Euphorbia, African Milk Tree, Candelabra Cactus 'Rubra'

Euphorbia trigona

Family: Euphorbiaceae (yoo-for-bee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Euphorbia (yoo-FOR-bee-uh) (Info)
Species: trigona (try-GOH-nuh) (Info)
Cultivar: Rubra
Synonym:Euphorbia trigona f. rubra


Cactus and Succulents

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun


Grown for foliage


Foliage Color:



8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)


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)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:


Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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:

Unknown - Tell us


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


Bonsall, California

Capistrano Beach, California

Castro Valley, California

Clayton, California

Hayward, California

Los Angeles, California

Reseda, California

San Diego, California

San Dimas, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Venice, California

Vista, California

Bartow, Florida

North Port, Florida

Sebastian, Florida

Winter Springs, Florida

Suwanee, Georgia

Richmond, Indiana

Columbia City, Oregon

Pulaski, Tennessee

Brownsville, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

La Vernia, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Dillwyn, Virginia

Seattle, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Nov 27, 2010, wideopenvista from Mesa, AZ wrote:

I have this growing in a large pot in my courtyard in the Phoenix, AZ area. It DOES NOT LIKE DIRECT SUN in the low desert. I have the scars to prove it when I accidentally set in the sun while cleaning (for just a couple hours). It almost died! It's recovered nicely and it's growing moderately (maybe 6-10" per year). It likes to have water about once per week when it's above 110. Twice a month when its 90-100. Every 3 weeks when it's 75-90 (Fall and Spring here) and monthly in the winter.


On Dec 15, 2009, watties from Auckland,
New Zealand wrote:

I bought my first plant 3 years ago and it was sadly neglected in a small pot with no watering. Repotted this in a larger ceramic pot and its never looked back. It lives outside all year and even the frost hasn't damaged it. Its currently about 6 fott high and very healthy. I took a sde branch off last year and now have 2 others growing. Lives facing the north and it loves the sunlight and heat.


On Nov 12, 2009, Foulweather from Mazatlan,
Mexico wrote:

I have 4 euphorbia trigona rubra plants on my west facing porch in Mazatlan MX. One of them is over 6' tall and the tops are bending down. Can I cut these (how long) and root them? Will they send out more branches if I do that? They get strong late afternoon sun. The plant that gets the most sun seems to have more red leaves.


On Jan 16, 2008, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

Trigona is really at its limit in the bay area outdoors.I had a decade old one in ground killed in 1998's 28f. Got right back up, bought another potted plant and it just squeaked past the 30f in 07. I thought it had no damage until weeks later when the top inch or two of the tallest branches developed crescent moon burn marks that eventually cause those tips to fall sideways.
The first one when i bought it was virtually black. I have never since seen one that dark. Where it was grown i dont know.Florida?
They make perfect pot plants. Super easy care. Can take being over watered as well as under watered. I have lush moss growing under my Rubra. Tough plants.
edit 2012: I have learned that they turn darkest outdoors in shade. Not what you would expect,but true.


On Aug 19, 2007, erni from West Islip, NY wrote:

I bought this plant over 30 years ago at a local grocery store. It was one stalk, perhaps 6 inches in height. It is now over 8 feet tall and has always resided indoors. My biggest problems are, it want's to grow taller but cannot due to ceiling height and as it now has at least 20 stalks is very difficult to repot. I just did repot it as it was unable to stand without being tied. I have never pruned it, but it did fall over once and stabbed itself many times, causing it to weaken dramatically, that is when we tied it, hoping it would regain strength. Can it be pruned? Any help is welcome as I would hate to loose it after all these years. I will post a picture when I have a digital camara available.


On Nov 6, 2006, Kachena from Berwick, ME wrote:

Hi , I live in Southern Maine and grow mine indoors. I inherited it from my grandmother. My cactus was dormant for about 3 years then started to grow again and bud on edges. My youngest daughter poked a large hole in the bottom of one of the stalks, and that stalk seems to be dying. I foung this site loking for info on how to save it or cut it from where it is dead and re-plant. Otherwise I have had wonderful luck with plant and it is always a good convesation starter. Take care, Kachena


On Sep 20, 2006, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is one of the better landscaping Euphorbias for moderate sized xeric gardens in Southern California- it is super easy requiring little or no care. Rarely needs water, though will take a lot of water happily and just grow faster. It will stay where it is- non-invasive. It grows in nice, tight clumps, and if getting too tall, is fairly easy to move (except very sharp spines, and sticky, irritating sap) with little worries about it not surviving the move. And if you want more, a simple 'snap'- off an arm and put in the ground (or a sandy soil in a pot) and it will usually take, as long as you don't over water it (or try this in the middle of winter). It tends to be covered in leaves during the summer, and devoid of them in the winter. I havent' seen mine flower yet, but suspect the... read more


On Sep 3, 2006, dwood from Dillwyn, VA wrote:

I have had mine for now 9 years, growing indoors. I have had no problems other than trying to keep up with the right pot size. It has just developed what appears to be leaves growing on the very tip top of each arm. Why? I dont know, I just keep watching it ... If they are suppose to bloom, how long does it take.


On Nov 27, 2005, koolkatken from Auckland,
New Zealand wrote:

Had mine growing outside in a pot for 3 years (Auckland, NZ) and it is getting big. Beyond handling now. Very easy care--does not much water. I had it facing the hot, west side (also where we got a fair deal of wind) and it did great. Now, I have moved, and it's facing east so it only gets morning sun. Seems happy, still. Quite a feature people comment on when they see it.


On Apr 14, 2005, skytt from Copenhagen, HI (Zone 9b) wrote:

Grown as an indoor plant in Denmark it is very hardy, I had one in our bathroom for 8 years, but it became too big. Now I have one in my office on top of the radiator. perfect office plant. In Danish we call it "Cowboy Cactus" -- not withstanding.


On Feb 21, 2005, cacti_lover from Henderson, NV (Zone 9b) wrote:

Like all Euphorbias, the sap is also poisonous, in addition to being a skin irritant. I also read somewhere that it may cause blindness if the sap gets in the eyes. Not sure how true it is, but I won't take any chances. I also use rubbing alcohol if I get some on my skin.

This particular plant is actually quite easy to grow and not very demanding. It does very well indoors with moderate light. Dim light will give it weak, flat growth. To get the red coloring, give it some sunlight gradually. It will not tolerate much freezing temperature.


On Jun 28, 2004, damlyn from Tweed Heads South,
Australia wrote:

I live in east coast Australia and have had great success with this plant. I broke off one the "arms" and put it into some potting mix . It is slow growing but so far has 3 new leaves and seems quite healthy. It originated in tropical West Africa. Doesn't seem to be prone to any diseases so far.


On Aug 28, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

Like all Euphorbia HANDLE WITH CARE, the latex/sap is dangerous and can cause skin rash, itching and general discomfort.