The trunk-forming and unbranched spitting palm is native to Madagascar. The “eighth continent” off the African east coast is known for its wealth of numerous animal and plant species that can only be found here and nowhere else. It is estimated that 80 percent of Malagasy flora and fauna are endemic, ie unique and only native to Madagascar. The spit palm, sometimes also available under the name “spring palm”, also belongs to this illustrious group.
- The spit palm as a houseplant: Carefully poisonous!
- Getting everything right when caring for a spit palm
- The best care tips for the checkerboard flower
The spit palm is cultivated in this country exclusively as a houseplant. Only in the summer months can the plant go outside in a sheltered place on very warm days.
Growth and size
The species grows as a shrub, but forms a succulent, angular trunk. Thanks to this, the plant is perfectly adapted to the hot and dry climate of its African homeland and should also be cultivated indoors when it is dry and warm. In its natural location, the spit palm reaches a height of up to 180 centimeters, but in pot culture it usually remains significantly smaller with an average height between 40 and 100 centimeters. The reason for this is the taproot, which naturally cannot develop too deeply in a planter. But this is a prerequisite for growth in size. The trunk is dark green and measures no more than five centimeters in diameter.
As a rule, the plant grows unbranched and quite sparse, but you can use a little trick to encourage the formation of secondary shoots: To do this, scratch the trunk with a sharp and clean knife in several places, whereby the flat cuts should be about one centimeter long . Further secondary trunks with leaves grow out of it, so that the spit palm looks lush. However, this method only works if the spittoon palm is at least 50 centimeters high.
However, it is essential to wear gloves when cutting, as the milky juice that escapes is poisonous.
Flowering and flowering period
Usually during the winter months, Euphorbia leuconeura forms greenish-white, very small cyathia in the leaf axils. These are inconspicuous, cup-shaped pseudo-flowers that are characteristic of milkweed plants. The spit palm is self-pollinating, so it doesn't need any other plant for pollination.
Similar to a conventional palm, the up to 15 centimeter long leaves grow propeller-like in the upper trunk area. They form a kind of roof there. The individual, dark green leaves feel leathery. The finely drawn, white-colored leaf veins look particularly pretty. Don't worry if the spit palm sheds some or even many of its leaves in winter. This is a completely natural behavior, because the plant now goes into hibernation. In spring, Euphorbia leuconeura sprouts from the tip again.
If the flowers are fertilized, small capsule fruits are formed. As soon as these are ripe, they literally explode, hurling the spherical and dark brown seeds lying inside up to several meters.
Like all milkweed plants, the spit palm is highly poisonous. Basically all parts of the plant contain the toxic ingredients (including triterpene saponins and diterpene esters), but the milk sap is particularly dangerous. This occurs with the slightest damage to the plant and can lead to skin irritation, allergic reactions and even severe eczema. If parts of plants are eaten, this can be fatal. For this reason, spit palm should by no means be grown in households with young children and / or pets such as cats and dogs.
Cats in particular are known to enjoy nibbling on houseplants. Unfortunately, the animals' natural instinct often fails so that they do not recognize poisonous plants such as the spit palm as such.
When handling the spit palm and during maintenance work such as repotting or pruning, you should therefore always act carefully and wear protective gloves and, if necessary, protective goggles.
Euphorbia leuconeura prefers a bright and warm place without drafts. The plant cannot tolerate direct sunlight and often reacts with sunburn. The plants feel good right on the windowsill, as long as the window is not directly facing south and, if necessary, can be shaded over the midday hours. Since the plant can become quite large by comparison, sooner or later the space on the window sill will become too tight. Now it can stand on a piece of furniture or directly on the floor, provided it is light enough there and - very importantly - not cold to the feet.
During the warm summer months, the spit palm feels most comfortable at 20 to 24 ° C. In winter, however, it enters a phase of calm, during which it likes to stand significantly cooler at temperatures between 12 and 14 ° C. A little heated and therefore cool bedroom is now the most important location. If relocating is not possible (for example because the spit palm is in the only room inaccessible to the cat / dog anyway), Euphorbia leuconeura survives the winter months in normally heated rooms and without suffering major damage.
When cultivating this plant, it is also important to turn the pot regularly, as the spittoon palm aligns itself very quickly with the sun and without this measure would grow crooked.
Soil / substrate
Commercial soil is ideal for cacti or house plants. However, this must absolutely be free of peat, as the spit palm is very sensitive to it. Unfortunately, many substrate mixtures - especially the cheap ones from the supermarket - contain cheap peat, which is why you should take a close look at the composition before buying.
Good and cheap potting soil, which is not only suitable for the spit palm, can, however, be mixed yourself with little effort. All you need is:
Let 50 percent coconut fibers swell in a bucket of water
20 percent compost soil, high quality
15 percent fine sand, e.g. B. Play sand
15 percent vermiculite or perlite, alternatively potting soil (of course peat-free!)
The result is a loose soil that can store water well and, thanks to its permeability, helps prevent waterlogging. Exactly important for a succulent plant like the spit palm.
Euphorbia leuconeura does not tolerate waterlogging at all and should therefore be watered carefully. As a rule, it is sufficient to water the plant once or twice a week, and less frequently during the winter months, with well-stale tap water. Additional watering may only be necessary during very hot and dry summer months. Immediately remove excess water from the planter or saucer and ensure that the pot drains well. A drainage hole on the bottom of the pot should not be missing, this should be protected from silting up and thus clogging with pottery shards.
Even if the spit palm does not like waterlogging, its substrate should not dry out. A finger test can be used to check when the right time has come to pour again. In general, the potting soil must be dry on the surface before you reach for the watering can again. However, it is hardly possible to make concrete statements about the frequency and amount of water required, as these variables depend on the location, temperature and season.
Commercially available cactus fertilizer, which you give the Madagascar jewel about every six weeks along with the irrigation water, is ideal for the needs-based supply of nutrients. It is only fertilized between April and September, in the second half of the year the plant is practically in hibernation and does not need any fertilization during this. The only exception to this rule is if you cultivate the spit palm warm all year round and do not keep it cold. In this case, the resting phase is canceled and the plant must continue to be supplied as in summer.
At best, leave the spit palm alone and don't cut it. You can only stimulate branching by scratching the stem. However, if the plant has become too big for you, you can still prune it. However, it is essential to wear gloves and old clothing, avoid splashing on the face and especially in the eyes! The best time to prune depends on whether the plant is going to continue to grow more or less - and what you plan to do with the clippings.
Euphorbia leuconeura cut in autumn are slowed down in their vigor, whereas a cut in spring stimulates growth.
In nature, the spit palm reproduces almost exclusively via seeds. In captivity, too, seed multiplication practically works by itself. Collect the tiny seeds and place them in small pots with a growing medium. (€ 9.05 on Amazon *) Keep them warm and moist - preferably in a greenhouse or similar - they germinate quickly. You can make it even easier if you position a few pots with growing substrate around the flowering spit palm: seeds falling in here practically grow into strong plants almost by themselves. If you want, you can put the clippings as cuttings in a pot with potting soil and keep them well moist. With a little luck, the parts of the plant will take root and develop into a new, strong palm tree.
Caution: Like all parts of plants, the seeds are of course poisonous and should therefore be carefully collected in households with children or pets.
Transplanting / repotting
Repot the spit palm about every two to three years, ideally in fresh substrate and in a larger pot. Only then does it reach the possible height of about one meter. You can be generous when choosing a pot, because the new planter should be two to three sizes larger, at least for younger plants. The project works best if you move the plant immediately after the hibernation. At this point, the leaves begin to sprout so that Euphorbia leuconeura can draw new strength from the substrate.
During the winter months, you should cultivate the spit palm at 12 to 14 ° C in a light, but not drafty place and neither fertilize nor excessively water during this time. If the plant sheds its leaves, it is normal and not an indication of disease. The leaves will sprout fresh in spring.
However, all of these measures are not absolutely necessary, as Euphorbia leuconeura winters well and without damage even in a warm environment - provided you continue to water and fertilize it. The light supply must also be secured in the dark season. If your spit palm is often on the balcony or terrace in summer, bring it into the house in good time: To ensure that the plant feels comfortable, the outside temperature should not drop below 12 ° C.
Diseases and pests
The spit palm is considered to be very robust and resistant. Only too frequent and / or too abundant watering bother her, then over time she will develop rot. But dry periods that are too long are harmful and also lead to the death of the plant. So make sure that the soil is neither wet nor dry.
Yellow spots on the leaves are a clear indication of a location that is too sunny, because this is sunburn. Move the spit palm to a different, less exposed location.
However, no other diseases or pests that can be found more frequently are known.
If possible, do not cultivate the spit palm alone, but together with several conspecifics. Perhaps you would also like to design a kind of “Madagascar corner” in your home. Here you can arrange typical Malagasy houseplants such as the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), the Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei), the golden leaf palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) or the Madagascar jasmine (Stephanotis floribunda).
Different varieties of Euphorbia leuconeura are basically not known. However, there are numerous other milkweed plants, some of which look quite similar and are also easy to keep in indoor culture:
- Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima): popular and well-known representative of the milkweed family, native to South America
- Magic snow (Euphorbia hypericifolia 'Diamond Frost'): flowering plant for indoor, balcony or bed cultivation
- Coral cactus (Euphorbia lactea 'Cristata'): very unusual, comb-like growth form that is created by grafting
- Christ thorn (Euphorbia milii): very pretty flowering, but thorny plant
- Roller wolf milk (Euphorbia myrsinites): also myrtle-leaved wolf milk, due to its flat growth ideal for rock gardens or pots
- “Baseball spurge” (Euphorbia obesa): spherical spurge with pretty, yellow flowers
- Pencil bush or pencil tree (Euphorbia tirucalli): also rubber hedge or milk bush, very characteristic growth form
- Devil's back (Euphorbia tithymaloides): often wrongly available in stores as “Green Lightning Bamboo”
- Column euphorbie (Euphorbia trigona): characteristic, upright, columnar growth with many lateral shoots
The listed milkweed plants are native to different continents, but all have similar needs in terms of location, substrate and care.