General description of milkweed, where the name came from, growing rules, breeding steps, pest and disease control, curious facts, species. Spurge (Euphorbia) is a fairly popular indoor culture, which is part of the Euphorbiaceae family. The genus is numerous, according to various sources, the number of its representatives ranges from 800 to 2000 units. Basically, almost all milkweed grows on the territory of the African continent, where the subtropical climate reigns, and also captures the lands of Central and South America, Arabia and the Canary Islands, this also includes Madagascar. On the territory of Russia, you can count up to 160 species of milkweed. In the cold regions of the planet, this plant is practically not found.
Euphorbia received its scientific name thanks to the healer from Ancient Rome Dioscaris (40-90 AD), who thus decided to perpetuate the name of his "colleague" in the medical practice of Euphorba, who served as the court physician of the Numidian ruler Yuba (reign 54 BC). This legendary physician was the first to use the medicinal properties of milkweed in his medicinal potions, the recipes for which were drawn from the writings of Pliny the Elder himself (approximately 22–79 AD).
Basically all euphorbia are annuals or perennials. The general appearance of the milkweed is quite diverse and everything directly depends on the variety:
- the stems are covered with multiple leaves, there are no thorns;
- the entire surface of the stems is dotted with thorns, there is no foliage;
- the shape of the stems can be fleshy with edges, columnar or spherical.
The height of the milkweed varies from a few centimeters to 2 meters.
The only property that all these plants have in common is that their parts contain white milky juice. Inside any part of it there is a numerous branching of vessels devoid of septa, they are the receptacle of the juice.
The life form of euphorbia also varies greatly: herbaceous species, shrubs and small trees, succulents (plants that collect liquid in their parts), similar to cacti.
The stems of the spurge are straight and growing upward, they rarely branch poorly, but they are almost never branched. Leaves are arranged opposite or in whorls, can grow alternately. The edge is smooth, sometimes with notches. Stipules are often present, but there are species lacking them. Leaf plates grow sessile or with short petioles.
Another important feature of euphorbia, which makes it possible to unite all representatives into one genus, is the inflorescences, consisting of male and female buds. The flowers surround the wrappers to which they attach. The wrappers have special pieces of iron, the number of which depends on the variety. In some species of milkweed, cyatophylls are formed on the outside of the wrappers, which are mistaken for flower petals. Their color can be white, red or green. There are species devoid of cyatophiles, but there are also those in which large leaf plates grow under them (such an example is poinsettia).
The fruit of milkweed is a tricuspid nut with three seeds inside.
Rules for growing milkweed indoors, care
- Lighting and location selection. The plant will be comfortable if it is placed in a place with constant and constant lighting at any time of the year. However, with the onset of spring and summer, it is recommended to accustom the euphorbia to bright light gradually so that burns do not appear on the leaves. The best location is the sills in the southeast or south. If, with the arrival of the autumn-winter period, the lighting level drops, then it is recommended to carry out supplementary lighting with phytolamps or LEDs. However, since some varieties are rather large in size, then a pot with such milkweed is placed next to the window, then he will not need shading, but he will have to organize supplementary lighting in winter. If euphorbia resembles a cactus in its outlines, that is, it has thickened fleshy stems, then they need bright sun, but there are also shade-tolerant species, such as white-necked or triangular euphorbia, which need sunlight only in the morning or evening hours.
- Content temperature milkweed in the spring-summer period is 22-25 degrees. If the variety is succulent, then it can easily survive higher heat values. With the arrival of winter, the milkweed begins a period of rest and it will be necessary to lower the temperature to 14 units, the minimum allowable range is 10-12 degrees.
- Watering. In the spring and summer months, soil moisture should be moderate, but the soil should dry out a little before the next watering. Complete drying is harmful, as is waterlogging of the substrate. In winter, when kept with low heat indices, the soil should dry completely before the next moisture, that is, watering is rare. Those varieties of euphorbia, which differ in the presence of foliage, due to the fact that moisture evaporates from their surface too much, will require more moisture than those euphorbia that are devoid of foliage.
- Air humidity when growing milkweed is not an important factor, since many succulents tolerate short-term drought well. You should not spray milkweed, unless only to remove accumulated dust from the shoots for hygiene purposes.
- Fertilizers. During the period when the plant passes to vegetative activity and flowering, then fertilizing is carried out using preparations for cacti or succulents. Regular feeding every 14 days. If the species is blooming, it is recommended to use products for decorative deciduous plants (for example, Kemira-plus or Fertika-lux). However, some growers use conventional houseplant fertilizers, but the dosage is halved by them from the manufacturer's recommended one. Feeding with nitrogenous preparations is prohibited for all species, especially if the milkweed has a spherical stem, since its skin begins to crack over time. In extreme cases, funds are used for representatives of orchids or bromeliads.
- Milkweed transplant. When the euphorbia is young, the pot and the soil in it must be changed annually or after a year. Over time, transplants are performed only once every 2-3 years. It is recommended to put a layer of drainage material on the bottom of the pot, and holes should be made in the bottom of the container to drain excess liquid. The substrate must be drained, with the possibility of rapid passage of water and drying. It is customary to make a soil mixture from greenhouse (garden) soil, leaf and peat soil, river sand and brick chips (all parts are taken equal). Also, small pieces of birch coal are introduced into this mixture. If there is no brick chips, then it is replaced with vermiculite. If the variety is large, for example, white-necked euphorbia, then it needs to add one part of rotted compost to the composition of the substrate.
Steps for breeding milkweed at home
Reproduction of euphorbia is possible by cuttings, dividing the bush and sowing seeds.
Cuttings are cut in late spring or June from the tops of the shoots, then they are dried so that the milky juice is gone, and dried for 1-2 days. It is recommended to sprinkle sections on mother's milk with crushed activated or charcoal. You can use root stimulants before planting. Planting of cuttings is carried out in pots with drainage at the bottom, filled with peat-sandy substrate or a mixture of leafy soil, peat and sand (equal parts). The container is placed in a bright place and the temperature is maintained at about 20 degrees. Rooting takes about a month. When the cuttings are well rooted, they are transplanted into large pots with soil more suitable for further growth.
Seed material is propagated in the spring. Sowing is carried out in a universal peat soil with coarse sand (equal amounts). Sowing pots are taken flat. Before planting, the seeds are calcined in the oven, and then buried into the substrate by 2 mm. Extensive moistening is carried out and covered with a piece of glass or plastic wrap. The temperature during germination should be at least 25 degrees. Do not forget to ventilate and moisturize the substrate every day if it is dry. When, after 2–4 months, seedlings are formed and a pair of leaf plates develops on the plant, then a dive is performed in separate pots with suitable soil.
When dividing an overgrown euphorbia bush, the time is suitable for early spring or September days. The plant must be carefully removed from the pot, the roots are examined and the damaged processes are removed. They try not to tear off the living roots, but carefully separate them with their hands without resorting to cutting tools. If you have to cut the root system, then the knife or garden pruner must be carefully disinfected and sharpened.
After the procedure, the roots are washed with warm water to stop the release of juice, the places of the cuts are sprinkled with coal powder. Then the seeding of the milkweed is carried out in separate containers with drainage at the bottom and suitable soil. Such a transplanted euphorbia will recover only after a couple of years and will not bloom in the first years of flowering.
Pests and diseases arising from the care of milkweed
Euphorbia is mainly affected by diseases, since pests bypass it because of the poisonous juice.
The bay threatens rotting of the root system and stems. It is important that moisture does not reach the stems, as they take on a corky appearance, below they are covered with small pebbles and pebbles. In winter, the heat indicators should be reduced, or additional lighting will have to be carried out so that the stems do not grow bent.
Curious facts about milkweed
When milkweed juice becomes hardened, then it is used in folk medicine, since the spectrum of its healing properties is very large. Preparations based on it are used for the manufacture of laxatives and emetics. If you believe folk healers, then euphorbia helps with the manifestation of cancer.
On the territory of natural growth of milkweed, for example, in India, by mixing powder from crushed milkweed root with pepper, snake bites are successfully cured. In our latitudes, with the help of the juice of this plant, it is customary to get rid of warts or calluses, freckles on the face.
Euphorbia juice was used by the Bushmen to coat their arrowheads.
It is important to remember that careless handling of milkweed because of its toxic juice will lead to severe burns on the skin, and in severe cases, loss of vision or skin ulcers may occur. When grown indoors, it is better to keep euphorbia out of reach of small children and pets.
Types of milkweed
Since the number of euphorbia species is quite large, we will dwell on those that are usually grown in room conditions:
- Euphorbia beautiful (Euphorbia pulcherrima) known as the Poinsettia or Star of Bethlehem. The leaf plates are tender, large, bright green in color, located under the inflorescences. The color of the inflorescences is bright red, pinkish or snow-white. The flowers themselves are small and do not differ in decorativeness.
- This species needs to be grown in a place with good bright light. It is cultivated as an annual and is thrown away at the end of the flowering process.
- Euphorbia obesa (Euphorbia obesa) or Euphorbia puffy. It is a succulent plant. The stem is spherical in shape, reminiscent of a cactus. The ribs on the surface of the stem are weakly expressed, along the edge they have a strip of growths in the form of thornless warts.
- White-necked spurge (Euphorbia leuconeura). The variety is by far the most common. Under natural conditions, the plant can reach one and a half meter indicators. The trunk has clearly defined ribs. The leaf plates gradually begin to die off in the lower part of the trunk over time, concentrating at the very top of the stem. Because of this property, this variety is often called "palm". The shape of the leaves is elongated, oval-ovoid. The color is dark green, veins are clearly visible on the surface. During flowering, small, nondescript flowers are formed. The fruit is a capsule, which, when ripe, opens into three valves and the seed material simply "shoots" out of it. Waterlogging is detrimental to this variety of milkweed, the foliage will begin to turn yellow and fly around.
- Mille spurge (Euphorbia milii) is popularly called the Euphorbia splendens or "thorn flower". It is a large-sized shrub, the grayish stems of which are covered with thorns. Leaf plates of bright green color, with oblong outlines. In the process of flowering, rather small flowers are formed, surrounded by bright red bracts, which are often mistaken by people for flower petals. The color of the bracts is very diverse: red, salmon, bright yellow, whitish pink, yellowish pink.
- Triangular spurge (Euphorbia trigona) has a bushy shape with rather fleshy stems. In natural conditions, the variety tends to create clumps because of its spreading forms and numerous trunks. When grown in rooms, its parameters do not exceed 1.5 m in height. The trunk has pronounced ribs, the surface of which is covered with small spines and oblong leaves, concentrated at the tops of the shoots. The root system is not large in size, and since the plant has a decent height, either a support is used to grow it, to which the shoots are tied or a deep container, into which a good drainage layer is laid at the bottom, for stability.
- Cereus euphorbia (Euphorbia cereiformis) is a succulent with branching stems, fleshy outlines, growing straight. The height of the shoots can be close to a meter. The surface of the stems is ribbed, which is covered with spines of a grayish or brown color. Leaf plates grouped at the top of the stems. Leaves are small and oblong, pointed at the end.
- Large-horned spurge (Euphorbia grandicornis) possesses succulents, fleshy stems, upright with good branching. If the stem is cut, then its cross-section is triangular, the ribs on the surface are well cut, with an uneven cut. Along the edge of the ribs, large spines are located in pairs, growing at a right or obtuse angle. The color of the thorns is gray or yellowish brown. On young shoots, leaves are formed, which fly around rather quickly. Flowers do not differ in size and beauty, nondescript, their color is yellowish. They are collected in complex inflorescences.
- Multifaceted spurge (Euphorbia polygona). A plant with a bushy shape, fleshy stems, rounded, the surface is covered with ribs. The number of ribs is from 7 to 20 units. They are distinguished by sharp or wavy outlines, along the edge there are dark warty outgrowths and single thorns with a purple to black tint. When flowering, small yellowish flowers are formed, from which complex inflorescences are collected.
For more on growing milkweed indoors, see the video below: