Where there are sticks, there's fire

It happens every year. A potted plant seems to be "asleep" for much of the year, not really growing much. Then at some point in the summer it "wakes up" and puts on a growth spurt. In the past I just attributed this to warmer temperatures, or cooler ones, or more precipitation, or plenty of fertilizer. Now I know that this usually means the plant's roots have escaped the pot and have grown into the underlying soil.

Which was my suspicion with this Euphorbia tirucalli I've been growing for several years. At the top of the stream seemed like a pretty good spot for it this year, and it did eventually start growing and put on some size. With the threat of freezing temperatures the other night I had to bring it into the garage, and that's when my fears were confirmed: it had rooted into the ground.


Nothing for me to do but yank it out and hope the plant wasn't affected too much by the root trimming. I was also considering digging up a rootball from the ground before lifting it all out, but darkness was falling and there were more plants to move so I just pulled.

The plant has gotten quite large, but is wider than it is tall.

I don't think it was getting as much sun as I thought it was, so I'll probably put it somewhere else next year. It certainly got a lot thicker and stronger since last year:

You can see that the roots have been growing into the soil for a while -- there are some decent-sized ones here:

I'm not sure exactly what the cultivar name is. You see 'Sticks on Fire' mentioned quite a bit, but I've always remembered this one as 'Fire Sticks'. Are they the same variety with two different names? I've also seen a similar form called 'Rosea', so that makes three that get the yellow/orange/red coloration when given enough sunlight. I think I'll continue to call mine 'Fire Sticks', because my memory couldn't possibly be failing me, right?

Mine didn't quite redden up enough this year, but it's still a nice plant. I'll overwinter it semi-dormant in the garage as I did last year, as I don't have any rooms bright enough to keep this guy actively growing all winter.

It has a few strange branches that I'll probably prune off in the spring, and pot up as new plants:

Maybe I'll do that over the winter, to give the cuttings a head start going into the growing season. It probably depends on how gardening-deprived I start feeling come January.

Speaking of potting up, this guy was quite difficult to balance and get to stay upright, so I decided to give it a larger, heavier pot. It obviously needed more root space too.

It was gripping the existing pot too tightly and the crazy branching structure made this thing really awkward to hold onto, plus the latex sap is an irritant so I wanted to avoid getting any on my hands. All of these factors made me decide to sacrifice the pot for the sake of the plant.

It's much more stable in its new home, even though it's a lot heavier now:

I wonder how many more years before this becomes too difficult to move around?

It's an interesting plant when small, but really becomes impressive when it gains some size, so I'll be moving it around at least a couple of times every year from now on -- unless I someday move somewhere with a sunroom or greenhouse. Really love this plant!


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danger garden  – (October 10, 2012 at 11:15 AM)  

Just when I was falling out of love with my Sticks on Fire you go and remind me about all there is to love with this plant. Damn.

MulchMaid  – (October 10, 2012 at 11:29 AM)  

I just discovered the same rooting beyond the pot yesterday when preparing mine for winter in the house. How cold does it get in your garage in winter? I'm happy to see yours has gained so much bulk: this is my first year growing it, and it didn't do much above ground. I have lots to look forward to!

Alan  – (October 10, 2012 at 12:22 PM)  

Loree: I saw your post a couple days ago and had a feeling you'd be changing your mind about this plant. Give it time!

MulchMaid: It won't get below 40ºF or so in the garage. It's unheated but attached to the house. A good temperature for keeping lots of plants dormant.

Deanne Fortnam  – (October 10, 2012 at 2:20 PM)  

Mine was labeled 'Sticks on Fire' and I love it to pieces. It's gotten so large now that I have to overwinter it in my friend's cool greenhouse. Interesting that it's rooted to the ground. I haven't moved mine in a while I'm hoping it didn't do the sae thing.

Unknown  – (October 11, 2012 at 3:48 AM)  

In my country this plant can grow into a big tree in the ground. I see how you love this plant very much. Somehow it is not popular here.

Rock rose  – (October 20, 2012 at 4:24 AM)  

I was going to say 'sacrifice that pot' and you did. I had to do the same this year when I couldn't get my barrel cactus out of its pot. I just took the sledge hammer to it and wham. I have a sticks of fire too- in a pot with 3 other plants. I know I need to get it repotted. next year. I think they color up with the cooler weather. Mine is turning pink now.

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