The Euphorbia Trigona or African Milk Tree has an interesting architecture and upright growth habit. It grows strong spines like a cactus, complemented by delicate, feather like leaves. While it looks very much like a cactus it is, in fact, a succulent plant and gets its name from the milky white sap it produces.
Follow our African Milk Tree Care Guide and you’ll see just how low maintenance and easy to care for this plant really is.
How to Care for an Indoor African Milk Tree
Euphorbia Trigona is a variety native to Central and West Africa making it an excellent house plant. They are commonly grown as hedges in African due to their non-invasive, rapid growth rate and have many other names including candelabra cactus, friendship cactus, and good luck cactus making it a wonderful good luck gift to send to friends and family.
African Milk Tree Light, Location & Temperature
African milk trees are bright light plants and worship the sun and require at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. While they will tolerate partial shade and indirect light you will find they thrive in a bright sunny location. Sunny, south facing windows usually allow for the best lighting.
Keep your plant in a location that stays at a consistent temperature above 10C, avoid placing near drafts and move from cold window sills during the winter.
African Milk Tree Soil and Repotting
African milk trees like a good quality potting soil mix with excellent drainage. You can create your own with lightweight cactus or succulent compost, coarse perlite and added organic matter.
Planting directly into a terracotta pot can help with moisture control as the porous material allows excess water to escape. If you don’t have a terracotta pot, regular plastic growing pots are just as good with added drainage holes.
For the overall health of your plant, repotting should be done once a year between June and July when growing most active. Potted plants do not have access to external nutrients in the surrounding soil and can use up their supply quickly, repotting them is a great way to replenish much needed nutrients.
When it comes to repotting, make sure to get some thick gardening gloves on. It might be helpful to get another pair of hands on the job too, just to make it a little bit easier. Being careful of the sharp spines, one of you can hold the pot while the other gently remove the plant.
Get a slightly larger pot, around 1-2 inches bigger and fill in the base with new compost. We recommend creating a mix of lightweight compost and coarse perlite for the best drainage possible. Once you have filled the pot to the right level, place in the root ball and backfill the edges before firming down and giving light water. Ensure the soil level is the same at the base of the plant, avoid planting too deep or too shallow.
Your African milk tree should take around 2 weeks for the root system to get settled into its new home, after this period you can continue to fertilise and water as normal.
African Milk Tree Watering & Fertilising
The African milk bush is drought tolerant and likes to dry out completely between each watering. They will not tolerate wet or soggy soil and do not like to be left standing in water. Always allow for the top layers of soil to dry between each watering, feel with your hand if you’re unsure. Evenly water the top layer of soil and let it soak down, pour away any excess water. Increase watering in the summer while the plant is actively growing, check soil moisture once a week.
In winter, only water once the top 1 inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Underwatering is always less harmful than overwatering.
Feed your African milk tree every few weeks during the growing season using cactus or succulent fertiliser. Apply the first feed in early spring around April, the last feed can be added in September just before the start of autumn. Don’t feed at all over winter while the plant is in dormancy.
African Milk Tree Pests
African milk tree plants are relatively resistant to most pests but an unhealthy plant can be susceptible to spider mites and mealybugs. If left untreated they can become a problem not only for this plant but other indoor plants in the home, especially the leafier varieties. Check the surface of the plant carefully for these tiny pests, spider mites will often leave web like material so are easier to spot.
To treat, create a mild soap water mixture or neem oil spray and use it to treat directly. These are great non toxic options over commercial pesticides and can be sprayed directly onto the plants without harm.
African Milk Tree Toxicity
The white milky sap produced by Euphorbia Trigona can be toxic to both animals and humans if ingested and can also cause irritation if it comes into contact with the skin. The sharp spines can also cause injury so if there are pets and children in the home make sure to keep out of reach of any prying hands or paws.
We do have a range of pet friendly plants on our website for safer options in the home.
Send an African Milk as a Gift
Indoor plants make unique alternatives to other traditional gifts, we find loved ones are always delighted when they open their gift to find a beautiful plant inside, whether it’s a birthday gift, anniversary gift or any other special occasion.
The African Milk Tree is a symbol of both friendship and good luck and due to its unique architecture, we can’t think of a better gift idea to send to friends and family. Simply add your plant to the basket, select a greetings card at the checkout and nominate a day for delivery. One of our green fingered team will hand select a plant and hand gift wrap it ready for dispatch.