How to Care for Devils Backbone Plant

Hi. I am having problems with my devils backbone plant. It is in the home in a pot, and I have struggled with the plant since I have had it. The leaves have sort of brownish red colored spots on the leaves (like in the middle and towards the tips) and some white matter on the spots. What can I do for the plant.

Hi Denise,

Pink and green Devils Backbone Plant

Devils Backbone Plant

Here are some care tips that I hope will help you.

Flowering: A Devil’s Backbone (Pedilanthus tithymaloides) rarely flowers indoors.

Light: This succulent plant likes very bright light but avoid direct intense afternoon sun during the spring and summer.

Water: Water a Devil’s Backbone Plant moderately and consistently throughout the year, allow the soil to dry out a little more during the Fall and Winter.  Leaves fall off of a Devil’s Backbone if the soil gets too dry and the plant gets root rot if the soil stays too wet.
Temperature: A Devil’s Backbone Plant likes warm temperatures and does not do well in temperatures below 55 degrees.
Fertilizer: Feed once a month when it is actively growing in the spring and summer with a liquid fertilizer.
Pot Size: These plants like to be root-bound in small pots.

Soil: Devil’s Backbone Plants are very tolerant of even poor soil but it’s best to use a sand based soil that drains well.

Pests: Look out for plant pests such as Mealy Bugs and spider mites
Diseases: It sounds like the plant has powdery mildewPowdery mildew is a plant disease that puts a grayish white powder on plant leaves and stems. View a picture of this plant disease and learn how to treat it., which looks like a white powder covering the lesions on the leaves, stems and flowers. To prevent powdery mildewPowdery mildew is a plant disease that puts a grayish white powder on plant leaves and stems. View a picture of this plant disease and learn how to treat it. keep the soil slightly moist soil, watering in the early morning to allow the soil to dry out before experiencing cooler night temperatures. Avoid crowding the plants, so there is good air circulation around them. Once infected, immediately remove any diseased foliage to prevent spread of the fungus. Spray the plant with my “ green solutionIf you don't want to use a commercial chemical product to treat plant pest problems try the “Green Solution.” This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap, and mineral oil. Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions. If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African Violets or Begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the Green Solution. Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.    ,” a non toxic, inexpensive spray you can make in 5 minutes. You can read how to make it in the Glossary of the website.
Toxicity: The latex based sap of a Devil’s Backbone Plant is caustic so always wear gloves when pruning the plant.
These plants are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonous in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants