Euphorbia flanaganii, or Medusa’s Head plant, is an unusual, evergreen, spineless succulent plant with long wavy stems that resemble the legendary Medusa’s snake-like hair.
Like all Euphorbia plants, it’s a succulent that produces a poisonous, white, milky sap when you break its stem or needle-like leaves.
It is native to South Africa but is now grown in many regions across the world.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is an Euphorbia Flanaganii Plant?
- 2 How to Care for Euphorbia Flanaganii Medusa’s Head Plants
- 3 FAQ
- 4 Other Euphorbia Plants
- 5 References
What is an Euphorbia Flanaganii Plant?
The Euphorbia flanaganii plant is a succulent perennial that produces a tuberous caudex that is like a swollen underground stem.
This tuberous body, or central stem, merges into roots and protrudes above the ground.
It is also known as the “Medusa’s Head” plant, and, unlike the most common succulents, it has cylindrical, snake-like branches or stems that spread out horizontally.
Each one has a spiral at the center, like a Fibonacci spiral, and no two are ever the same.
In spring and summer, this extraordinary plant develops pretty clusters of yellow cyathia that look like single female flowers but aren’t.
Rather, they are individual female pistils surrounded by male flowers, mostly in the center of the plant.
The leaves are very small and linear, not at all like regular leaves. They are also a lot smaller than the flowers.
Medusa’s head plant literally got its nickname because it looks like a Medusa head. In Greek mythology, Medusa was a woman who was changed into a Gorgon by the goddess Athena.
The original, infamous Gorgon was one of three sisters in Greek literature who had hair made of living venomous snakes. The story is that anyone who looked at her was turned into stone.
It’s not difficult to imagine a medusa head, especially when it’s blooming flowers!
Medusa’s head plant is one of those special succulents native to subtropical parts of South Africa.
It is one of many plants of the Euphorbia genus that include famous plants such as the Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) or the Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli).
Medusa’s head is found naturally in South Africa’s south-eastern parts, including KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape, and in a fairly remote region that used to be called Transkei.
For this reason, the species is sometimes called Transkei Medusa’s head.
Euphorbia flanaganii, which is its scientific name, belongs to the Euphorbiaceae or spurge family of succulents.
The rest of its scientific classification family names are confusingly similar.
Its subfamily is Euphorbioideae and its genus, Euphorbia. If you see it named as part of the Euphorbioideae tribe, this is incorrect.
It is part of the Euphorbieae tribe and the Euphorbiinae sub-tribe.
Euphorbia flanaganii is also commonly known as Euphorbia caput-medusae, Euphorbia discreta and Euphorbia passa.
Though not the same plant, other plants that look like the Medusa’s Head plant are Euphorbia ernestii, Euphorbia franksiae, Euphorbia gatbergensis, and Euphorbia woodii.
In subtropical regions, you will find it growing outdoors in containers and planted out in the garden in well-draining soil.
In the U.S., many people grow these unusual succulents indoors in pots and hanging baskets along with other succulents.
This is a slow-growing succulent species that will grow no more than 12 inches high but can stretch to as much as 16–20 inches in diameter.
How to Care for Euphorbia Flanaganii Medusa’s Head Plants
Euphorbia flanaganii medusa’s head is not difficult to care for. Here are some simple guidelines and tips.
Temperature and Climate
Euphorbia flanaganii medusa’s head grows best in sub-tropical regions. It will usually thrive in USDA hardiness zones 9–11, where the lowest temperatures can get down to 25–50 degrees Fahrenheit.
In very hot conditions, it’s best to plant it in the partial sun only. If you experience extreme heat, try to provide some afternoon shade.
Like other succulents, you can also grow the medusa plant in a conservatory or greenhouse.
Since it likes warm temperatures and does well in indoor environments, it makes an exceptional container plant.
Planting options in terms of soil, position, and watering, are the same. Medusa’s Head does best in environments with high humidity.
But indoors, regular humidity is usually adequate. However, it does no harm to mist the plants occasionally.
When growing this type of Euphorbia indoors, always avoid draughts. Euphorbia flanaganii thrives in an environment that gets full sun to partial shade.
Ideally, make sure that it gets at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. In any indoor environment, you must make sure that it gets enough light.
Euphorbia flanaganii medusa’s head isn’t as drought-tolerant as most succulents.
However, like many other succulents, it should only be watered when the soil is completely dry.
This is often referred to as the “dry method of watering.” If you stick your finger as far as it will go into the ground, you should be able to judge.
Water deeply, but take care not to let the roots sit in waterlogged soil or they will get root rot.
If your plants don’t get sufficient water, they will start to curl up towards the central stem.
A good rule of thumb for watering Medusa’s Head is to do it weekly in summer and not at all during the winter when there is no growth.
If it’s getting a lot of sun light, you can water it weekly or every 10 days or so. If you are planting your Medusa’s Head in a container, the best option is a clay pot with drainage holes.
Whether grown from seeds or stem cuttings, Medusa’s Head grows best in well-drained soil.
A good option is to grow it in a mixture of soil produced for cacti and coarse sand.
Not having well-draining soil is one of the biggest causes of root rot. This euphorbia plant is happy in a wide range of pH conditions, from about 6.1 to 7.8.
Euphorbia flanaganii doesn’t usually need extra feeding.
However, you can fertilize once a month during spring and summer using a water-based product mixed to half-strength.
Don’t ever fertilize in the winter months when growth is dormant.
Pests and Diseases
Medusa’s Head, like many other succulent plants, is generally free from pests and diseases. But it is sometimes susceptible to mealybugs.
These pests are very common, and they tend to cluster between the twining snake-like branches of the medusa plant and in other inaccessible places.
Be warned that many bacterial and fungal diseases are caused by overwatering. So, never forget to be frugal with watering.
When you think your plant has outgrown your pot, you can think about transplanting your plant into a new pot.
Repotting a Medusa’s Head plant is not difficult. Gently pull the slide of the plant out of its container.
Use fresh potting mix at the bottom of the new pot, and then add your plant to the new pot.
Whether you are planting or repotting Medusa’s Head plants, make sure your pot is large enough to prevent new roots from forming.
Propagating Medusa’s Head plants isn’t difficult and can be done from early spring until late winter.
Like most succulent plants, you can propagate it from seeds, offsets, or cuttings from the mother plant.
In any case, plants will eventually produce pups at the ends of their older branches.
Instead of waiting for seeds to germinate, remove these pups from the mother plant and plant them as you would any other stem cutting.
Why is my Euphorbia Flanaganii yellow?
Yellowing Euphorbia flanaganii leaves can occur for a variety of reasons. Too much water, too little water, winter, full sun or extreme heat exposure, and thick succulent potting mix can all cause yellowing of the leaves or even the entire branches of succulent plants.
How often do you water Medusa’s head Plants?
Once a week. Even though Medusa’s Head is drought-tolerant, the plant needs consistent hydration during the summer and will not survive extended periods of dryness. In general, one watering once a week is plenty enough.
How do you grow Euphorbia caput medusae?
Medusa’s Head plants require soil with good drainage and ample sunlight. They are indifferent to soil pH but cannot withstand damp conditions. In contrast to most succulents, Euphorbia flanaganii does not tolerate prolonged drought well. It does better with weekly watering-especially in the summer.
Other Euphorbia Plants
Euphorbia flanaganii medusa’s head is a succulent species that is like no other. It is easy to grow from seeds or cuttings and just as easy to maintain.
However, there are other types of Euphorbia plants you should consider. Check out our list of other types of Euphorbia plants to grow in your indoor or outdoor garden!
Euphorbia Ingens: Candelabra trees are hardy, low-maintenance plants that thrive with little care. Typically, over-watering these plants will result in their demise. These plants can attain a height of forty feet, and their branches continue to expand upwards. They make excellent landscaping plants.
Euphorbia Lambii: This plant is widely used as a landscape plant outside. It is known as the Tree Euphorbia or Truffula Tree, although it is actually a strange-looking Euphorbia plant with a top-heavy appearance. It will certainly enhance the visual appeal of your front yard.
Euphorbia Obesa: Low-maintenance plants known as “baseball plants,” “basketball plants,” and “living baseballs” thrive with little water and moderate light. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, drought-resistant plant to add a unique touch to your landscaping, Euphorbia obesa is a wonderful option.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.