Planting My Pencil Cactus Cuttings

If you’re new to the glorious world of gardening, I just want to let you know that every now and then even we experienced gardeners have a tough time with a project. I had brought these Pencil Cactus cuttings with me when I moved from California to Arizona last year. They sat around in the shade for a couple of months and I finally got around to putting them in a mix so they could root. And boy have they grown.  It was time to get around to planting those Pencil Cactus cuttings, now a fully rooted plant, once again.

This Pencil Cactus, or Euphorbia tirucalli,  was leaning against the wall of my covered patio looking like it really needed and wanted a bigger base, i.e. pot. I hadn’t moved it in a while and didn’t realize how top heavy and flippy floppy it was. When I slid it over to the other side of the patio for the replanting, it was leaning worse than that tower in Pisa. The project was already in full swing so time to continue on and see if I could make things right. As you’ll see in the video, wrong!

This project has a successful ending but you can see me bumbling about planting these Pencil Cactus cuttings:

The materials used when planting the Pencil Cactus cuttings:

19″ resin pot which previously held my 3-headed Ponytail Palm. I touched it up with spray paint plus a detailing of gold metallic paint & it was good to go.

Succulent & cactus mix. I use 1 formulated by a local company but here’s a mix if you can’t find any in your neck of the woods.

Potting soil. I added some in with the mix because I’m in the desert & it helps to retain moisture. You can plant your Pencil Cactus in all potting soil if you’d like but be very careful not to overwater. Succulent & cactus mix is best.

Compost & worm compost. These are my favorite amendments which I use instead of fertilizer. Mine come from local companies but this compost & worm compost are good options.

Cholla wood. I collected this piece in the desert.

Jute twine. This is what I used to tie the Pencil Cactus to the cholla. I use it for a lot of gardening projects.

2 pencil cactus cuttings staked up with sunburst aeoniums growing at the base in an orange pot sunburst

Here you see the cuttings I brought from my Santa Barbara garden. My how they’ve grown in 9 months!

The steps:

Put a coffee filter (a piece of newspaper will work fine) over the drain holes to keep the loose mix from washing out.

Add in the succulent mix along with a pot full of potting soil & a few handfuls of the compost so that the top of the root ball will sit evenly or slightly above the top of the pot. You can see me gauging this in the video. Mix everything well.

A word of warning about working with Pencil Cactus or other Euphorbias: they bleed a milky sap. The link explains all.

Place the Pencil Cactus in the pot. (This is when the stake should have been placed in because I wouldn’t have had to trowel so much mix out later on).

Fill in around the sides with succulent mix & compost.

Add the Fishhooks Senecio & fill in with the mix. Top with a 1/2″ layer of worm compost.

After the plant settles down in the mix a bit, I’ll add another 1/2″ layer of worm compost & top that with a layer of compost.

close up of the small leaves on a pencil cactus

The tiny leaves of a Pencil Cactus (aka Pencil Tree or Milk Bush) appear on the new growth. 

What I did 1 week later to make this planting project have a happy ending:

Instead of going to a garden center or someplace like Home Depot to buy a plain ‘ole wood or metal stake, I decided to use a piece of cholla wood. I’ve had it leaning against the wall for many months now. It makes a mighty fine & interesting stake. I wedged a smaller piece of cholla wood in at the base to help anchor that tall one. Bingo – I collected it in the desert & knew I’d use it for something!

This project had a few bumps along the way but ended on a high note.  I’m happy as can be and the Pencil Cactus has plenty of room for its roots to grow, is anchored up firm as can be and looks fabulous to boot. One thing you can be sure of, with gardening is that you never know what’s going to happen!

Happy gardening & thanks for stopping by,

Signed by Nell Foster

You May Also Enjoy:

Potting Up My Pencil Cactus Cuttings

Pencil Cactus Care, Indoors And In The Garden

How Much Sun Do Succulents Need?

Succulent and Cactus Soil Mix for Pots

How Often Should You Water Succulents? 


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  1. FYI I got a tiny amount of pencil plant sap in my eye. I spent hours in agony: be VERY careful. Keep away from pets and children.

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