighttime temperatures between 50 and 70 and daytime temperatures ranging from 70 to 85 are ideal. Keep the soil barely moist at all times. Fertilize established plants at two- to three-month intervals from early spring until late summer; do not fertilize them the rest of the year, and wait at least four to six months before fertilizing newly potted plants.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (3 reports)
Fort Payne, Alabama
Phoenix, Arizona
Louisville, Colorado
Anna Maria, Florida
Apopka, Florida (2 reports)
Bartow, Florida (2 reports)
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Bonita Springs, Florida
Cape Coral, Florida
Captiva, Florida
Cocoa Beach, Florida
Crestview, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Deland, Florida
Dunnellon, Florida
Floral City, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Pierce, Florida
Hobe Sound, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Homestead, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida (2 reports)
Lakeland, Florida (2 reports)
Merritt Island, Florida
Miami, Florida
New Port Richey, Florida (2 reports)
Niceville, Florida
North Fort Myers, Florida
North Port, Florida
Oakland, Florida
Ocala, Florida
Ocoee, Florida
Oldsmar, Florida
Orlando, Florida (2 reports)
Pompano Beach, Florida (3 reports)
Port Charlotte, Florida
Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Ruskin, Florida
Saint Cloud, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida (2 reports)
Sarasota, Florida (2 reports)
Seffner, Florida
Spring Hill, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Titusville, Florida (2 reports)
Venice, Florida
Vero Beach, Florida
Wauchula, Florida
Wellborn, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida
Winter Springs, Florida
Augusta, Georgia
Grovetown, Georgia
Ainaloa, Hawaii
Hawaiian Ocean View, Hawaii
Belle Rose, Louisiana
Covington, Louisiana
Gonzales, Louisiana
Jeanerette, Louisiana
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Paulina, Louisiana
Starkville, Mississippi
Roswell, New Mexico
Rocky Point, North Carolina
Northfield, Ohio
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Caguas, Puerto Rico
Conway, South Carolina
Alice, Texas
Andrews, Texas
Austin, Texas
Baytown, Texas
Brenham, Texas
Brownwood, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas
Eagle Lake, Texas
Galveston, Texas
Harlingen, Texas
Houston, Texas (3 reports)
Huntsville, Texas
Katy, Texas
Longview, Texas
Mcallen, Texas (2 reports)
Plano, Texas
Port Arthur, Texas
Portland, Texas
Richmond, Texas
Rockport, Texas
Rowlett, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Stephenville, Texas
Woodway, Texas

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