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We have two euphorbias which we are struggling to take care of. They aren't dead but the leaves continue to brown and fall off. We aren't sure if we are over watering them or under watering them. Any suggestions and tips?

euphorbias

  • Are you trying to grow these indoors? Do you have a proper name for either of them, as in the varietal name,because that would give us a clue re pruning regime? How long have you had them, and what part of the world are you in? Sorry about all the questions, but these things help to get a better answer – Bamboo Nov 29 '18 at 17:41
  • The one on the left is "Ascot Rainbow Spurge" and the right is "Characias 'Bruce's Dwarf'". We have had them for about 2 months now. We live in the Bay area in California. We keep them outside in the balcony, but today I bought them indoors just since it has been raining a lot, and is also very windy. – amijjm Nov 29 '18 at 17:53
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Thanks for the additional information. The first thing to say is, these particular varieties should always be outdoors, they do not tolerate indoor conditions for any length of time at all, added to which they are highly toxic if consumed, so any pets you might have should be kept away from them. Note also that the milky sap of these plants is a skin irritant for many people, so always wear gloves when handling the plants.

That said, both plant pots do not have sufficient soil in them - at a minimum, the soil level should be up to the line about an inch below the top of the pot - the variegated one is in a worse situation than the other in regard to that.

The variegated one is a Euphorbia martinii variety, and it is usual to cut them to the ground (or the soil) in late autumn, so that should be done now, particularly if you get frost where you live (not sure whether you do or not). The other one, being a characias variety, has a different pruning regime - immediately after flowering, every stem which has flowered should be cut down to soil level, being careful not to damage any new growth arising from the roots. If you've only had these a couple of months, perhaps you haven't seen any flowers on the stems, but by the look of the stems you do have, it's possible they flowered in spring and should have been cut down, but it has failed to produce any new growth from the base. Cutting it down might have encouraged new growth to form.

You don't say how you've been watering, but the rules are almost always the same - water when the surface of the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch, but not so dry it's shrunken from the sides. When you do water, water well - judging by the size of the pots, you'd need to probably give each one at least half a litre if not a whole litre of water. After 30 minutes, the outer tray should be emptied out so they are not left sitting in water. Whilst these plants are fairly drought resistant and some drought won't kill them, they tend to drop leaves if they are not getting enough water. Fertilize with a general purpose, balanced fertilizer in spring, as growth begins.

With regard to pruning the characias variety, it's really too late to prune, but I suggest you cut down 3 or 4 of the stems that look the worst now anyway, keep it watered as necessary, and see how it does next spring - if it flowers then, prune it correctly afterwards.

  • I was a little surprised to read that Euphorbias don't grow well indoors. I can't recall ever seeing one as a houseplant, though. Also note, if the sap gets in your eyes, it may not kill you but it might blind you. Second note, Poinsettias are Euphorbias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and all the same cautions apply. – Tim Nevins Nov 29 '18 at 19:21
  • @TimNevins - well clearly some do alright indoors, but not always long term, and not these two. I shall clarify that... – Bamboo Nov 29 '18 at 19:40
  • It's a huge genus, so there's bound to be some variety in condition preferences. I don't grow them (had an E. horrida, once, it didn't end well) so I'm not certain of anything besides their toxicity and the astounding variety of growth habits. – Tim Nevins Nov 29 '18 at 19:57
  • Euphorbia milii, the crown of thorns plant, is often grown as a houseplant - but usually stood outdoors in summer, weather permitting. Its true there is an amazingly varied and large number of plants all called Euphorbia. – Bamboo Nov 29 '18 at 20:31

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