Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Jacob's Ladder
Euphorbia tithymaloides subsp. smallii

Family: Euphorbiaceae (yoo-for-bee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Euphorbia (yoo-FOR-bee-uh) (Info)
Species: tithymaloides subsp. smallii

Synonym:Pedilanthus smallii
Synonym:Tithymalus smallii
Synonym:Pedilanthus tithymaloides subsp. smallii

4 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials
Cactus and Succulents

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
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:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Provides winter interest

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

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From herbaceous stem cuttings
From softwood cuttings
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

Click thumbnail
to view:

By Kiepersol
Thumbnail #1 of Euphorbia tithymaloides subsp. smallii by Kiepersol


2 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Lois81 On Feb 3, 2013, Lois81 from Mansfield, TX wrote:

I had this plant years ago and always enjoyed it. I lived in a condo so pot gardened on my patio. I have moved many times since then and must have given it away. I frequent a restaurant here in Mansfield by the name of Steven's Garden (it actually was originally a nursery.) The owner has many large containers full of what she calls Red Bird and I call Devil's Backbone. She gave me some starts late last summer. I rooted them in water and potted them after about a month. All five starts are in the same pot and doing very well. Since I live in an apartment with no patio mine will always be a house plant. I think it is time to move up a size on the pot. I have a question regarding the correct potting soil which is: should I use all purpose potting soil or the African Violet Potting Mix with continuous feed fertilizer in it that was sold to me at Lowe's? Any help with this is most welcome.

Positive MotherNature4 On Dec 22, 2004, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

In Florida, this plant will grow in hot, dry places where nothing else will grow, yet will survive our wet, humid summers. It is most colorful in the winter when the foliage changes from green and white to pink and bronze.

A euphorbia, one must be careful of the sap when pruning. It roots easily, yet is not invasive.

This is really a subspecies of Pedilanthus tithymaloides. It is native to south Florida.


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

Hidden Meadows, California
Bartow, Florida
Bradley, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
New Orleans, Louisiana
Mansfield, Texas

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