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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)

By Staff | Dec 17, 2014

First impression: Christmas red, tiny bright blossoms cover a very well armed plant. Thorns (aka barbs) blanket every stem of this low growing shrub. Leaves are green and sparse. Somewhere under all these teethed stems we may find a beginning, but I’m not looking! No fragrance that I can detect, but pollinators are all around. A sticky situation might occur if you try to pick these blossoms; you can look, but don’t touch this unique bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Crown of Thorns really describes this multi/prickly plant. Euphorbias include a whopping 2,000 plus species of tropical, drought tolerant plants. Our star got its name long ago as it resembles the spiny crown that was placed on the head of Christ during crucifixion. If you can learn to admire the thorns, Crown of Thorns will be very popular in your garden because it’s always blooming.

Each blossom consists of two petals in a heart shape surrounding a teeny weenie floret. Each bloom, usually four, is connected to a thin, stiff stalk which is attached to the main flower stem. So many stalks makes for oodles of ever-blooming flowers. These slender stalks create dancing flowers when the wind blows. Bees love the blooms and can be seen all day feeding on the sweet nectar.

The trunk of our star is gray and gnarly and shaped like a hedge cactus. Thorns, thorns and more thorns cover every inch of the trunk. Brown and Green Anoles (small mammals) and snakes find shelter under and around, protected by the plant’s spiny stems.

In the last decades Crown of Thorns varieties have evolved. Yellow, white, pinks colors, which are great for options. Larger sized flowers and leaves can be found. Crown of Thorns is slow growing, may reach 2-3 feet in height, and can sprawl just as wide. Pruning can be done carefully, but really not necessary. Propagation is usually by division.

Always wear thick leather gloves and a long-sleeved shirt. Wrapping a long, rolled-up section of newsprint or fabric around a pad provides a convenient handle that avoids the long spines and short glochids. Dug up or cut stems can then be cut off larger plants with handclippers. The cut stems wound should dry for about three days.

I place mine in shady areas under bushes etc. Plant the wounded stem with the wound in the ground. The wound will establish the new Crown of Thorns with roots. Whaa-la: Another fabulous addition, which will reward you for many years with the yin and yang of flowers and thorns.

Pros:

Unique ever-bloomer

Does well in sandy soil

Likes full sun

Bee magnet

Easy to maintain

Salt tolerance

Name and thorny look make a great conversation piece

Is great for a ground cover

Great barrier for unwanted neighbors

Cold tolerant

Great habitat plant

Easy care

Non-invasive.

Cons:

Be careful with barbs

Slow grower

Non-native

Who doesn’t love bees!

Conclusion: Learn to love our barbs! They can give us inspiration as true survivors. How do you show your love to our Crown of Thornsvery carefully!

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!