The Euphorbia Ammak cactus, commonly called Desert Cactus, isn’t a cactus at all. This native of Saudi Arabia and Yemen is a succulent that can grow to an astounding height of 30 feet or more. It’s easy to care for this plant that doesn’t require tons of time to grow.
This guide will explain how to ensure healthy growth and propagate these plants, and we’ll also let you know how to make sure you prevent some common problems.
What is Euphorbia Ammak?
It grows in desert environments and doesn’t need much water like most cactus varieties. Despite the similarities, there are some critical differences between euphorbia ammak cactus and more common cacti.
Euphorbia cactus produces small, pale white to green flowers, unlike cacti that produce large and colorful blooms.
A significant difference is that when cut, the euphorbia ammak secretes poisonous latex-like secretion cacti don’t make. Most euphorbia ammak are uniformly dark green.
However, Euphorbia Ammak Variegata shows creamy green and dark green variegation. Unlike cacti, all species of Euphorbia produce leaves on the upper branches. The simple leaves grow in rainy, summer conditions typical of the Arabian peninsula.
How to Care for Euphorbia Ammak
We will break down the ideal conditions for growing, teach you how to propagate them, and even show you how to prevent and solve common problems with euphorbia cactus plants.
– Soil Requirements
Like many desert species, a neutral, sandy soil for Euphorbia Ammak is preferred. In nature, it tends to grow in clefts in rocks, where it is protected from the wind, and sand can accumulate around the roots.
Like cacti, euphorbia ammak plants will absorb as much water as possible and store it, rather than using only what is available like most plants.
This means your soil needs to be sandy, loose, fast-draining, and quick to dry out. It’s essential to start with the suitable soil for Euphorbia Ammak. By the time the plant shows signs of improper soil, it’s probably dead already.
Your best bet for planting euphorbia ammak in a pot is to make your soil. You can use a specially-formulated potting soil for cactus, succulents, and palm trees. However, these mixes tend to use peat moss that absorbs moisture poorly once it’s dried out.
Making your mixture provides the best support and strength while allowing natural root growth. You can also make your soil mixture that will encourage strong plant growth.
– Making Your Own Cactus Soil
There are lots of ways to make an ideal soil mixture for growing euphorbia ammak. It would help if you started with high-quality sand, pebbles, and pumice stone. Mix in half sand mixture with half potting soil so that the combination is light and fast draining.
You may need to adjust the amount of sand up or down to ensure rapid draining and drying. More sand makes the mixture dry faster. Many gardeners also add pumice stone, broken pot shards, and other objects that help present water pathways to escape rapidly.
Planting Euphorbia Ammak in a Pot
This is a very popular indoor plant because of its low needs and reasonably rapid growth pattern. It would help if you started with a good-sized pot not to replant for a few seasons.
Like cacti, euphorbia ammak is unpleasant to repot due to sharp thorns. Some gardeners recommend a one- to two-inch layer of potting soil in the bottom of the pot.
In contrast, others tend to place plastic water bottles to improve drainage. Using gravel or stones has shown to be detrimental to most plants, including euphorbia ammak, due to soil’s tendency to compact in the crevasses reducing drainage.
– How to Know When it’s Time to Repot
There are a few signs you can look for to help identify the right time to replace the pot your euphorbia ammak plant grows in.
A classic sign that the plant has outgrown its pot is when it won’t stay upright anymore. This is a clear sign you need a bigger pot. Other signs include slow or stopped growth, roots growing out of the pot’s top, and withering of the main trunk even though the plant has water.
It would be best to choose a pot at least two inches larger than the one you are replacing. This will provide at least one year of growth and usually is good for three years or more. The fewer times you repot, the better, however too big of a pot can cause the roots to stress.
Planting Euphorbia Ammak in the Garden
If you live in parts of the country where cacti and succulents can grow outdoors, this is an ideal choice for a garden stunner. The considerable growth makes for a fascinating conversation piece and can be the centerpiece of an arid garden. To get the kind of growth you want, it’s essential to condition your garden correctly.
Like planting in a container, you must create exceptional drainage. Dig out a hole at least two feet deep and four feet across. Mix sand, pebbles, and pumice with light potting soil being sure to remove large pieces of wood or sticks that can retain too much moisture.
Plant the euphorbia ammak on a mound above the average height of the garden soil to improve drainage. It might be necessary to use a stake to support the plant until it develops roots. Rooting can take several weeks to months.
– Euphorbia Ammak Light Requirements
This species grows in some of the most brutal weather on earth, so it’s easy to see that it will do best in bright, full sun locations. It will tolerate partial shade, but too much shade will make it stop growing. Indoors, keep your euphorbia ammak plant near an east or west-facing window where it gets maximum sunlight.
– Water Requirements
It can be difficult to gauge when it’s time for watering euphorbia ammak plants because the signs you would typically look for with most types of plants are not present. You want the soil to dry completely or nearly completely at least several inches deep. Too little water is often better than too much.
Like cacti, the euphorbia ammak will quickly absorb and store water when it’s present but can rot almost immediately when the soil is left moist for too long. Watering Euphorbia Ammak sparingly will help it grow well. Remember that the roots grow along the surface, so the larger the plant, the farther from the trunk you’ll want to water.
How to Propagate Euphorbia Ammak
Unlike many plants, reproducing euphorbia ammak from seed is not very productive and takes a long time with frequent failures. Even in the wild, the plants seldom reproduce from seed. Instead, the best way to propagate a euphorbia ammak plant is through the use of cuttings. Unlike many plants that you may take cuttings from, you must follow some particular rules to have success and avoid causing harm to your plant or yourself.
Euphorbia ammak typically grow bulky and top-heavy, which allows for natural propagation. The top section will break off, and with a bit of luck, will land somewhere to root another plant. You can recreate the same thing at home, but you must do so safely.
For the plant’s health and the best chance of success, you should only propagate euphorbia ammak during the late spring to mid-summer seasons. This provides enough time for the plant to heal before going dormant for the fall and winter.
– Protecting Yourself
The first thing to be aware of is the sharp thorns lining the cactus. You may want to invest in a pair of puncture-resistant gloves like those sold for handling glass when working on euphorbia ammak, other succulent varieties, or cacti. Many manufacturers market leather gloves intended for cacti gardening that should perform well for you. Look for gloves with long shanks that cover your forearms.
Unlike cacti, euphorbia ammak secretes a poisonous latex-like slime when it’s cut. The slime causes skin, eye, and mucous membrane harm and is toxic if ingested. You should ensure your arms are well-protected, at least to the elbows. Wear eye protection and make sure to have a clean and organized work area before beginning the task of propagating euphorbia ammak. People who are sensitive to latex should take extreme caution when handling euphorbia ammak plants.
If your skin is exposed to the latex slime, immediately wash in cool, soapy water. Antihistamines can help to reduce swelling and rash outbreaks. Severe reactions like blisters and swelling of the nose, tongue, or throat mean you need to seek immediate medical attention.
In a pinch, wrap the plant loosely with thick tarps and tape them off to hold them in place. Exercise caution with this method, the thorns are ridiculously sharp, and the weight can cause the plant to break unexpectedly.
Steps for Making Euphorbia Ammak Cuttings
You’ll want to wait until your euphorbia ammak plant has “branches” growing from the top before planning on propagating the plant. This gives you the best chance of success and reduces the damage to the plant. If your plant is very tall, you may need to lay it on its side to make the correct cut. It’s a good idea to ask a friend for help when moving very large euphorbia ammak plants.
You will want to use a large, sharp knife that is sterilized to cut. A serrated knife can be a helpful tool when dealing with particularly big specimens. Cut directly across the trunk of the euphorbia ammak six inches below the point where the arms are growing. Spray the cut areas with a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to prevent viral and bacterial growth.
Keep the mother plant out of direct sun either by moving it or covering it loosely to allow the cut portion to scab over. When it is dry and hard, you can return the plant to bright, direct sun. Place the cut portion on parchment paper in a warm, dry spot until it has scabbed over.
You can place the dried cutting in dry cactus soil. Don’t water until roots begin to form. Water lightly every three weeks after, and the cutting will start to take root. This process can take several months to complete.
Euphorbia Ammak Problems
Plants that grow in the harsh conditions of deserts tend to be well-defended from disease and pest infestations.
The euphorbia ammak plant has few problems, but identifying some common issues will help you ensure your plant grows strong and healthy.
- Rough, dry patches: It seems silly, but euphorbia ammak can get a sunburn. This condition is most common when you move an indoor plant to the outdoor sun, affected by much stronger UV light. Scars are permanent but generally don’t affect the growth of the plant.
- Mushy appearance, soft patches: The euphorbia ammak is overwatered. Either reduce the frequency of watering or repot to provide proper drainage. Unfortunately, most of the time, these plants show signs of overwatering, root rot has already begun, and the delicate roots are quickly killed. You may want to try to cut from the top of the plant and destroy the remainder to prevent diseases from spreading to other plants.
- Powdery Mildew: This nasty fungus forms little tufts of white, cottony fuzz on the plant. Eventually, a wide-scale infestation of powdery mildew can kill a plant. You may use a diluted isopropyl alcohol spray, or a commercial fungicide applied according to the directions to kill powdery mildew. You can prevent mildew by avoiding spraying the euphorbia ammak with water.
- Euphorbia ammak cactus is a type of succulent from Saudi Arabia and Yemen often called desert cactus.
- These plants prefer full, direct sun and sandy fast draining soil for Euphorbia Ammak, but can be grown well indoors or in the garden.
- Watering Euphorbia Ammak sparsely avoids root rot.
- Propagating Euphorbia cactus is done through cutting the main trunk, but you must take care to avoid contact with the poisonous latex sap.
- The most frequent problems are caused by overwatering. This desert species doesn’t need or want lots of water.
The euphorbia ammak is an interesting plant to add to your indoor vivarium or outdoor cactus garden. It grows well with other cactus species and due to it’s tall growing habits, tends to stand out in a crowd.
Propagating this plant is easy but carries a little danger most plants don’t offer. If you are looking for something different from the typical cacti in most gardens, you should try growing euphorbia ammak.