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Euphorbia tithymaloides

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Common name: Zigzag Plant, Devil’s Backbone

Also known as: Pedilanthus tithymaloides


An old fashioned plant, but trendy once more, this plant is from the dry tropical forests of Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America. Tried and proven in gardens over the decades this plant has survived neglect, drought and abuse to become a collectable plant with its many forms and coloured leaf variations now in high demand.


As well as the plain green leafed form, a number of different cultivars are grown in Queensland. They include:

  • A dwarf green form to 300mm high
  • A green form with puckered leaves
  • A variegated form with chartreuse to cream edges to the leaves and reddish tones when dry growing to between 1 and 1.5m tall
  • An open upright form with white edged, keeled leaves to about 1.2 t- 1.5m high
  • And a compact, white edged form to 30cm to 1m high, widely used for hedging in Asia

None of these plants appear to have specific cultivar names


A plant recently introduced into Australia from Thailand is known here as ‘Peacock’. It has chartreuse mottled leaves and stems and is very attractive.


The succulent nature of the plant can result in the stems flopping over to the ground as the plant matures. This is the natural habit of the plant, but if you find it unattractive it can be overcome with a light prune. Prunings, once dried for a few days can be planted as cuttings in pots of sand or free draining soils.


Belonging to the spurge group of plants, take care when handling cut parts of this plant.


Best Growing Conditions:

-          full sun to part shade

-          excellent drainage essential

-          avoid wet soils or excessive watering

-          benefits by an occasional feed with fertiliser

-          does not tolerate frosts well.



Written by Paul Plant, Editor of subTropical Gardening magazine - www.stgmagazine.com.au

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