So, we all know you can different dog breeds can mix together. Did you know that a succulent plant could too? Enter the coral cactus! This plant is a cross between two succulent varieties. Coral cactuses may look complicated, but caring for them is relatively easy.
Like all succulents, this beautiful and unusual house plant needs specific conditions to thrive, despite needing very little attention to grow. We’ll fill you in on everything this special “Frankplant” needs to survive (don’t worry, they’re not too demanding).
Table of Contents
What Is A Coral Cactus?
The coral cactus, or the Euphorbia lactea Cristata, is an unusual and incredibly unique succulent. This succulent is a combination of two members of the Euphorbia species – having a Euphorbia neriifolia base with the Euphorbia lactea crest. The name “coral cactus” may be misleading as coral cactuses are, in fact, succulents and not of the cactus family.
The base gives the coral cactus its spiny, cactus-like qualities while it gets its rippled, fan-shaped leaves from the crest. This combination of traits led some to call the coral cactus the “Franken-plant.”
A native to Africa’s desert regions, the coral cactus further developed in Thailand to gain its crest and unique colors. The large, spiky, poisonous leaves are almost the stuff of nightmares, but they can come in a few beautiful, vibrant colors such as purple, green, yellow, white, or red. Luckily, the coral cactus only grows to be around 9-15 inches tall, making it a great indoor plant (and conversation starter!).
Is Coral Cactus Easy to Care For?
Yes! Coral cactuses are low-maintenance plants and very easy to care for. As long as they get enough sunlight and are not over-watered, they can thrive in indoor and outdoor environments.
How to Care for a Coral Cactus
Most succulents don’t require a great deal of attention or time to care for. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure your coral cactus grows healthy and strong. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this unique plant!
Finding the Right Pot
Succulents hate moisture, so try to find a pot with good drainage so the soil can dry out quickly. Clay or terracotta pots are better suited for succulent plants since they are more porous and regulate moisture around your plant. If you decide to use a plastic or ceramic pot, make sure it has good drainage and avoid watering your coral cactus as often.
Choosing the Right Soil
Like the pots, using soil that drains easily is essential for your coral cactus’ survival. Trapping too much moisture can lead to root rot. You can use a cactus and succulent potting soil mix for a light, drainable soil blend.
Coral cactuses are not picky about the soil’s pH level, so in most cases, any soil blend you decide to use will be fine. Just make sure it doesn’t retain too much moisture. You can even try to create your own mix by combining standard potting soil, perlite, and coarse sand!
Watering a Coral Cactus
Always err on the side of watering your coral cactus less rather than more. Succulents are very sensitive to overwatering, and root rot and death can happen quicker than you think.
A great way to know whether you should water your plant is to check underneath the pot and see if the soil is dry. Once the soil is dry, you can water your coral cactus until the soil is soaked. Allow 1-2 weeks before watering again, or check the soil to see if it’s dry.
If you notice that your coral cactus is wilting or drooping, it may be a sign you need to water your plant. On the other hand, if you notice your coral cactus is blistering or getting top-heavy, you could be overwatering it.
Placement and Lighting
The coral cactus is very flexible and can grow indoors or outdoors. They thrive best in partial sunlight, meaning they need some shade to hide from high temperatures. If you plant your coral cactus outside, just remember to provide a shade source so the plant is not in the sun the whole day.
Ideally, you want to place your coral cactus in a south-facing window so it does not receive direct sunlight. High exposure to UV light and heat can burn the plant. Make sure it is receiving even sunlight all around, or else one side could grow more lopsided than the other.
Pruning Your Coral Cactus
Coral cactus’ seldom require any pruning unless fungal rot begins to set it. If the plant begins to rot, it may already be too late. But, you can try to cut out the rotting areas. Remember to put on gloves to avoid the poisonous residue and use a sterile blade to cut out the rot that may have set in the stem or crest.
Humidity and Temperature
If you live in an area with warm temperatures all year round, it may be the perfect opportunity to plant your coral cactus outside. Just be careful that children and pets do not come close to this poisonous plant.
For colder areas, plan on keeping your coral cactus indoors. Make sure it is placed in a room that gets plenty of light and warmth so that it can continue to grow. Try to avoid humid environments with little airflow. Moisture in the air can contribute to root rot by seeping into the soil.
Feeding a Coral Cactus
The best time of the year to feed your coral cactus is during the growing seasons of spring and summer. Feeding your coral cactus during fall and winter when it is dormant can potentially burn the roots.
You only need to feed your coral cactus once per growing season, especially if they have rich soil. You can use 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer and then dilute it down (2.5-2.5-2.5) to feed your coral cactus multiple times. A tripe ten fertilizer contains ten percent nitrogen, ten percent phosphorus, and ten percent potassium.
How Big Can a Coral Cactus Get?
Coral cacti are not very big and only grow up to about 9-15 inches tall. The good thing is that you rarely have to repot your coral cactus because they won’t outgrow their pots.
Common Coral Cactus Care Issues
Some of the most common problems with coral cactus care are:
- Insects/pests – For the most part, the coral cactus’ sticky surface will deter all pests. However, pests like mealybugs or spider mites may still attach themselves to the plant. Mix 1 part rubbing alcohol and 7 parts water and use the solution to remove the insects.
- Rot – Once root rot sets in, it may be impossible to save your coral cactus. But if the plant is suffering from fungal rot due to cold conditions, you might be able to save it by cutting off affected areas.
- Powdery mildew – Mildew can occur in humid conditions. This condition can lead to fungicide, which can damage the leaves. Dilute one tablespoon of baking soda in a gallon of water to treat the plant’s surfaces.
Why is My Coral Cactus Turning Pink?
When a coral cactus turns pink, it may be a response to certain stressors or stimuli. If you notice your coral cactus turning pink, you may want to examine your plant more closely to determine if it needs more or less water, fertilizer, or sunshine.
It is entirely normal for your coral cactus to turn pink. It doesn’t mean your plant is dying, and any stressors could be minor.
How Do I Know if My Coral Cactus is Dying?
There are a few signs that your coral cactus may be dying.
- Discoloration – If you notice the leaves turning brown, black, or yellow, it may be a sign rot is setting in. Your coral cactus should be mostly green with bright coloring on the crests.
- Wilting or sagging – Coral cactuses grow straight up, and if they start to droop or sag, they may not be getting enough nutrients or water.
How Do You Save a Dying Coral Cactus?
If rot has begun to set in, it may be too late, and you will need to find a new plant. In some cases, you can try to cut out damaged sections, but the overall health of your coral cactus has already been compromised.
Analyze whether or not the plant has been fed or watered recently. If so, sometimes repotting the entire plant will help. Don’t try to add more water or fertilizer, as this could kill the entire coral cactus.
Are Coral Cacti Poisonous?
Yes, coral cacti are very poisonous! I mean, just the way they look should tell you to stay away (we joke). Be sure to keep the plant away from the reach of children and animals as the poisonous sap on the surface should not be touched.
Having a coral cactus in your home can be a great conversation starter and centerpiece. It’s an unusual and unique succulent plant, but luckily it’s quite easy to take care of. Just be careful of the poisonous sap on this beautiful and majestic plant!