Cowboy Cactus – Growing And Care Tips

Description

Scientific NameEuphorbia Ingens
Common Name(s)Cowboy Cactus, Candelabra Tree
FamilyEuphorbiaceae
SubfamilyEuphorbioideae
TribeEuphorbideae
GenusEuphorbia
OriginSouth Africa

If you’re into succulents and cacti, you probably already know about Cowboy Cacti. Its name suggests it’s a cacti plant, but it belongs to the Euphorbia family and is also commonly known as Euphorbia ingens.

This diverse family includes all sorts of plants (their common characteristic is a milky sap, usually poisonous,) from large trees to small flowering plants. The Cowboy Cactus is a member of the family that is hard to miss.

The plant originates from dry areas of South Africa and can bring a touch of wild dessert to your garden or home.

It has a tall, candelabra-shaped central trunk with branches that grow almost parallel.

The color is usually dark green, with ridges and spikes. 

The Cowboy Cactus is known for being large; in nature, it can grow up to 20 ft tall. The plant is a slow grower. As an indoor plant, it has a smaller and more compact habitus.

Sometimes it gives small, yellow flowers along the edges on the top of the branches. Flowers turn to purple-red, capsuled-shaped fruits.

How to Care for Cowboy Cactus

Growing a Cowboy Cactus involves understanding the plant’s preferences regarding light, soil, temperature, water, and nutrients. With the proper care, this plant can grow quite large and be a unique and attractive feature in your home or garden.

Also Read: Why does my Cactus got a Hole?

Light

Cowboy Cacti are sun-loving plants that thrive in full sun. They need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.

However, direct intense sunlight, especially in the hotter months, can cause sunburn or discoloration on the plant.

You will need to monitor plant condition and provide shade.

Indoors, placing the cactus near a south or east-facing window will provide enough light. You can also invest in growing light for succulents to replace insufficient natural sunlight.

Soil

In nature, this plant grows on rocky surfaces in arid conditions. 

Cowboy Cacti prefer well-draining soil when growing as houseplants, like most succulents. A typical cactus or succulent potting mix works well. You can also make your own by mixing regular potting soil with sand or perlite for better drainage.

The pH should ideally be slightly acidic to neutral (pH 6.1 – 7.5).

Temperature

Cowboy Cactus is a plant of warm climates, and the ideal temperature should be above 74 degrees F. It can survive temperatures of 28 degrees F for a short period, but you should avoid exposing them to low temperatures. 

The plant is not frost-hardy. It belongs to USDA hardiness zones 10-11, where it can be grown outside all year round. In colder zones, you should grow them in containers and bring them indoors when temperatures start to drop.

Watering

Cowboy Cactus is a plant used to semi-arid conditions and store water in its thick trunk and branches. It is drought-tolerant; in the summer months, it is usually enough to water it every 2-3 weeks.

The best method is to wait until the soil is completely dry, but not crispy-dry, and then water thoroughly. During the winter (or in a cooler and more humid climate) watering once a month should be enough.

You can water a plant when it starts to wilt, but be aware not to water already overwatered plants, as symptoms might be similar.

Fertilizing

As with other succulents, Cowboy Cactus is sensitive to over-fertilization, which may cause root burn. It thrives on rocky, sandy surfaces, so you can skip fertilizing completely. 

If you grow it as a houseplant, you can use specialized fertilizer for cacti and succulents. Feed your plant during the growing season, in spring and summer, once a month.

When the plant enters the dormant phase, you should stop fertilizing.

Repotting

Cowboy Cactus is a slow grower and doesn’t need regular repotting. You can watch for the signs of overgrowing, such as roots coming out of drainage holes or when the soil becomes depleted. 

In those cases, repot your plant into the fresh potting mix in the spring. Use a pot a few inches bigger than the current one.

The plant contains toxic latex that can irritate your skin and eyes, so I recommend wearing gloves when repotting.

Pests and Diseases

Euphorbia Ingens is resilient to pests and diseases, but when exposed to long-term environmental stress, it can become prone to damage. The most common are fungal diseases caused by fungus from Fusarium sp. that can result in root rot.

They often destroy plants when it’s overwatered or exposed to high humidity for long periods. You can try to save your plant by repotting it, removing all damaged parts.

Pests that can attack Cowboy Cactus are mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. They are easy to get rid of when spotted in the early stages.

Later, you might need to use insecticides.

How to Propagate Cowboy Cactus

The best way to get more cacti is through cuttings. You can follow this simple guide to get the best results:

Choose a healthy branch, and use a sterilized, sharp blade to cut it off.

Leave cuttings for a few days, up to one week, to form protective tissue. It will prevent cutting from absorbing too much water and rotting.

Plant your cuttings in a pot filled with a specialized mix for succulents, burying the base 2 inch deep.

Avoid watering cuttings until you see the new growth, which is a sign that they developed roots and became whole new plants.

It is important to wear glows when propagating to protect skin from toxic sap.

Are Cowboy Cacti Toxic to Pets?

Yes, Cowboy Cacti are toxic to pets. The sap is a strong irritant and can cause stomach problems and vomiting if ingested. In contact with the skin, it can cause irritation and burns, so you should keep it away from the reach of children and pets.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

How big do Cowboy Cacti get?

Cowboy Cacti can grow to a considerable size. Outdoors, they can reach heights of up to nearly 40 feet. Indoors, with appropriate care and time, they can grow up to 6.5 feet tall.

Is Cowboy Cactus poisonous?

Yes, Cowboy Cactus is poisonous due to its sap. It can cause skin and eye irritation and if ingested, can lead to nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal problems.

How fast do Cowboy Cacti grow?

Cowboy Cacti are slow growers. On average, they may grow around 4-6 inches per year. The growth rate can depend on various factors such as lighting, temperature, watering, and nutrients, if the plant is outdoors or indoors, if it’s pests and disease free, etc.