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Plantidote of the Day 2013-01-31

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TK

Euphorbia tirucalli

Pencil cactus, sticks on fire

If you live in Zone 10 or 11, or are in a colder region but have a sunny, indoor window, here's a tough little succulent that requires almost no care. Pencil cactus are easy to grow, and they can be propagated from stems, but watch out for the milky-white latex "sap" inside the branches; it can be very irritating. One thing I can't figure out is how to keep the red going in the red-tipped "sticks on fire." Every single one of these in my garden has turned green after a few months. It doesn't matter if I plant them in the sun or the shade -- they just turn green. Is there a trick involved? Some secret handshake or what? These are great plants that can grow quite tall (6 feet), but they're so much more interesting when they're red. If anyone knows, please leave a comment. I'm flummoxed.

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Readers, please send twig (twig4now@gmail.com) images and stories for the ongoing Plantidote of the Day series. In exchange, you'll win undying fame in the form of a hat tip! Plants growing in your garden, your house, or neighbor's yard, plants from the forest or farmers' market, plants you preserved, plants you prepared (wine; cider; tea; dried beans), plants you harvested (grains; chantrelles), plants you picked (flowers), plants you dried (herbs), plants you covet or hope to grow someday. Herbal remedies, propagation tips, new varieties, etc.. And if you can, include some solid detail about the plant, too -- a story, the genus and species, or where you got the seeds, or the recipe, or your grandmother gave it to you. Or challenge us with a "Name That Plant" mystery entry ... And please feel free to add corrections and additional information in the comments.

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