Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Twenty-something (Pedilanthus tithymaloides)

Pedilanthus tithymaloides is kind of a funny plant to research, since after you clear all the standard houseplant sites and plant sellers out of the way, what you are left with is a lot of scientific stuff that cannot be accessed without (expensive) subscriptions. So there's indication that a lot of work is being done on and with this plant . . . somewhere, but you, unless you have thousands of dollars to sink into subscriptions for publications like The Journal of Parasitology, have to make do with the abstracts, or sometimes even less than the abstracts.

So I know, for example, that Pedilanthus tithymaloides has been evaluated for use in controlling the organisms that cause malaria,1 schistosomiasis, and tuberculosis. It's been looked into as a possible renewable fuel source. Medical science is exploring it as the source of interesting anti-inflammatory drugs, or as a general antibacterial / antimicrobial. It also does something people find interesting when it's deprived of water for a while, and papers have been written about how the leaves won't change from green to pink without daily temperature fluctuations.2 And on and on in that vein.

In short, there seems to be general agreement that this plant must be good for something, or possibly many things, even, but at this point, in terms of confirmable information, we got bupkus. It'd be handy to come up with a use, since it's already invasive in India, and, you know, if it's going to grow itself without any help, it behooves us to find a way to use it all. We just haven't, you know, done that yet. (Or have we? Only the scientists know for sure. . . .)

So, like a lot of twenty-somethings, it doesn't yet know what it wants to do with its life, but no worries: it's still pretty. It'll get by.

The scientific interest mainly revolves around the sap, which is white and opaque and full of unusual compounds – granted, they're compounds produced so the plant can burn your flesh off,3 but we overlook that sort of behavior in a lot of other plants (for example, and another example, and a third example), so I see no reason to single out Pedilanthus tithymaloides4 for disapproval. As with these other plants, if you're doing some pruning or whatever, you'll want to use some common sense: take some basic precautions to keep the sap from touching your skin or eyes, and then if you get some sap on you anyway, wash it off.

Wikipedia, incidentally, makes the bold assertion "In Perú, it is called cimora misha and is sometimes added to psychedelic brews made from mescaline-containing Trichocereus cacti. Its pharmacology is unknown." So, wikiposedly,5 this is a psychoactive plant, but I suspect it's not a very good one if they 1) only use it "sometimes" and 2) the U.S. government still regards it as legal. But we can still, I suppose, add "psychoactive drug" to the list of things Pedilanthus tithymaloides maybe wants to be when it grows up, if it ever grows up.

Special Note to the stupid and/or impressionable: I do not recommend attempting to consume any part of this plant, by any means. I do not believe it is a psychoactive plant. I do believe it will probably hurt you. If you try this anyway, I accept no responsibility, and will point to this Special Note as evidence that I tried to talk you out of it.

My personal connections to this plant are mainly historical: I had one about ten years ago, when I was a twenty-something, that grew from a tiny little cutting into a mighty little shrub, and then eventually succumbed to . . . well, basically it succumbed to being ugly. I mean, ugly is why I got rid of it: it didn't have pests or rot or anything. The overarching reason is that I only had one north window in my apartment, and didn't always remember to water, and after watching the plant struggle with that for a while I was like, you know, I don't think this relationship is working out, so I chucked it. And then I moved, like, immediately, and wound up with a south window and no Pedilanthus, and realized I wanted one after all, and it took a good year and a half to track down another6 and I felt stupid.

So it's been nice to be reunited.

The main horticultural interest in the plant comes from its unusual habit: the stem changes direction each time it grows a leaf, forming a zig-zag pattern. This is the reason for the common name of "devil's backbone," though that seems a little presumptuous to me (where are the devil skeletons? The devil autopsies? The devil x-rays?). Another common name is "Japanese poinsettia," which makes about as much sense as calling French fries French or German chocolate cake German: the plant is actually a New World native.

Excitingly, part of its natural range is Southern Florida, which means that it probably isn't going to be a dangerous, ecosystem-wrecking invasive there like everything else seems to be. (Hawaii: you should still worry.)7 The leaves on variegated versions like mine also color up if grown in very bright light; when I bought it, the leaves were entirely hot pink with a green center, nothing whitish to be found anywhere. They then went cream/chartreuse for a time –

– and enpinkened8 again when I moved it to the south window.

They're grown outdoors in warm climates partly for the flowers, which occur in bunches at the end of a stem and are red and hummingbird-pollinated. Supposedly the flowers are bird-shaped, or possibly shoe-shaped, depending on who's doing the describing, but I haven't seen a close-up picture that's clear enough for me to see a resemblance to either one. (I also don't see that many bird-shoes or shoe-birds, which raises questions about the quality of the comparison in the first place.) This is, then, the story behind the other big common name, "redbird cactus," which makes about as much sense as calling the plant Bob, because the only part of that name that's true is "red," and that's only true when it blooms, which is not all the time.

There are a few cultivars (Oh! If anybody's reading this who has a cultivar other than the one pictured above, including the plain-green species, I would soooooooooo like to try to trade you something for some cuttings! Just FYI.). The species is plain green; I don't know if there's a particular name for the variety I have or not, though I've seen it referred to in a couple places as "P. tithymaloides variegatus,' so there may not be a variety name exactly. Glasshouseworks has the one I have, plus four others -- cupped leaves, smaller leaves, marbled stems, marbled leaves -- and Asiatica Nursery has two that they call 'Jurassic Park' and 'Jurassic Park 2.' (No word on whether they plan to make it a trilogy or not.) As always with Asiatica, I'm fascinated and intrigued right up until I see the price ($25 + shipping for a 3.5-inch pot!), and then I become significantly less interested.

Edited to add: I did eventually break down and bought 'Jurassic Park 2,' photos of which are located here, along with a review of Asiatica's service and so forth. 'Jurassic Park 2' does not appear to be a P. tithymaloides cultivar - the leaves are much too big and thick - but I'm not taking it out of the post because it's still a Pedilanthus (if anything is still a Pedilanthus, see footnote 4), and it's not likely to warrant a post of its own.

In any case. These are fairly easy, tolerant plants, though they do have a few non-negotiable needs.

Water: Plants can survive for a pretty long time without water; however, the only way this plant knows to communicate "Water now" is by dropping leaves, and it does that later than it ought to. This can be a good thing, if you're into the look this will produce: long bare zig-zag stems. I'm not opposed to the look myself, but for most people, you're going to want to hold on to the leaves, and in that case, you want to water only when the plant has just gone dry, not whenever you happen to notice that it's dry, because if you make it wait too long you will be looking at sticks.

Light: This is surprisingly negotiable, for a surprisingly long time, though if it's too dark for too long the plant will eventually start reaching for more light (if it's spring or summer) or stop growing entirely (if it's fall or winter), and then there'll be a point where every time you look at it, it'll be giving you big puppy-dog eyes and the idea will flit through your mind that maybe it should be euthanized or given to a good home or something. And then you will feel bad about yourself. So just give it good light from the outset. East or west window minimum, south preferred, and if it turns pink then you'll know you're doing something right. This is my own opinion, not that of the usual houseplant-advice places (which say bright indirect light indoors), but if you want it to turn pink I'm just about positive that you'll have to give it some sun, at least.

Humidity, Temperature, Grooming: All pretty much non-issues. Temperature, remember, is important because it's necessary for the pink color to show up (allege the scientists), but they seem to be capable of tolerating temperatures down to about freezing (and are hardy in zone 10, according to two different sources). Grooming is more or less limited to sweeping up dead leaves, and that only if you've been a very naughty waterer, though you'll get a bushier plant faster if you cut it back occasionally and plant the cuttings with the parent: they're reluctant to branch on their own.

Pests: I have never seen, or even heard of, Pedilanthus tithymaloides having a pest problem. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but it does mean that this is not a plant where you're forever going to be fighting bugs, like you would with spider mites and Hedera helix, or mealybugs and Cereus peruvianus (which, no, the situation with my Cereus is only barely improved: one plant seems to be better, the other still has them, and I just don't have enough time or Q-Tips to deal with this right now so I'm not sure what happens next.).

Feeding: I haven't seen anything specific about this plant needing any more or less fertilizer than your average houseplant. It does have a fairly marked dormancy in the fall and winter, when it doesn't do much, and I wouldn't bother feeding it then, but as long as it's in active growth, feed as normal, either every two or three months according to label directions, or half-strength twice as often.

Propagation: Propagation is easy, and basically amounts to just taking cuttings whenever the spirit moves you. Callus them by setting them aside for a day to dry (remember to avoid getting sap on anything you're going to want later), and then stick them in dirt. Or sand. Or damp perlite. Or water. Pretty much whatever's at hand. Rooting will be faster with some of these than with others (I'd favor regular potting soil, possibly with some perlite or vermiculite mixed in.), and it's better to do it in spring or summer than fall or winter, but it will eventually happen.

This is probably never going to be a major part of the tropical foliage industry: it's a little too dangerous, a little too needy, a little too weird (though I'm realizing, as I talk to more and more customers, that for any given plant, there's somebody out there who hates it, and somebody else who thinks it's the Coolest Thing Evah). But you will be seeing it somewhere, in large quantity, just as soon as it figures out what it wants to do with its life and settles into a career of some kind. Whether it's going to be a doctor, exterminator, drug-pusher, or some kind of alternative-fuel hippie, only time will tell.


Photo credits: all photos are my own.

1 (Though it doesn't seem to be very good at it)
2 Which changes in color also seem to be linked to the activity of an enzyme called peroxidase. Peroxidases are proteins which break down hydrogen peroxide (H2O2, the same stuff one disinfects wounds with, or bleaches hair with) into water and oxygen. Different species have differing peroxidases, but the need for something to split up hydrogen peroxide is a pretty universal need, and so peroxidases are found in plants, animals (including humans), fungi, and bacteria.
3 (Exaggeration. It can cause irritation, but it's not even in the ballpark of some of the nastier Euphorbias.)
4 Possibly now Euphorbia tithymaloides. It's not clear to me whether this is an official name change, but the same forces at work in renaming Synadenium grantii to Euphorbia pseudograntii would seem to be operating here, so I'm guessing if one changes, they both change.
5 I originally saw this "wiki-supposedly," but I don't remember where, and searching the net didn't turn it up. I think wikiposedly sounds better anyway. It would obviously be defined as,

wikiposedly \wi·kē·'pō·zəd·lē\ adv. 1 a Alleged to be true according to Wikipedia, though in fact untrue, 1 b unverifiable, or 1 c improbable.

6 In Ames, Iowa, at a weird organic-greenhouse-slash-antique-store previously mentioned in Clivia miniata. This is also where the Sansevieria trifasciata 'Bantel's Sensation' pictured at the bottom of this page came from. I would have gotten more plants, but 1) on that particular day, there was a big storm blowing into Iowa, and the husband and I were sort of racing the storm home, 2) I only had just so much money to spend on the trip and I'd used a lot of it already, and 3) there were some serious pest problems on some of the plants, including the single creepiest case of aphids I think I've ever seen. I mean, I'm all for organic growing and stuff, but given the choice between a raging insect problem and some pesticide, I'm going to go with the pesticide every. Single. Time. That said, props to the guy for having a lot of stuff there that I've either only seen for sale at his place, or I've only rarely seen somewhere else, and it was all more or less alive, so perhaps I just caught him on a bad week. Some googling turned up a place called Ames Greenhouse and Antiques, at 3011 S Duff Ave, Ames IA, 50010, which can be reached by phone at (515) 232-1332, and judging from the look of the map, I'm almost positive that this is the place in question. And if you check it out, tell them Mr. Subjunctive sent you. (Not that they know who I am, but it amuses me to think that someone might say this.)
7 (Explanation for newcomers to the blog: there are enough houseplants that have become invasives in Florida and Hawaii that it's somewhat of a running joke here. It's not actually funny: some of these really could do, or have already done, actual damage to wildlife. See also Asparagus spp., Sansevieria trifasciata, Syngonium podophyllum, Murraya paniculata, Tradescantia pallida, Epipremnum aureum, and Ardisia elliptica.)
8 Well, it ought to be a word. Though I might prefer empinkened instead. Haven't decided.


Julie said...

What a great post! It's a love affair you have with this plant...and you make me want one too! Thanks for all of the info and places to find one! I will look out for the all green plant and let you know if I find one! I have a love affair with all varieties of Fittonia. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!
Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Wow, what a fabulous post; it was well worth the wait. It's nice to have you back! I hope you enjoyed your time off from your blog and got a chance to relax...

RJ Flamingo said...

I just acquired a PT (please don't make me spell it out again - it was hard enough in the Google search!)this morning, knowing nothing at all about it. I've just now been doing some research to see where I want to plant it, and this post was, by FAR, the most comprehensive, informative and useful source! I love your style and your blog. I am putting a link on my blog to yours so I can find you again. Thanks!

mr_subjunctive said...

Well thanks for saying. Always nice to hear.

Anonymous said...

AT LAST.....I have a name and some great advice on my plant I stumbled upon in a trash pile of plants and trees. It was in a rotted half whiskey barrel, which fell apart as I tried to pick it up. I literally had to drag it to my car and the only place for it was the floor on the passenger side in front. What a mess!!! I strained my back as the monstrosity was about 4 feet in circumference and about as tall. With the soil the whole thing must have weighed at least 50 lbs!! I drove it over to a fellow, ecclectic gardening buddy, who has a passion for Bromeliads(she gave the bug to me as well) and all things strange in the plant world. I offered her half of the plant, but she only wanted about an eigth. She said I had found a treasure! She had forgotten the name of it, I found it on The Glass House Works site.
Any hoo....a little more research and that led me to your post. You actually have more info on the care of this awesome plant than anything I have turned up yet. Thank you. I have a gigantic terracotta pot (also another trash pile find! People here in Miami throw out the coolest things!) I had a friend help me to unload it from my car and into the pot. Now that I know more of it's needs, thanks to you, I am going to get it properly potted and get it into a bit more sun exposure. Your post is great, helpful, intelligent, informative and interesting.
By the way....even though it was an ordeal that messed up my back a bit, caused a rash and itching on my arms, as I did not know of the sap was worth it! I love this strange; yet beautiful plant. Thank you so much for your post!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have a green Pedilanthus tithymaloides. Just started to flower a week or two ago and while the flowers are small and possibly not fully developed yet (I haven't ever seen the plant flower before), they look pretty cool. These buds/flowers do look rather like a redbird; I can share a picture if you want.

mr_subjunctive said...

Well yeah, if you can get a picture, I would definitely be interested.

Bob said...

Thanks for the great research info! My wife's family has always grown this plant, and they call it red bird. Thus I've had them around for a few years now in semi-south Texas.

Most of them grew too big to bother hauling in and out of the house in the winter, so I've just left them planted in protected areas around the yard. Most of them have survived and spread, but whether because of winter stunting or their natural growth tendancies, the "wild" ones in the yard are not as attractive as the ones we keep in pots.

They seem to propogate by growing tall, heavy stems that end up blowing over in the wind. These then root where they hit the ground, and the plants thus spread out another three feet or so.

Most of ours are green, but they seem to take turns being verigated sometimes, apparently due to temperatures swings.

If you haven't been able to get any cuttings from a green one, let me know...

Samantha Eastman said...

Thanks for all the helpful info! I just found one of these at our state farmers market and it was love at first sight! I think it is the best thing evah!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH! I have seen this plant where I work and was given permission to take starts. No one seemed to know what kind of plant it is or how to care for it other than sun and water. I've been searching several months for a photo that even closely resembles the one at work and here it is! I am so happy to finally see it! NOW, I can go get my cuttings and grow them!

Unknown said...

I think I have the solid green version of this plant. I recently bought it at The Home Depot, and pulled off the label without realizing it might have the plant name on it. The leaves alternate right and left, and are very glossy deep green. On the shorter stems, the leaves look like they are unfurling. Very interesting plant.

mr_subjunctive said...

Robin --

It's not impossible that you have a Pedilanthus, but I've never seen them for sale at the Lowe's here, and your description makes me think that you probably have a Zamioculcas zamiifolia instead. Which is also an interesting plant, but care will be different in certain ways.

Unknown said...

Now I remember that the label I pulled off showed the name of the plant as follows: ZZ. Love those accurate tags at Home Depot!

Thanks for your quick and (I'm sure) accurate identification.

Peg said...

Thanks for the great info. When I was growing up in central Texas, my mom had a huge pedilanthus. It was always a house plant which she started with cuttings from my Granny. We were told not to touch it because the milk was poison.

I now live in Fla and have looked and looked for a plant but didn't remember the name.

A couple of weeks ago I saw some growing in a friends yard and she was kind enough to give me a small potted plant. I wanted the plant because it reminds me of my Mom and home.

I'm so glad I found your blog thru a Google search and plan to check out your other articles soon.

Thanks again for all the great info.

Jason said...

I am a student and work part-time at a florist, and my boss gave me 6 cuttings of his "devil's spine" plant as he called it. I put them in water and took them home and planted them in soil. It took perhaps a month before I noticed any new growth, but then once the summer came, they really started growing in size and eventually I even noticed a few new sprouts coming up beside the originals I had planted.

About 2 or 3 weeks ago the temperature dropped down really low one night and a few days later I noticed that the leaves were dry and the stems had began shriveling up, starting from the top and heading toward the root. I took them inside and since then, they have started to come out of it - I have noticed a few small new growths. Just today I took a knife and cut the dead stems off in such a way that I got down to where they were still alive near the base of the plant. I wanted to make them "bleed", if you will, to assure that I found where they were still living in hopes that they would once again be able to grow on the original stems.

Prior to stumbling across this blog, I knew little to nothing about this plant. Mine is solid green. Very interesting, to say the least. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I think it's pretty, but I do find it to be a good conversation piece and an unusual ornamental plant for around the house.

Thanks for all the great info about the plant. Take care.

Diane said...

Never seen one before! The leaves actually remind me of a burning bush, in shape at least.

As for wikiposedly, a great word but I expected it to mean "Factual according to a consensus of interested parties, though not necessarily true; Unverifiable." I'm looking forward to the day when Wikipedia contains the sum total of all knowledge on the planet. It must be close by now!

Unknown said...

I was looking to find where the Devil's backbone came from and saw it came from the area I have lived in all my life and never knew it existed. duhhh
Anyway, an online friend invited me over for some cuttings and she must have given me 50 of the devil's backbone so I shared with the ladies in my office and they led me to do a little research on the plant.
I did see one comment that mosquitoes do not like it, so maybe we here in south Florida should grow hedges of them???
Anyway, you do not have to pay a high price for them, just see your neighbor who probably has them and ask for a cutting or two. I'm sure they will share more than you want because, I understand, cutting them back makes them bush, or cutting a leaf off makes them branch out. We will see.

angie said...

oh my gosh i am so glad i stumbled upon this site!! i just brought home several pedilanthus - a few each of the silver star and the dwarf both from work ( i work at a large wholesale greenhouse ) other than taking care of them for the past month or so am basically unfamiliar with them. they are so cool that i was unable to not bring them home! thank you so much for the info and dash of humor on the side. cheers!!

Unknown said...

My Mom always had a devil's backbone plant growing up, ever since I could remember, and when I moved out, I made sure to take a cutting. I have always loved this plant. I now have my own large bush, that has moved with me through my adult life. It is the only plant that survived all my moves and neglect.
Thanks for all of the great info! I have known this plant all my life, but never knew as much as I do now.

Tanya said...

I, immensely ,enjoyed your web site
I bought a pedilanthus because I liked, but did not know anything about the plant. Only the sticker in the vase. But I do not find the exact variety of mine.
Leaves green with white but very curly, like a curly hair I am going to take a photo Do you know something about his variety ?
congratulations on your site again
and thank you
from Tanya

mr_subjunctive said...


I know that there are other varieties of Pedilanthus, but I wouldn't be able to identify your variety, as I don't know the names for the different varieties. has a few listed, but none of the ones they have sound like the one you have.

Jim said...

Thank you for the wonderful information. I have had mine for 7 years and never knew what it was other than "Dragon's Back". Very interesting history. Thank you !! The info about "cuttings" was very helpful.

Anonymous said...

There was a plant in Wal-Mart yesterday that appears the same as the photos. It was labeled as a peperomia. I googled images and found some and the one link I opened made the plant sound the same. Look alikes? I didn't get the plant, but there were several on the 1/2 off price carts that looked as if they had sustained some damage, but basically were healthy. I considered trying one.

Texas anon

mr_subjunctive said...

Texas anon:

The only Peperomias I can think of that might look like Pedilanthus are P. clusiifolia ( link), in which the leaves are much larger and fleshier than for Pedilanthus, and P. scandens (Ref.), which trails and has more heart-shaped leaves. The stems on both clusiifolia and scandens can have sort of a zig-zag shape to them but don't always.

P. orba is sort of a borderline possibility as well. As far as I know, it never gets the zig-zag stems, and the leaves are about the same size as Pedilanthus but fleshier.

I've never grown scandens. Orba and I do not get along at all, for unknown reasons. The variegated clusiifolia I had lasted a long time but always looked like shit; the solid-green one hasn't been around that long but is growing really well for me.

It's also possible that the plants were mis-tagged. That happens a lot, especially in big box retailers like Wal-Mart.

Anonymous said...

An incorrect tag on a Wal-Mart plant? Surely you jest! That can't be possible. But we're talking photos here and those can be really deceptive in a lot of ways. The eye of the beholder and all that among other things. Always a good idea to compare plants side x side where you can pick out the nuances of growth, texture, color etc. I didn't pick it up anyway. I got some succulents to torture instead. And a couple of sad bromeliads to kill. I've avoided ever even trying one, so why not?

Texas anon

Anonymous said...

Wal-Mart in Kodiak (yes, we have one) had a couple of these weird things, fortunately with the genus name on it. I took one home which suddenly has twice as many leaves. Your site has the best info I could find.

BTW-- Kodiak is a Pacific Island but this creature stays indoors (it looked pitiful in Wal-Mart's plant rack outside on Mother's Day, covered in snow).

Unknown said...

When I was 8 years old, a neighbor, a Cherokee elder & medicine woman (she never said so, but everybody knew)took me into her house,
broke off a piece of this plant, and handed it to me. She told me (among other things) to ALWAYS keep a piece of this plant with me, and I have. That was 1974 (OMG I just aged myself!) and I still have a piece...the plant does get huge, and we do manage to kill it off to a snip or two occasionally, but I have shared it with family & friends in all those years, so there is always some on reserve within reach, just in case! I'll go out & take a picture of my two little snips later (they are outside for the summer)so you can see if it is something you don't have.
The way I figure, if a medicine woman/Grandmother thought it was important, it must be in some way or other!

Anonymous said...

Barry from Adelaide, South Australia, Australia....I have a couple, they are going great, they love the Aussie Climate....they are just the best.
People get excited when they see it, because they are rare in Adelaide.
Nice site...thanks.

Unknown said...

ozdragonlady for Perth Western Australia .. they are reasonably popular here. Recently we have had very cold nights and mine didnt like those much (even indoors). So I now have sticks :( with what amounts to freezer-burn :( But at least I now know I can prune the poor thing.

Thanks heaps for the post, I was having trouble finding anything sensible about mine :)

thought rockslide said...

My variety has green leaves with white borders. Very showy. And it's referred to as a "Jade slipper" here as well as the Devil's Backbone.

Anyway, thanks for your commentary :)

doodles.larue said...

i have a green variety that i bought, at all places, Ikea in Emeryville, CA. so i've had it a few years an it's my only houseplant that has a pest... i had imagined for some odd reason that this was a south african succulent and could never id it, so thank you for this blog! BUT why is this my only houseplant with a pest? i have tried to rid this thing of that white fluffy stuff forever. i've tried plain dawn and olive oil in water, neem oil, cutting it back, repotting it, leaving it outside... all of which made if have lots of new growth, but as soon as it looks good and sprouts new leaves, making me so happy that i've stood by this thing taking up space in my south facing window... that white fluff comes back again with a vengeance.

mr_subjunctive said...


Google "mealybugs." It sounds like it's either mealybugs, in which case a systemic pesticide would probably work for you, or it's a fungus -- there's a fungus that attacks Pedilanthus very tenaciously, and I'll tell you how to get rid of it just as soon as I figure it out myself.

Marguerite Williams said...

I, too, LOVE this plant. I have kept mine growing since 1973 when I took home a pot of it from my Mother's house which she planted for me. The original plant belonged to her mother, my Grandmother, who got it from who knows what relative. It has been varigated, all green, one year became green and pink and back to green again. I believe sun exposure, HEAT, indoors or outdoors made the color change happen. I have rooted many stems in water to keep it going in the family, and all three of my daughters cherish this plant. I think it looks lovely being rooted in water in a glass vase so I have it when needed to pot and pass on. Live on an Island off the southeastern coast of Georgia...know that the sun and the temp makes a difference in the colors.I have it growing in pots both outdoors and indoors. There is really something special about these plants coming from generation to generation, and I will keep rooting and potting as long as I can. My Mother had pots and also had it planted in the yard, and it always came back yearly. I never had the bugs or fungus, but daughters all have. I suspect their infections came from those plants they brought home from Home Depot or Wal Mart. Neither my Mother or Grandmother knew where the original shared cuttings came from. Daughter tried alcohol or VINEGAR on a q tip to combat the fungus..some worked, some didn't. Enjoy this plant, it is very special.

Growing Everyday said...

I have the pure green variety you seek and am quite the avid plant collector/propagator. I live in Des Moines and would gladly trade you propegations of varieties! It would be thrilling just to have another variety of this unique plant!

mr_subjunctive said...

Growing Everyday:

Ordinarily, I would jump at the chance, but my Pedilanthus varieties here (there are currently 3) have been battling a white, mildewy fungus for the last 2 1/2 years. Until I can figure out what to do for that (I've tried many things so far; none have been more than temporarily helpful), I don't want to bring in more varieties.

Olga L. said...

I saw it yesterday at IKEA for $7 a pot with three sticks, variegated, and was not sure if it's suitable for my home. Next time I see it I will buy it, but, just in case, will keep out of reach for my chomp-plant-loving spaniel.
Love your post, thank you!

Miss T N.C said...

I found one of these on clearance for $1.00.Did not know what I had so I appreciate very much all of the info you shared.Its good to know that I need gloves to deal with it.Thanks.

Unknown said...

Mine lost all is leaves with a few cooler than normal nights this winter. So now it's rocking the stick look. I pruned it back a bit recently to encourage branching, but am wondering if it will regrow it's leaves or if it will only have leaves at the bends in the new growth areas? Thanks for any help.

mr_subjunctive said...


The new growth will have leaves. Sections of stem that are currently bare will not grow replacement leaves.

Unknown said...

OMG, I love your post. My friend & I were sharing our different varieties of ginger plants when I saw this amazing long stemmed zig zag plant with dark pink blooms growing on her fence. I had to have a piece of it. As I live & breathe, she had an entire plant that she gave me. I can't understand why some folks hate this weird little plant, it's beautiful. Mine is going into a big pot outside for npow because I'm moving soon & then it will go in the ground. I live in Florida so outside all year round will be fine.

Ceci, Tx said...

Love this post! You're a hoot!
I found this plant in my neighborhood next to the sidewalk.
Someone was throwing it out and I couldn't help myself to want to rescue it. I thought it was quite srange and crazy, kind of like myself.:)
Anyway, I had no idea what it was called or to do with it.
So, thanks a bunch for your post!
I'm going to plant it in the ground this weekend.
Btw, mine has blush edges on the leaves. I'll be glad to send you some free clippings.
Just let me know if your interested

Unknown said...

Love this blog article! I was just given a large mystery plant, all that was know was it was a cactus, it loves water and it's leaves turn red if you put it in the sun. After my husband and I almost got hernias from lifting Gigantor into the truck,I started researching. I have found out our is a
Pedilanthus that has reached bush stage at 5 ft tall and odds sold green. Please let me know if you have any insight as to what variety it is our if you still want cuttings. I can't figure out how to upload a photo. Thanks Paula

Anonymous said...

Love this plant, though had no name for it for many years. Found it in a home we purchased for rental and it was outside in semi-shade in a pot that felt like concrete, though it was alive!! Now I have 2 large pots sitting in my carport across the street from the ocean. They are beautiful. Thanks for the Latin name, common names etc. Ilex