How to Prune and Propagate a Pencil Cactus

I have had this plant since the early 70s and I am not sure what it is and how to trim it. I would like to get clippings to start new plants and thin it out a bit. Thanks Fred

Hi Fred,

Your plant is called a Pencil Cactus or Milk Bush plant (EUPHORBIA TIRUCALLI).


Lern to identify and care for a pencil cactus
Pencil cactus

You can aggressively prune a Pencil Cactus anywhere along the stems to keep it looking full and maintain a nice shape. Always wear gloves and a long sleeved shirt when pruning the plant to prevent the irritating sap from getting on your skin. Wash your tools and your hands when finished. Be careful not to get the sap in your eyes, mouth, on on an open cut.

A pencil cactus is easily propagated using these stem cuttings. Use a sharp, clean scissors or razor blade to cut a 4”-6” piece from the end of a healthy stem just below a leaf node. A node is where a leaf joins the stem. Dip the cut end of the stem into a small amount of rooting hormone that contains a fungicide. Plant the stem in a 4″pot (drip holes in the bottom) of moist potting soil. Cover the pot with clear plastic to increase the humidity and prevent the soil from drying out. Check the plant every few days to be sure the soil stays moist. Tug on the stem cuttings after a few weeks, if there is resistance, roots have developed, the plastic can be removed, and the propagation was successful.

You can read all my care tips for a pencil cactus in the Popular Houseplant section the website.

All parts of 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.