Kristin Niehaus

Kristin Niehaus

Modified & Updated: 30 Dec 2023


Pencil cactus, also known as Euphorbia tirucalli, is a fascinating plant that boasts an impressive array of unique features. This succulent belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family and is native to Africa and India. Despite its name, pencil cactus is not actually a true cactus but rather a type of succulent. Its thin, elongated branches resemble pencils, hence the common name. In this article, we will explore some surprising facts about pencil cactus that will surely pique your interest. From its adaptability to harsh environments to its medicinal properties, pencil cactus proves to be much more than meets the eye. So, let’s dive into the world of pencil cactus and uncover some remarkable insights about this remarkable plant.

Table of Contents

The Pencil Cactus is Not a True Cactus

Contrary to its name, the Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli) is not a true cactus. It belongs to the Euphorbia family and is a succulent plant native to Africa and India. It is commonly called a cactus due to its appearance and ability to thrive in arid conditions.

Pencil Cactus Can Reach Impressive Heights

The Pencil Cactus is known for its tall and slender growth habit. In its natural habitat, it can reach heights of up to 30 feet. However, when grown as a houseplant, it usually stays around 6 to 8 feet tall.

It Has Thin, Pencil-Like Stems

As the name suggests, the Pencil Cactus has thin, pencil-like stems. These green stems are smooth and cylindrical, covered in small leaves that fall off as the plant grows older. The stems contain a milky sap that is toxic and can cause skin irritation, so handling with care is important.

Pencil Cactus Produces Small, Inconspicuous Flowers

Although the Pencil Cactus is primarily grown for its unique appearance, it does produce small flowers. These yellow or greenish flowers are inconspicuous and often go unnoticed. They are followed by small, round fruit that contains seeds.

It Can Be Grown Indoors and Outdoors

The Pencil Cactus is a versatile plant that can be grown both indoors and outdoors. It thrives in bright, indirect light and prefers warm temperatures. When grown outdoors, it can tolerate drought conditions and can be grown in containers or directly in the ground.

Pencil Cactus Requires Minimal Watering

One of the advantages of growing a Pencil Cactus is its low water requirements. It is adapted to arid conditions and can survive long periods without water. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it is best to allow the soil to dry out between waterings.

It is Easy to Propagate

The Pencil Cactus can be easily propagated through stem cuttings. Simply take a cutting from the stem, allow it to dry for a few days to develop calluses, then plant it in well-draining soil. Within a few weeks, roots will develop and a new plant will begin to grow.

Pencil Cactus is Toxic to Pets

While the Pencil Cactus is appealing to look at, it is important to note that it is toxic to pets, particularly cats and dogs. The milky sap that the plant produces can cause gastrointestinal distress if ingested. It is best to keep the plant out of reach of pets.

It Can Survive in Poor Soil Conditions

The Pencil Cactus is a hardy plant that can survive in poor soil conditions. It is adaptable to various soil types, as long as they are well-draining. This makes it a suitable choice for landscapes and gardens with sandy or rocky soil.

Pencil Cactus is Drought-Tolerant

Due to its natural habitat of arid regions, the Pencil Cactus is highly drought-tolerant. It has the ability to store water in its stems, allowing it to survive extended periods without rainfall. This makes it a great choice for xeriscaping or water-conscious gardening.

It Can Be Pruned to Maintain Shape

If the Pencil Cactus becomes too tall or unruly, it can be pruned to maintain a desired shape. However, pruning should be done with caution, as the milky sap can cause skin irritation. It is recommended to wear gloves and protective clothing when pruning the plant.


In conclusion, the pencil cactus is a fascinating and versatile plant that offers numerous benefits to any plant lover. From its unique appearance to its low maintenance requirements, pencil cacti make a stunning addition to any indoor or outdoor space. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, this hardy succulent is sure to thrive and bring a touch of elegance to your home or garden.With its ability to withstand drought conditions and its air-purifying properties, the pencil cactus is not only beautiful but also beneficial to your overall well-being. So, if you’re looking for a plant that requires minimal effort and delivers maximum impact, consider adding a pencil cactus to your plant collection. You won’t be disappointed!


1. How often should I water my pencil cactus?

Water your pencil cactus sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering can cause root rot, so it’s better to underwater than overwater this succulent.

2. Can I propagate my pencil cactus?

Yes, you can propagate pencil cactus through cuttings. Simply take a stem cutting, allow it to dry out for a few days, and then plant it in well-draining soil. Keep the soil lightly moist until roots develop.

3. Is the pencil cactus toxic to pets?

Yes, the pencil cactus is toxic to pets if ingested. It contains a milky sap that can cause irritation, vomiting, and other adverse effects. Keep it out of reach of curious pets to avoid any potential issues.

4. Can I keep a pencil cactus indoors?

Absolutely! Pencil cacti can thrive both indoors and outdoors, as long as they receive adequate sunlight. Place your pencil cactus near a bright window or in a well-lit area to ensure it gets the light it needs.

5. How tall can a pencil cactus grow?

The height of a pencil cactus can vary, but on average, it can reach a height of 6 to 8 feet. However, with proper care and conditions, it has the potential to grow even taller.