Crown of Thorns...can I cut it back?

sooey(7MA)November 27, 2006

Hi Kids,

Well, I have just brought all of my tender plants in from the deck before the cold weather sets in, but I have a problem. My Crown of Thorns plant is so big that I really do not have room for it in the house. Can I cut it back? and if how much. It's now in the will get cold but not down to freezing, light, but not much and no direct. I know that it will drop 30% of it's leaves because of the change in light, but that will happen no matter where I put it. If I cut it back I will be able to find a spot for it where it's not so cold. I guess it's at the point that if I don't cut it back, it could be lost for ever. So, what do you think? Can I cut it back by 1/2? 1/3? Not at all? We are in the North East, Cape Cod to be exact.

Thanks, Kids.


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flash14756(z6 Boise, Idaho USA)

If you are at the point when if you dont cut it back you'll lose it, hten cut it back. cut back as little as possible and try to shape it, try to cut back to another branch.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 5:57PM
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Hi flash14756,

That is my thinking also. If it's too big for the house it needs to go to a new house, die of frost out on the deck or be cut back and hopfully live to see another season in the fresh air and sunshine. I will cut it back tomorrow. It has gotten so large and round that it really is too big for me to pick up. This is an old plant and I would hate to lose it. I have cut it back in the past but never at this time of year.

Thanks for confirming what I already knew.


    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 9:45PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Sooey,

It's not the ideal time to cut it back, but if it's that or lose I guess it's OK. I'd suggest not cutting off more than 1/3, esp. since you expect it's gonna drop lots of leaves due to its change of environment. I'd water it a bit less & more carefully than normal.

I cut one of mine back a lot abt 2 months ago. Have discovered these will water root oddly enough (if interested, look for a prior post of mine discussing this).

Also, note of caution if you don't already know this: as a Euphorbia, this will bleed white sap when cut, which can be irritating to the skin (tho' personally I haven't been bothered by this), pls. be sure to keep your hands away from your face 'til you've had a chance to wash well; better safe than sorry.

Best advice, when cutting, have a mister handy to mist the cut ends of the remaining plant (will stop the sap); let the cut pieces dry off a couple of days & THEN put them in a cup of water. Have discovered the hard way, if one doesn't leave the cuttings out for a couple of days, they'll rot in the water. Have fun & good luck!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 11:55PM
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Hi pg,

Thanks for this good advice. I gave it a good look today and I think cutting it back by 1/3 will do it. That should make it a bit more managable in size. As you know, since this plant has those large thorns all along the length of the branches, it needs to be kept out of the way of foot traffic. The space I have that gets the most winter light, which this plant seems to need, is in front of the slider. I need to have access to that area several times a day so the Crown of Thorns needs to fit in. It is the one house plant I have that goes through the most adjustment each fall. It's out on the deck every summer and it thrives. When I bring it back in during November, I know it will drop 1/3 - 1/2 of it's leaves. It makes a mess and I'm after it with the hose of the vacuum cleaner every day.

Rooting it sounds interesting. I think I'll give it a try. I don't know what I will do with another COT, but I'll bet I can find a friend in need.

Thanks again, pg. Enjoy your plants. This is the time of year that I am so thankful that we get such good light in our house...all day long.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 3:18PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

You're welcome & Amen to getting good light. Tho' I'm in NYC (Brooklyn actually), I'm blessed w/ western exposures, so unless it's overcast, I too get the good light, yippeee.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 12:08AM
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Hi again, pg,

I just came down to start the long awaited surgery on my COT but I thought I better re-check your instructions before I make the first cut. I have my spray bottle at the ready and I'll be wearing gloves...don't like sap of any type on my hands...ya never know! I'm going to try to root a few cuttings as you suggest. It sounds like COT cuttings need to be treated the same as the cuttings of the Jade Plant...they need a few days to harden off before you put them in water or dirt. I'll give it a go.

You are lucky to have such good light in the city. I know many who don't. I just love the light in our house. We have sunlight streaming into the main living areas of the house from sun up till sun down. Our living room, family room, den and kitchen are bright all day long. So much so that I need to keep sheers at the windows to slow down the damage the sun does to the carpets and fabric in the house. It's perfect for house plants.

Thanks again for the advice. I know I should have thought ahead and cut it back while there was still time before I brought it back indoors. I hope it works...I hope it lives...


    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 9:41AM
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sooey(7MA) is over and the patient is now resting in Post-Op. I am monotoring vitals and all seems well. In the was more of an amputation rather than a 'cutting back'. I think I ended up cutting out at least 2/3 of the total plant. When I got in there I found that it was really a matter of gurth that needed to be addressed. This plant was huge, about 3 feet across and thick with branches of all size from the center out. I ended up cutting all of the outside branches and left the center in tact. I will need to work on it more this spring. It's about three feet tall so I'll need to cut it down a little. I would like to end up with a lush, healthy plant that I prune a little every year. All plants do best when they are cared for, but a plant with such sharp thorns needs to be kept in shape. yikes!

As I was in there, cutting away, I could see that the leaf drop has already started. The lower leaves turn yellow with little black spots, they curl and drop. It does this every year within two days of bringing it indoors. I'm sure it will live and thrive. I will continue to work on it.

Thanks for your help.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 2:51PM
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greenelbows1(z9--so LA)

I can't resist passing on a story sort of about a CoT. We have a small gardening/plant exchange/old gals support group, and one time a member brought a very nice CoT to a meeting for the exchange. She said since she is taking care of her grandsons during the day she didn't want them getting 'stuck'. I said my mother told me she grew cacti when we were little to teach us to respect plants. She was horrified, but I didn't get a chance to explain (we all talk too much and all at once!) I remember very clearly how she showed me one with silky soft long hair and really quite vicious hooked thorns hiding in them. It is important to be careful around plants, she said--don't handle them roughly, and don't eat them unless you've been told it really is okay. Made the point very clear and very memorable without having to holler to stop me!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 11:32PM
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Crown of Thorns will not only tolerate as much of a haircut as you want to give it, it will actually become a much shaplier plant as a result of it. I have cut mine back to a stump, by mid-summer it will be very full and beautiful. Just make sure to give it a lot of light after cutting back so the new growth stays stocky and compact.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 12:04AM
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Wonder if it's too late to revive this thread, since I just found this forum . . .

My sis-in-law gave me my first CoT last July, and it has just been such a fascination for me. It's not stopped blooming since I got it. I put it immediately in the northeast bay window where it gets soem morning sun. Since the only other plants in that window are a large jade and an even larger fern, the CoT goes longer without water than it really should, but it's thriving & growing in spite of that.

Anyway, this is my story . . we either broke a stem of this plant off when we moved it, or the cat broke it off right after I set it in the window. I called sis-in-law to ask how or if I could start this, and she'd never done one, so we decided to dip it in RootTone and then in some good potting soil. It took right off, and by the end of July was looking beautiful! So I gave it to my sister for her birthday :)

Later, I read how you are supposed to start these plants and was amazed! I'd not really done anything right, but it worked anyway :)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 9:42PM
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I have a CoT plant that i had bought over four years ago. It still amazes me how much it grows, and the pretty red coloured flowers bloom often throughout the year. It seems to be happy at any season. It has gotten quite large. Maybe its a good time to transplant it. It is in a pot with 15 small Haworthia plants.(and it's large mother).

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 12:37PM
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Hi Cinder-pie..COT is my favorite succulent..Do you have a Thai or millee? Large or small flowered?
Repot, only if your plant needs repotting..Since it's doing well, and flowering, maybe you should wait..
Are roots growing out of drainage holes or atop soil? What size pot is it in? What material is pot, clay, plastic?
Haworthias have shallow roots, so they don't need much space, although 15 surely fills the pot..Do you have a picture? I'd love seeing your Cot's with Haworthis's growing around the trunk. Now you're giving me ideas..LOL..Toni

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 5:56PM
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I just bought a small COT a few weeks ago and I LOVE it!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 9:21PM
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Well, the type of CoT that I have is the small-flowered millii, exotic thai, Mannee Jintana. Its in a med-lrg size clay pot. Now that i have a good look at it, i dont think that it really needs to be transplanted-at this time, as its doing just fine. I need to get a digital camera soon here, so i can get a good picture for you. I also have hmm....small collection of other house plants...under 200 of them.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 10:30PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


Ultimately (IMO), you should separate the Haworthias from the E. milii as they have different watering needs.

The Euphorbia can be quite thirsty, while the Haw will only want such watering in Summer, they may well rot given such large amounts of water at other times of the year as the Euph will want. Just so you know.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 3:01PM
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Tommy, what a pretty COT's. Are flowers yellow or white? Its leaves are quite green and healthy looking. Good'll reward you with flowers year round.

Cinder, what is Mannee Jintana? Do you have all 3 plants in one clay pot? If so, I bet it's gorgeous when blooming, especially since COT's bloom most of the year..Do you have pics?

Karen, you don't water Haworthias in winter? Oh boy, all this time, even though mine dry out, completely, I've been giving drinks..I'd better check the bowls to see if they're okay..of course no cactus/succ gets fertilized in winter, in fact I still haven't fert cac/sux..What month do you start feeding Haws and other sux while I'm asking? They say not to water Lithops in winter, so when I had them, they didn't get a drop, but all are gone..Our puppy got hold of them last winter, chewed up 3 bowls of'm lol'ing now, but wasn't the day I woke up to find chewed up plants, soil all over the rug, dragged throughout the house. Please let me know the best time to start watering more and fert Haw's..thank, Toni

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 9:27PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hey Toni,

Pls. re-read what I wrote a bit more slowly, what you said is NOT what I wrote. I wrote Euph miliis will want much more water than the Haws (which is not to say the Haws won't want water) at other times of the year beside Summer. I did NOT say I don't water the Haws in Winter. In fact, I've recently heard that they're actually Winter growers (I'm not sure, abt that but I know my Haws bloom in Summer).

I'm cautious abt watering my Haws in Winter because I've have a few of them lose their roots (which makes them very susceptible to root rot &/or death). I did succeed in re-rooting them (in pumice), but it was tricky.

I'm not as big on fertilizers as you are. Also, I belonged to my local C&S Society for abt 10 yrs., somewhere along the line, I was taught that Succulents don't really want a lot of fertilizer, so I don't give 'em much, maybe twice a year in Summer months only.

Since I started using Eleanors VF-11 last Spring, I don't think I fertilized last yr., as its instructions suggest using it alone (w/out fertilizers).

No specific time to water more, I go by observation, not the calendar, when I see more active growth I step up their water somewhat.

Last wk I gave my entire collection a watering of VF-11 for the first time this yr.

I've never grown nor do I know the first thing abt Lithops.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 12:02AM
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The flowers are white. I also just bought a smaller, bushier looking one that has red flowers.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 8:44AM
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Karen, duh. LOL. After rereading your post, I see where I errored. My own made-up word.
Several plant books mention Lithops are not to be watered during winter months. Since Haws are shallow-rooted, I 'assumed' Haw's too shouldn't be watered during dark days. I apologize.
Aeonium's are baffling. Many plant books state they grow do all their growing in winter and go dormant in summer. They say water AND feed from Nov-Feb. Do you grow Aeoniums? If so, and since you're living in a cold climate and belonged to a C&S Society, how do you care for yours? I'm thinking of ordering a black/purple and variegated Aeon from a guy who, I believe, grows plants as a hobby. He's at and his prices are very inexpensive. It's a thought.
Karen, I don't fertilize C&S often. 1-2 times in summer, with either Fish Emulsion or Cactus fert. ST'ed once a month. Since they grow slow, they need little fert. Any slow-growing plant, including tropicals, get fert seldom.

Tommy, your COT is lovely. Is the red truly red? I bought a few that say, RED, but they're really orange or maroon. I'd love to see or own a true, bright red. I just potted up one bare-root RED, so we'll see what color flowers are.

Cinder-Pie, what did you end up doing with your COTS? Toni

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 4:47PM
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My crown of thorns plant is a millii variation. I've been researching the types lately. The names tend to be mis-spelled in many diff texts. But i believe that i have a millii variation. The flowers on it are not a bright red, but maroonish. There is some yellow in the middle as well.
I got my aeonium over about two years now. It's in a pot with some cactus's.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 6:39PM
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HI PIRATE GIRL + OTHERS.... I had a red crown of thorns for many years and it was always easy to root.. I would let it dry out.. never had a problem... although it never flowered much..... my sister gave me a white one.... and it has never stopped flowering..... it's so beautiful.... the problem I'm having is. For some reason, it will not root for me.... I let it harden off like I did with the other and I use the routing patter... but they still root.... I find this so strange..... so my only alternative is reading your article about routing them in water.... never thought I could do that.... hopefully it will work for me.... because my sister would love one after she had seen how beautiful My plant has grown big and never stops blooming.....
I appreciate any advice -- Richard

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 1:40PM
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We have 5, 4 foot COT plants that were doing very well outside in huge clay pots.
(we are new to florida from massachusetts)
we had a freeze in early december and did NOT know we were supposed to cover to protect them.
my husband wants to dump them....
can they be cut back?
please help.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 2:28PM
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Yes, you can cut them back, but there's no guanantee they'll regrew. How long was the freeze?

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 2:44PM
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the freeze was for 2 days dec 14 and 15 and then again 2 more days dec 27 and 28.

we were away at the time and had no clue.

so today, my husband hacked them all back so that they are little stumps.
should we bring them in, let them rest inside for a few months?
or just toss them and start again.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 7:42PM
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Are the trunks soft or firm? If firm, keep them going. BTW, are the hacked stems dead? If not, cut in 4" sections, root, then after roots are established, they can either be potted in containers or your garden.

If temps aren't expected to dip below 35-40F, leaving them outside should be okay, but if it frosts, bring them indoors to warmth. Moreso if rain is expected. Rain and cold will definately kill them.

Was the soil wet or dry the days/nights temps dropped?

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 8:27PM
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maternut(7 west tn)

I am a old man that loves COT's I would hate to see this post die. So how about bumping it up again for 2012. Lot's of good info in here.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 6:15PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Its a Euphorbia, so is pretty tough. I wouldnt think it would harm it.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 6:40PM
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Maternut..Wish we were neighbors. I have more COT's than I know what to do with. Can't toss them, but they sure take a LOT of room.

When they were purchased, all were babies..Guess I didn't think they'd someday grow larger. lol.

Larry. Cold shouldn't harm COT's, but those I recently brought indoors, 'after several nights @ 35F/1.7C, a couple nights dipped 32F/0C, a good number of leaves dropped..Some leaves had frost-bite.
But like you said, Euphorbias are tough. Unfortunately, not tough enough to be outdoors for long periods at 32/0.

Wonder how OP's COT is doing.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 12:05PM
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Euphorbias are from a lot of places - if you're growing a Madagascar Euphorbia (especially the medusoids) you're going to wind up with succulent jelly if you expose them to too much cold.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 2:22PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Well all my plants are indoors anyway, I wouldnt put a houseplant outdoors over here!!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 5:03PM
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Most C&S, and this includes E. m., would, if possible, benefit most highly from summer outside growing. I'd venture to guess this is true in MOE, too.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 5:10PM
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Actually I'm buying it at that size. It's shipped for arrive tomorrow. How big you think the plant/leaves are?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 12:27AM
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Woops wrong thread sorry damn phone

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 12:29AM
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