Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia milii
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Family - Euphorbiaceae
Native to Madagascar, this thorny sprawling shrub can grown to nearly five feet tall with an equal spread.
There are at least two dozen cultivars available, with mature heights ranging from 1 foot up to the 5 foot size already mentioned.
This shrub/groundcover is also called the Christ Plant or Christ Thorn because it is supposedly the plant that was used for the "Crown of Thorns" worn by Jesus during the Crucifixion.
Originally introduced more than 30 years ago the Crown of Thorns is enjoying a new found popularity due to the current demand for low maintenance landscape plants, as it is both drought and salt tolerant.
U.S.D.A. Zones 9 - 11, prefers full sun but will take partial shade. Protect from frost & freezing temperatures. Should be planted in well drained, sandy soil.
Related to the Poinsettia, as a member of the Spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) the milky sap is a skin irritant and all parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested.
Leaves are arranged in a spiral fashion at the tips of the stems, the stems are armed with 1/2 to 1'' long spines. Flowers are small and yellow, subtended by the colorful bracts that may be red, yellow, white or salmon, depending on the cultivar. Blooms year-round in South Florida.
Although it is a slow grower, the Crown of Thorns shrub is virtually maintenance free once established, requiring no watering except during extended periods of severe drought. Fertilizing lightly once or twice during spring and summer will encourage flower production.
Overwatering & over fertilizing are the biggest threats to this plants wellbeing, it should not be planted where it receives regular watering from irrigation systems.
Smaller hybrids are suitable for ground covers, otherwise used for borders, mass & group plantings, low growing hedges and as a container plant.