Euphorbia lactea, commonly known as the "Ghost Cactus" or "Dragon Bones," is an intriguing succulent plant that belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae. Despite its common name, it is not a true cactus but rather a succulent shrub native to tropical regions of Asia, including India and Sri Lanka. The Ghost Cactus is popular among succulent enthusiasts due to its striking appearance and unique growth habit.
Here's a guide on how to grow and care for Euphorbia lactea as a houseplant:
Light: Provide bright, gentle sunlight to your Ghost Cactus. It thrives in full to partial sun conditions. Place it near a window or on a windowsill where it can receive several hours of bright, filtered light each day. Avoid exposing it to many hours of scorching hot sunlight, as it can scorch the plant.
Temperature: Ghost Cacti prefer warm temperatures between 65-85°F (18-29°C). Protect the plant from temperatures below 50°F (10°C) and avoid exposing it to cold drafts.
Soil: Use a well-draining cactus or succulent potting mix. Alternatively, you can create a soil mix by combining regular potting soil with perlite or coarse sand to improve drainage.
Watering: Euphorbia lactea is a drought-tolerant plant and requires infrequent watering. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. During the growing season (spring and summer), water the plant once every two to three weeks. Reduce watering in the winter months when the plant is dormant to once a month or even less.
Humidity: Ghost Cacti can tolerate average household humidity levels. However, they prefer low to moderate humidity. If your home is particularly humid, ensure good air circulation around the plant to prevent fungal issues.
Fertilizer: Feed your Ghost Cactus with a balanced, diluted succulent fertilizer during the growing season. Follow the package instructions for the appropriate dosage and frequency. Avoid fertilizing during the winter months when the plant is dormant.
Potting: Choose a pot with drainage holes to prevent waterlogged soil. Repotting is typically necessary every two to three years or when the plant outgrows its current container. Be cautious while handling the Ghost Cactus, as it produces a milky sap that can be irritating to the skin and eyes. Wear gloves and protect your eyes when working with it.
The Ghost Cactus, Euphorbia lactea, is renowned for its unique appearance. It features fleshy, pale green to bluish-green stems that grow upright or twist and spiral in a fascinating manner, resembling the skeleton of a dragon, which contributes to its common name "Dragon Bones." The stems have distinct, raised ridges and are adorned with small spines or thorns along their edges.
Additionally, Euphorbia lactea has the ability to produce striking variegated forms, with patterns of white, cream, or yellow on the stems, adding to its allure. These variegated varieties are highly prized among succulent collectors.
The Ghost Cactus is a captivating addition to any succulent collection or as an eye-catching houseplant, thanks to its architectural form and unusual growth patterns. However, it's important to handle this plant with care due to the toxic sap it produces. Keep it away from children and pets and wash your hands thoroughly after handling it.