Euphorbia trigona ‘Rubra’ (2023)

E. trigona ‘Rubra’, shown here less than a foot tall, can grow up to 9 feet high and 2 feet wide.

By Judy Meyer (December 2023)

There are over 2,000 species of Euphorbia! This group of plants has more members than any other single genus. I have several of them. At our recent picnic, I was fortunate to have my name drawn early enough to win the colorful Euphorbia trigona ‘Rubra’. The spiraling trunk and deep red color make it quite unique.

Commonly known as the African milk tree, E. trigona ‘Rubra’ looks like a cactus. It is also referred to as candelabra cactus, cathedral cactus, friendship cactus and good luck cactus. But it is not a cactus at all! It is a succulent plant that grows quickly. It is grown in some places as a hedge.

E. trigona ‘Rubra’ is native to Central Africa. It has triangular stems with three seamed ridges. These ridges have thorns and teardrop-shaped leaves. The plant stays green throughout the growing season. The new growth has lighter-green leaves.

Euphorbias can be propagated from seed, cuttings, rhizomes, offsets including leaves, and by grafting. Just remember that the sticky, milky-white latex sap can be irritating to the skin. It might even cause blisters and blindness! Be sure to take precautions and wear gloves and protective eyewear.

This plant can live a long and happy life in a well-drained soil mixture. It prefers bright, indirect light in a south-facing window, if indoors. It can grow 1 to 2 feet a year, up to 9 feet high and 2 feet wide. (I hope it won’t outgrow our house!) Outdoors, it likes a dry climate and warm temperatures.

The ‘Rubra’ or ‘Royal Red’ cultivar is popular for its dramatic dark-red coloring, especially late in the season. That’s what drew me to this beautiful plant!


The Spruce
World Encyclopedia of Cacti and Succulents – Miles Anderson – 2003