Euphorbia leucodendron is a succulent shrub with spineless branches that, in optimal conditions, can develop into a small tree.
It is native to the subtropical region of Madagascar, where it can reach up to 12 feet high.
Although it resembles Euphorbia tirucalli in many ways, it is not the same plant as the stems are far more slender and contain fewer branches.
In this post, we will explore what a Cat Tails Euphorbia plant is and how to care for it.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is a Euphorbia Leucodendron?
- 2 How to Care for Euphorbia Leucodendron
- 3 FAQ
- 4 Other Euphorbia Plants
- 5 References
What is a Euphorbia Leucodendron?
Euphorbia leucodendron is a cactus-like succulent shrub with spineless branches that will grow into a small tree in the right conditions.
It is native to subtropical Madagascar, where it will often grow more than 12 feet tall.
The U.S. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) also lists it as Euphorbia alluaudii, subspecies oncoclada. 
However, it is most commonly known as the Cat Tails Euphorbia because of the way the stems grow upward like a cat’s tail.
Throughout this post, we will use Euphorbia leucodendron and Euphorbia alluaudii interchangeably, but please note that they are synonyms and are the same plant.
It looks a lot like another Euphorbia plant called Euphorbia tirucalli. However, the stems are much thinner and have fewer branches.
Hence, some also refer to this plant as Milk Bush, Stick Plant, Stick Cactus, Stick Euphorbia, Pencil Tree, Sausage Tree, or Yellow Leaf Bush Euphorbia (possibly for the yellow tint of the leaves, even though it is more green).
The Euphorbia alluaudii plant has no spines and the stem grows upright, cylindric, densely branched, and a brilliant shade of green.
The tiny leaves are spirally arranged around the stem, and when they fall, they leave behind brown marks or brownish dots that give the stem a stained appearance.
Another nickname is the Madagascan rib cage, because when it spreads it may be shaped like a ribcage.
It also has a crested form, called Euphorbia leucodendron Cristata or Euphorbia alluaudii subsp.
In its crested form, the stem typically develops in the form of a fan or wave and branches out from the base, creating a wave-like or ocean coral pattern.
Some call this variety the Green Coral plant.
Where Will Euphorbia Leucodendron Grow?
In its natural environment, Euphorbia leucodendron grows out in the open, wherever it finds the space to propagate itself.
If you have a garden environment with conditions similar to those in the central high plateau of South West Madagascar, you’ll have no problem growing it outdoors.
But, for those who don’t, the good news is that it’s super-easy to grow Cat Tails Euphorbia in a pot.
Size and Growth
Euphorbia leucodendron has skinny, jointed, cylindrical green stems that don’t have spines, which is unusual for Euphorbia species.
While the stems will get longer and form new joints, new branches will start growing from the base of the mother plant.
Once they are well-established, you can use them for propagation.
It will grow into a substantial tree in its natural environment.
But it more commonly grows to a height of about 4 to 6 feet in residential U.S. gardens, arching outwards to form a bush about 3 to 4 feet wide.
It should take 3-5 years to reach this size.
When you grow Euphorbia leucodendron in a pot, its growth will be constrained by the container.
Foliage, Flowers, and Fruit
In summer, Stick Plant Euphorbia gets little lime-green leaves at the top of each stem that is no longer than half an inch.
They don’t last long, falling off soon after they have sprouted. When they fall off, the stem develops small black scars that give it a polka-dot appearance.
In spring, the plants produce tiny yellow flowers followed by small, almost heart-shaped clusters of fruit.
Like all Euphorbias, the Stick Plant is a spurge—a plant that produces a mildly toxic white milky sap.
This sap will ooze when you cut the plant for propagation, to prune it, or if it is injured.
For this reason, it makes sense not to plant it where pets (especially dogs) might run into it and break it, because it can adversely affect the skin of humans and animals.
They are very unlikely to eat it, but if they do, expect vomiting and diarrhea.
How to Care for Euphorbia Leucodendron
Euphorbia leucodendron is easy to grow and maintain. But for it to thrive in your garden or in a pot, you need to be aware of the conditions that suit it best.
Temperature and Climate
This type of Euphorbia does best in climatic conditions that are similar to those of its native Madagascar. It tolerates drought but doesn’t like the cold.
Because of this, it’s especially important to make sure temperatures are high enough when plants are growing.
Anything below 15 degrees Fahrenheit could risk its survival. It doesn’t like frost and won’t survive in the snow.
Cat Tails Euphorbia plants do best in the USDA hardiness zones 9a-11b, where temperatures range from 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Cat Tails Euphorbia needs lots of bright light, especially when grown indoors. This means that you may need to change its location in the winter.
Although it will survive in partial shade when grown outdoors, it’s best to position the plants in full sun.
The more sun it gets, the more compact its growth pattern and resultant shape are likely to be. Aim for at least 6 hours of strong sunlight every day.
Of course, there’s not a lot you can do when the sun doesn’t shine. But don’t fret, these plants are true survivors.
Like all Euphorbia plants, Cat Tails Euphorbia needs water during the active growing season, but not too much of it.
When it’s dormant in winter and most of the fall, it doesn’t need much water at all, especially if you grow it outdoors.
With potted plants, when you can control the soil moisture content outside (in other words, when it doesn’t rain), dig into the soil and make sure the top few inches are dry. Then give it a good drenching.
Euphorbia leucodendron will thrive in most soil types as long as it drains well.
The pH level of the soil is not important, but it doesn’t like to stand in wet soil, which will often cause root rot.
And it won’t survive in clay, which simply doesn’t drain. The best soil for the Stick Plant is sandy loam soil.
When you these succulent plants in a garden bed, add compost to the hole before you plant.
When you plant in containers, use potting soil that is formulated for succulents, or at least add some sandy soil to the mix.
When growing Cat Tails Euphorbia in containers, feed with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength, but no more than once a month.
You can also add fertilizer to garden beds if your soil is poor.
When you repot your Euphorbia leucodendron, take care not to break any of the stems. If you do, the sap will start to flow. So, just in case, wear gloves.
Prepare the new pot with stones on the base and a little succulent potting soil inside.
Make sure there will be enough space to position the plant so that its roots will fit and be able to grow.
Once you’ve done this, fill the pot around the plant with soil, push down the soil, and water.
Most Euphorbia plants are easy to grow from cuttings, but Euphorbia alluaudii can be hard to grow from cuttings.
But if the cuttings are able to take hold and the plants become established, they will grow slowly but steadily.
The best time to take cuttings for propagation is in spring or summer when the soil temperature is about 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use a sharp, clean knife or pruning shears with long blades, and wear gloves to avoid touching the milky sap.
Many non-professional internet sites say you should wear goggles. But as long as you don’t touch your eyes with sap-soaked fingers, it won’t be a problem.
All you do is cut the stem at a joint or where the stem branches at the base of the plant.
Spray the cut with water to wash off the sap and leave the stem cutting to callus for a few days.
Before potting or planting, dust the cut with a little hormone powder to help the roots form.
Prune your Cat Tails Euphorbia plants if they get too big, either for their pots or for the garden beds where they are growing.
You can really shape these plants as you see fit. Don’t worry, it’s hard to harm these plants.
Pests and Diseases
The most common pests likely to attack Cat Tails Euphorbia plants are mealybugs, scale, spider mites, and whiteflies.
The key is to check your plants regularly and clean them to get rid of the bugs.
You can get rid of most of these pests using a soft cloth and soapy water. Just be gentle. You can also use neem oil.
The caveat is that all these pests are tiny, and they multiply profusely, and very quickly.
But unlike plants with flat leaves, like aloes, there aren’t any surfaces for them to climb under out of sight.
The only diseases they might be susceptible to are fungal diseases like mildew. But if you overwater, root rot can be an issue.
Is a Cattail Euphorbia a Succulent?
Euphorbia leucodendron, or Cat Tails Euphorbia, is a succulent. As with any other succulent, it has the ability to store water in its leaves.
Why is my Euphorbia alluaudii losing its leaves?
Euphorbia alluaudii is losing its leaves because of excessive watering. Further, the failure to allow the soil to dry out between waterings will exacerbate leaf drop. The first sign is when the leaves start turning yellow, followed by the leaves falling. There is a fine line between too much water and not enough. If the plant has been deprived of water, the leaves will perish first.
How often should Cat Tails Euphorbia be watered?
Cat Tails Euphorbia should be watered every 7 to 10 days. However, the ultimate guide to when to water your Euphorbia alluaudii is to feel the top portion of the soil. If the soil is dry, give it water; if it’s not, wait a day or two.
Other Euphorbia Plants
If you enjoy growing succulents, Euphorbia leucodendron may be a good addition to your garden or potted plant collection.
It doesn’t have spines, as most Euphorbias do, and it’s easy to grow in the right conditions.
Propagation isn’t always easy, but once you’ve got it growing, this is an easy plant to maintain. Above all, it will add interest to your succulent garden.
However, they are not the only types of Euphorbia plants to grow. Below is a link to a list of other types of Euphorbia plants and a small sample of other Euphorbia succulents.
Euphorbia Lactea Cristata: It is one of the most attractive Euphorbia plants, often commonly known as the Coral Cactus. The fan-shaped, undulating growth of the plant’s branches resembles an ocean reef. Stems and branches range in color from bright green to blue-gray or even silver. The edges of the undulating leaves may take on a reddish hue when the plant is under stress.
Euphorbia Flanaganii: It is a rare, evergreen, spineless succulent plant with long, wavy stems that resemble the serpentine hair of the mythological Medusa and is known as the Medusa’s Head. In contrast to the majority of succulents, it has horizontally spreading stems or branches that resemble snakes. Each has a Fibonacci spiral-like helix at its center, and no two are alike.
Euphorbia Hypericifolia Inneuphdia: It is generally known as the Diamond Frost Euphorbia and is a very resilient plant that can withstand practically everything. It is extremely low maintenance, and its lovely white blossoms do not require deadheading. It can be used in floral arrangements as a cut flower or grown on its own to provide texture and curb appeal to any front yard.
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.