Euphorbia milii dropping leaves

NannyOgg(4A)August 21, 2012

Last March I kind of inherited a Euphorbia milii, about 1.5 feet tall. It was a bit beaten up, but otherwise okay, a lot of leaves missing from the bottom of the stems, but I understand it is a habit of this type of plant to drop the lower leaves. Soon after I had placed it to its new spot, it started growing and blooming and it has been in bloom constantly ever since. Then, about 3 months ago, I left for two weeks, leaving the poor thing to my husband, who forgot to water it, so by the time I arrived back 1/4 of the leaves were yellow and dropping. I do not completely understand this, because I thought 2 weeks without water should not be a problem for a succulent, but anyway, since then, I have been trying to save the plant: I tried to water it a little bit more, added fertilizer, then watered it less, but nothing helps, leaves are still dropping like crazy. I do not see any pests, discoloration or anything âÂ" they just turn yellow, then brown and crispy... The funny thing is that at the same time the very tips of the branches are growing, new shoots are developing at the base of the stems, and the plant still has not stopped blooming, even though there are hardly any leaves left on it. In the past, it had short periods of dropping leaves, but never so excessively, and I managed to minimize the leaf loss by either adding more water or fertilizer. I also heard that Euphorbia is supposed to drop the leaves and then grow them back, but so far that never happened, new shoots and flowers do show up, but no new leaves on the stems.

Any thoughts on that? Is there something else I could try to save it, or should I just get used to my new, almost completely barren Euphorbia? :(

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Nanny, how dry was the soil when you returned home? During summer months, Euphorbias need more water, 'after soil dries a little.'

Yes, it's common for leaves to drop, but usually when soil is too dry, wet, or not enough sun.

New foliage should return, but it might take a while.

Does the main trunk feel soft of hard? Toni

PS. Don't add anymore fertilizer.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 2:28PM
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Hi Toni,

The soil was really dry, so I soaked it well (but let the excess water flow out, so it was not actually standing in water). After that I followed my usual rutine watering it about every 7 days when the soiled dried out, but that did not help. Then I used fertilizer, thinking that maybe the plant needs the nutritions as it has been blooming constantly for the last year - did not help either. Then I read that excess water may cause the leaves to drop, so I cut back to desert mode: now it only gets water in every 10 days or so. The spot where it stands is sunny in the morning and bright in the afternoon, and I did not move the pot in the last year. The trunk is hard and has a lot of new shoots at the base.

When do you think the foliage would normally return? You see, since I got this plant, I noticed new growth at the tips, a lot of flowers, etc, but never a single leaf came back on the trunk, not even close to the top.

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Nan...I can't say for sure..It depends.

Three summers ago, while my E.Crown of Thorn, Millii was outside, a butterfly caccoon made a home in my plant..
I had no idea until all the leaves were gone. All but one..
Anyway, when I brought the plant in the house, hosed, there sat the caccoon. I removed the caccoon, placed in a box until it morphed into a butterfly.. Poor little guy.

Okay, anyway, throughout winter my millii sat fairly leafless, but by spring, most of the leaves resumed. My COT's is now filled w/leaves, but it took time.

As long as the trunk is firm, your plant is alive. Happen to have a picture?

Here's the culprit

By spring...

I'd have to go outside to snap a new pic, but the millii is filled w/leaves and flowers...


    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 3:44PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Given lemons - make lemonade.

Many people think that succulents prefer to be left to go dry before watering, but they experience drought stress just like the foliage plants we grow indoors. Somehow, since they don't tolerate wet feet well, that's come to mean they like drought conditions - not so. They prefer a very fast draining soil you can keep evenly moist but never soggy.

That your plant is resprouting from the roots is a possible indication that the top has died, but not yet a certainty. If you nick the top of the plant, or poke it with a pin, and you don't get white sap, they're dead. However, that's not a big deal. I would take the opportunity to bare-root and repot into a fast soil, and enjoy the fuller plant that comes from the new shoots. I actually cut back the ones with the small white flowers ('apache'?) every time I repot. The result is a ton of stems all bearing leaf clusters and little white blooms - much more attractive (to my eye) than a leggy stalk with a few leaves at the tip and maybe a branch or two. Of course, your perspective might vary, but I just wanted you to know there are some options still open you might like to take advantage of.

Withholding fertilizer is a good idea if there are no growth indicators, but if the plant is coming back from the roots, withholding nutrients isn't a good plan. Nutrients are the building blocks the plant needs to grow. I use regular applications of Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 on mine, but the Miracle-Gro liquid in the yellow quart jug (12-4-8) is a very good fertilizer choice, too. If you need any guidance insofar as soil choice, repotting, or a fertilizer program, let me know and I'll do all I can to help.

Best luck.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 3:55PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Nanny,

I answered this on the other thread about it on Cactus & Succulent Forum.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 7:55AM
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I poked the plant, tapla, and the top of the branches are still alive - well, new flowers keep appearing, so checking was not really necessary, but I did it anyway. :) It is good to know that these plants need more water than your "average" succulents. I was always afraid that I would soak it too much and, ultimately, kill it, but now I think that lack of water may have caused the plant to slowly but constantly losing its leaves, and this incident in May was probably it for poor thing.

So here is the rescue plan, tell me what you, all, think about it. I will try to keep its soil evenly moist, and see if the leaves stop falling off. If not, I will take a look at the roots, see what is going on there. I repot the plant last fall or so, so it still should not be root bound or something, I guess, but we shall see. I would be glad if you could share your experience about soil types. And I think I will consider cutting it back a bit, and maybe try to root the cuttings.

I took some photos yesterday to show you. This is how the plant looks like: lots of flowers, leaves only at the tips of the branches, some of them already yellow/dry. New shoots growing at the bottom (these are little branches, not just leaves, and they are in bloom already), but the middle part is barren. :(

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 5:08PM
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Tapla - i never ever thought of the plant getting water distressed.

I currently have some cuttings of a red one my Nanna gave me this Christmas which only has yellowing leaves down one side but are growing taller with new leaves.

When i picked the cutting's up Christmas eve, they were in very damp soil so i've let them dry out since, due to fear of loosing them and have not watered them since.

Obviously their yellowing leaves is drought distress !

Thankyou so much for your post, its so helpful.

Does anyone know where i can purchase these plants from or cuttings as i would love a second pot!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2013 at 1:19PM
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