25 Years of Nonstop Blooms -- Thank You, Crown Of Thorns
Lots of plants are called "everblooming," but when you get them home you find out the story is a bit different. Some skip a week, some skip a month, and you get ticked off. Today, I present a truly everblooming plant -- one that has never missed a single day in the 25 years I've had it. It's called crown of thorns .
Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii) is a small, woody shrub that gets its name for the sharp, half-inch long thorns that cover its main stems. Some people claim that its branches were cut to make the crown the Romans put on Jesus. I rather doubt this for several reasons. First, the plant is native to Madagascar -- a fer piece from Calvary. Second, its thorns are too short to do the job the Romans wanted. Finally, if you're looking to make a crown from a thorny shrub or tree in the Holy Land, the place abounds with better, more painful choices.
Anyway, don't let the thorns put you off. My plant has never stuck me. Why? Because like the genius I am, I pick it up by the pot, not the stems.
My crown of thorns plant started out about the size of the little plant above. I bought it a quarter-century ago to combine with other low-water plants in a small, stone container I called "A Desert in a Dish." That six-inch wonder bloomed from day one. I eventually transferred it to its own pot. It now stands about 24 inches tall and is blooming as I type.
The true flowers are inconspicuous, but like poinsettia (another species of Euphorbia) they're overshadowed by colorful bracts that resemble petals. Red is the usual color, but I've also seen pink, yellow, orange, and white.
Thai Giants are hybrids presumably bred in Thailand that grow about as tall as regular crown of thorns, but have flowers, thorns, and leaves twice as big. They also boast a wide range of colors and color combinations, like the plant shown below.
The Giants can be spectacular, but I prefer the species because it's less coarse. I've also noticed the Giants going through rest cycles, something that the species never does when grown in a pot.
Where to Grow It
If you live where it never freezes, you can grow crown of thorns outdoors in the ground. But you probably don't, so you'll have to grow it in a pot you can bring inside to a bright window when it gets cold. Mine comes indoors when the temp drops below 40 degrees. Below 32 degrees, your plant will be injured or die.
How to Grow It Crown of thorns is extremely easy to grow. I've never seen a single bug or fungus on mine. All it wants is sun and well-drained soil. If the soil goes completely dry, the leaves may shrivel and drop and blooming ceases. However, soon after you water, it'll shoot out more leaves and flowers. Old flowers drop as new ones pop. Drought tolerance makes it good for arid climates, but it also does just fine in high-rainfall areas like central Alabama where Grumpy lives. Just make sure the pot drains well. Feed potted plants with a liquid all-purpose fertilizer about every two weeks from spring through summer.
Sources Crown of thorns is widely available at local garden centers and greenhouses starting in the spring. If you can't find it there, try these mail-order nurseries.