Euphorbia lactea

'Cristata Variegata'
Common Name: mottled spurge 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Native Range: India, Sri Lanka, Thailand
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 5.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 5.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: Rarely flowers
Bloom Description: Yellow tinged
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Insignificant
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11 where plants are best grown in well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Must have sharply-drained soils. Allow soils to dry out after each watering, but water consistently in summer as needed to prevent soils from totally drying out. Decrease watering in winter. Plants are intolerant of frost. Potted plants may be overwintered indoors. May be grown as a houseplant.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Euphorbia lactea, commonly called mottled spurge, and also known as mottled candlestick or milkstripe euphorbia, is a usually leafless, cactus-like succulent shrub or small tree that grows in an upright columnar form to as much as 15' tall. In containers, it grows much smaller and can be easily maintained as a 1-2' tall houseplant. It is believed to be native to India. It is noted for its shrubby habit, spiny stems, mottled branches (green with white lines), usually 4-angled stems, paired black stem thorns, and white milky sap. All parts of this plant are poisonous, particularly the white sap (latex) which exudes from stem cuts. Sap is also an often significant irritant to eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Tiny ovate leaves appear at the growing tips in summer, but drop quickly leaving plants leafless most of the time. Plants rarely flower in cultivation. When flowers do appear, they are inconspicuously located in paired cyathia near the stem tips.

Genus name probably honors Euphorbus, physician to the King of Mauretania.

Specific epithet means milk, probably for the plant's milky sap.

Problems

No known serious insect or disease problems. Aphids, mealybugs and nematodes may appear. Watch for mites. Avoid contact with poisonous plant sap.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, this euphorbia is used as a specimen, hedge or container plant. May be grown indoors as a houseplant.