by germinatrix | March 29th, 2011
Your Germinatrix LOVES drama in the garden, doesn’t she?
I snapped this combination and was completely taken by the sense of “bringing it” that one of my favorite plants adds to any association you drop him into – I am of course speaking of the in-your-face screamingly colorful version of the pencil cactus, Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’. (I wish whoever named it would have spelled it “Stix”, to make it snappier, or maybe even “Styx”, for a little connection to the fires of the mythical underworld – but I guess I’ll just have to start hybridizing my own plants if I want to have a say in the naming process)
‘Sticks on Fire’ became all the rage around these parts around 12 years ago – there were whispers of a strange plant that looked like branching coral on the bottom of the sea floor, and then when it was glimpsed at the Huntington’s annual succulent show one year that was IT. Everyone I knew HAD to have one. Everybody in my garden club went crazy – everybody was trying to be the first one to have it planted in their gardens so they could show it off and feel smug and cool (and by “everybody” I mean ME) because they had THE statement plant of the moment.
And then eventually we ALL had them – and they grew and became less, well “fiery”. Some were actually dull. They started looking big and clunky and the pencil like branches were congested and the sexy orangey salmon flame-y color changed to a very dull, insipid pink – if it was there at all. Many were disappointed.
Because it is a euphorbia, many were afraid to cut it, lest they get the evil sap on them. Silly them – their fear got in the way of the exact thing one has to do to keep an E. ‘Sticks on Fire’ vibrant, free-branching, and completely bitchin. The incredible color is on the new growth, you see!
By fearlessly pruning this wickedly handsome, crazy cool plant you get many benefits – the resurgence of the color is one, the return of the coral-esque, open branching structure is another, and maybe the best of all … FREE PLANTS!!! Euphorbia ‘Sticks on Fire’ is insanely easy to propagate – basically you can just stick it in the ground, tamp the soil around it, water it every so often, and you are good to go. I have several “Styx” (I will call it what I want when it lives in my house!) tucked here and there, all from the “Mother Plant” I purchased at the Huntington so many moons ago. Every single cutting I stick in the ground, or in a pot, has taken. It is almost embarrassingly easy!
If you live in a hot zone and DON’T own ‘Sticks on Fire’ – what are you waiting for? Just look at the glory of it in the picture above, proudly upstaging some of the boldest plants around – its cousin Euphorbia wulfenii, a potted Agave americana, and a teenaged Acacia baileyana purpurea, who usually dominate any planting scheme, are made to play nice and be part of a composed moment.
I’ll bet they cut loose at night, when I’m not looking – they invite all of their friends and have dance parties. It’s what I would do! I mean, come on – with ‘Sticks on Fire’ holding down the fort in this planting combination, one HAS to be prepared for all sorts of hijinx!
Go PLANT!!! Happy SPRING!!! XOXO Your Germinatrix