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Devils Backbone Plant Care (Pedilanthus Tithymaloides)

Updated: December 30, 2022

The Devils Backbone plant, Pedilanthus tithymaloides [ped-ill-AN-thus tih-ee-mal-OY-deez], is distinguished by its zig zag stems. The plant is indigenous to North and Central America’s subtropical climates.

Whereas it is still commonly known as Pedilanthus tithymaloides, the Pedilanthus genus has been combined with the Euphorbia genus, giving it the title ‘Euphorbia tithymaloides.’

Does The Devils Backbone Plant Have Any Other Names?

In addition to its scientific name, it is known by a variety of popular phrases. Aside from the Devils Backbone plant, it is also known as:

  • Redbird flower or Redbird cactus flower
  • The Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum goes by Jacobs ladder)
  • Plant with a zigzag pattern
  • Flower with a fiddle
  • The Red Slipper Plantain spurge
  • Christmas lighted candle
  • Japanese Poinsettia
  • Slipper Plant

That is only a portion of the listing. In some locations, you will learn of other prevalent names.

Different Types Of Devils Backbone Plants

The Devil’s backbone currently refers to the following Euphorbias as ‘cousin’:

  • Cactus with a Pencil (Euphorbia tirucalli)
  • African Milk Tree
  • Plant of the Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)

Main Uses Of Devils Backbone Plants

Cultivate as a houseplant in a vibrant spot. Throughout the summer, it makes a lovely patio plant. In frost-free areas, this plant makes an excellent landscaping plant.

How To Prune Devils Backbone Plants

Eliminate any yellow or decaying leaves, as well as damaged branches to provide optimal growing conditions. To limit the risk of fungal and bacterial illnesses, always prune with sterile tools or shears. Avoid cutting across yellowed tissue because this might lead to severe harm from illnesses or bacterial infections. Strive to keep clean incisions because excessively damaged wounds might startle the plant, resulting in decreased development and a deterioration in health.

Best Soil For Devils Backbone Plants

A certain rich potting mix would suffice for cultivating this plant, as long as the drainage is adequate. Applying peat moss, sand, and vermiculite will hopefully maintain the soil moist but not soggy.

Utilizing an unglazed clay container with drainage openings at the bottom will help ensure that the soil drains properly.

How Much Light Do Devils Backbone Plants Need?

This plant thrives in a lot of indirect sunshine. If you place it in a lightweight curtain, a bright window, or paneled blinds in the half-open position, it will require sunlight exposure. Excessive sunlight could burn the fragile leaves, so keep a close eye on them and transfer it or provide some cover if this occurs.

How Often To Water Devils Backbone Plants

The Devils Backbone Plant is drought-benignant. Nonetheless, it thrives in moist soil with frequent irrigation throughout the summer and little watering throughout the winter. Water sparingly in the fall and spring; the plant is dormant.

Whenever watering each 3-4 weeks throughout spring to mid-summer, apply liquid fertilizer. If your home is dry, misting it will enable it to remain healthy and will imitate the plant’s ideal natural environment.

Ideal Temperature Conditions For Devils Backbone Plants

USDA hardiness zones 9-11 are suggested for cultivation. It could be cultivated outside in a shaded place (to avoid dehydration and sun scorch) with temps above 12°C (54°F) in the summer.

If the temp falls under 40 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, bring the plant inside. Keep a watch out for pests regularly, particularly after transferring them indoors.

Humidity Conditions For Devils Backbone Plants

Devils Backbone is a tropical plant, which requires both sunlight and moderate-high moisture. If nurtured in a humid environment, it can survive inside at room temperature. Mist the branches and foliage weekly using water from a spray bottle to enhance humidity.

Best Fertilizer For Devils Backbone Plants

A little fertilizer in the spring and then each three to four weeks or so following that could assist it in developing good, healthy bracts throughout the summer. Fertilizing should be avoided during the winter and fall months since the plant goes dormant.

Even though a ‘Houseplant’ fertilizer is good for the plant, you should employ the particular ‘Cactus’ labeled feed because it enhances the essential nutrients, which these plant species require for development.

How To Propagate Devils Backbone Plants

You could propagate the Devils Backbone plant by cutting the stem. Throughout the early summer, collect stem cuttings. Remove the plant’s 3-4″ long stems. Because every cutting only requires a single leaf, you can collect as many as you desire.

Wait several hours for the clippings to dry. You could also immerse the cuttings’ ends in hot water to assist the white sap dry quicker.

Put the cuttings in moist sand after the white sap on its branches has dried. You will eventually realize that roots have penetrated, and you will have a newborn Devils Backbone plant.

For the soil, use damp perlite and sand. On the other hand, typical potting soil is good, and you should not require to repot plants once they have taken root.

If you use cactus mix for the soil, the Devil’s Backbone plant clippings must be transplanted upon rooting. A cactus mix lacks the nourishment that the plant demands.

Growth Rate Of Devils Backbone Plants

The Devil’s Backbone plant can grow to be 3-4 feet tall. The zigzag arrangement of the stout stems and branches generates tiny, oval-shaped foliage with sharp points.

Whenever the plant is young, its foliage might not be extremely thick. The plant could get reasonably thick as it develops.

Generally, the Devils Backbone is a slow-growing plant. It develops gradually and could take a few years to mature.

Ideal Pot Size For Devils Backbone Plants

It prefers to be root-bound in a tiny pot.

Repotting Tips For Devils Backbone Plants

To keep fungi and pests at bay, repot your Devil’s Backbone plant after three years and change the potting mix and additives. If the roots appear to have overrun the pot, increase the diameter by 3-4”.


Is The Devils Backbone Plants Edible?

The plant is mildly toxic if ingested, so it is best to keep at bay from children and pets.

Are Devils Backbone Plants Toxic To Cats And Dogs?

All sections of this plant possess a creamy sap, which can aggravate the skin and be toxic if consumed. Take good care to place the plant in an area where it will not contact dogs and cats. Garden gloves should be worn when trimming or replanting to prevent skin irritation.

Is The Devils Backbone Plants Poisonous?

The creamy sap of this plant’s fleshy stems is poisonous since it carries diterpene esters, a moderate carcinogen and an irritant.

Do Devil’s Backbone Plants Prefer To Grow Indoors Or Outside?

The houseplant Devil’s backbone prefers bright indirect sunlight. Plant in full sun in the winter and Autumn, but give it some shade from the blistering sunlight rays in the summer and spring. While cultivating Pedilanthus inside, select an area in the house that is free of drafts.

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What Are The Prevalent Pests And Diseases Affecting The Devil’s Backbone Plant?

The Devil’s Backbone is not troubled by many pests; spider mites are occasionally a nuisance. One sign of this is that the plant’s foliage may begin to appear dull. To eradicate the mites, cautiously wash the foliage with a damp cotton ball.

In terms of diseases, your plant could be sensitive to powdery mildew- typically caused by restricted airflow or a congested environment. Repot the plant and give it more room to permit improved airflow.