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Pencil Cactus: What is it? - Varnish + Vine

Pencil Cactus: What is it?

The Pencil Cactus, also known as the Euphorbia tirucalli, is a unique and fascinating succulent that is native to Africa and India. Its common name comes from its thin and elongated stems that resemble pencils or sticks.

In this brief article, we will take a closer look at the Pencil Cactus and provide a care guide to help you successfully grow your own.

Defining the Pencil Cactus?

The Pencil Cactus is classified as a succulent, which is a type of plant that stores water in its leaves, stems, or roots to survive in arid environments. Succulents are known for their low maintenance requirements and ability to thrive in a variety of lighting conditions.

But, despite its name, the Pencil Cactus it is not actually a cacti. The key difference is that cacti have thick fleshy stem to store water, and it only has a thin layer of flesh. It’s also different from other succulents in terms of its growth pattern and shape. This makes a unique and interesting plant to add to any succulent collection.

Care Guide

The Pencil Cactus is a relatively easy plant to care for, but it's important to understand its specific requirements. Here’s what you need to ensure that your succulent thrives:


The Pencil Cactus prefers bright, indirect light but can tolerate some direct sunlight. It will grow taller and thinner in lower light and bushier in brighter light. Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight as it can cause the stem to turn reddish-brown.


Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering, as the Pencil Cactus is susceptible to root rot. When watering, it's best to use the "soak and dry" method, where you water the soil thoroughly and then wait for it to dry out completely before watering again.


The Pencil Cactus is tolerant to a wide range of temperatures but will prefer to be kept above freezing. In colder climates, it is best to grow the plant indoors or in a greenhouse where temperatures can be controlled.


Be careful when handling the Pencil Cactus, as the sap can be toxic and cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. It is recommended to wear gloves when handling it or wash your hands thoroughly after coming in contact with it.


Prune the Pencil Cactus during the growing season to control its size and shape. Cut back long stems and thin out crowded areas to promote bushier growth.

The Pencil Cactus is a hardy plant, but if you see any signs of stress, like wilting or discoloration, you should always check the environment and adjust your care routine accordingly.

Final Thoughts

The Pencil Cactus is a unique and fascinating succulent that can be a great addition to any indoor or outdoor space. It’s relatively easy to grow, and with proper care, can thrive and become a beautiful, unique plant.

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