Pencil Cactus Care as a Houseplant or Garden Favorite

Ed Wike
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Quick Overview

The pencil cactus is a very interesting succulent plant that can be grown indoors as a potted houseplant or outdoors as a garden cactus.

Although named a cactus, the pencil cactus is actually a species of Euphorbia, a spiny succulent. Native to Madagascar, this plant grows as a perennial in warmer zones and an annual in some cooler areas, making it a hardy plant that is easy to grow and maintain.

Easy rooting and propagation make the pencil cactus a great addition to any garden, grass lawn or indoor room.

No matter how you want to use it, you will need to take care of pencil plant care and learn to identify the differences between a healthy plant and one that is struggling.

Once you know the basic rules of pencil cactus planting, you can enjoy one of the most common succulents for many years to come.

Pencil Cactus Care

Pencil Cactus comes from Mexico and the Southwest United States. Although pencil cactus care when it is first purchased is the same as when it is being grown in the home or garden, there are some key differences, which are covered in this article.

The "juicy” property of the pencil cactus stems, and its popularity make it a common target for the creative gardener. Many gardeners try to sustain their pencil cactus successfully after they grow it from an office gift.

But remember, desert plants have evolved in an environment with limited water.

The question most frequently asked about Pencil Cactus care is: "How much water does it need and how can I tell when it needs to be watered?” To make sure that you give your pencil cactus just enough water, you need to understand the limitations placed on the anatomy of the pencil cactus.

The cactus body, or trunk, is filled with a spongy area that has no vascular bundles. The pencil cactus, like all other cacti, only has a relatively thin epidermis. The epidermis has air spaces between the cells where water can be trapped. These tiny water traps are used for gas exchange, in addition to sheltering the interior of the pencil cactus.


Due to its thin, spiny character, pencils tend to like hot arid conditions and do not tolerate freezing temperatures well. The one extreme where they can take a bit of cold is in the foothills of the mountains of Phoenix, AZ.

If you don’t live in these conditions, pencil cactus care will see you watering your pencil-holding friends often. However, these spiny plants are not as high maintenance as their succulent cousins like aloe plants.

When watering your pencil cactus, water the soil, not the fleshy part. This will help keep the fleshy part from deteriorating.

Given the conditions they naturally live in, pencil cactus care should take you no more than a couple of minutes daily. That’s because they need very little to thrive.

Civilization may have invaded the ocean, but the ocean is still a wild place. Many ocean dwellers and oceanic life are relatively unknown, and some live in places that are difficult to get to, around, or through. On the other hand, some oceanic creatures are rather commonplace, just uncommonly seen. One of those creatures is the deep sea squid.


Pencil Cactus Care

How long does Pencil Cactus live?

This perennial garden favorite begins as an evergreen seedling or container grown plant. However, once the plant enters its period of maturity after about five years it remains evergreen for the life of the plant.

Once your Pencil Cactus is well established, trim off lower leaves that become spindly. This will help the plant appear neater and will allow you to see your Pencil Cactus’s unique shape.

Will my Pencil Cactus bloom?

The Pencil Cactus is a plant that only bears the floral stalks or spines made famous by its namesake.

Because the plant sets 5 to 12 years to reach a mature flower size, few cultivars or hybrids are available.

How often and how much should I water my Pencil Cactus?

Water at least once a week during the summer months. Mature plants also may need more frequent watering during these months.

However, no matter the season, the main rule of watering is to always allow the soil to dry between watering.

This quick drying action will help prevent root rot and stem rot as well.

How much light do I need for my Pencil Cactus?

Full to partial sun are best for a Pencil Cactus.

Does my Pencil Cactus need fertilizer?