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Devil’s Backbone Plant: Best Grow & Care Guide

Like many succulents, Devil’s Backbone plant purifies the air and enhances the interior decor and the arena. Under proper care schedules, you can grow these plants indoors and outdoors (USDA Zone 9-11). 

Generally, Devil’s Backbone plant grows best in 6-8 hours of indirect bright sunlight with 60-70° F temperature and 25-49% humidity. It may also need biweekly watering, soil with 6.1-7.8, fertilizer every 3 weeks, repotting every 3-5 years and occasional pruning.

The plant is native to Florida and Venezuela, but you can grow it anywhere if you can mimic the favorable conditions. Check this article to grow healthy and graceful Devil’s Backbone Plants.

Overview of Devil’s Backbone Plant

Devil’s Backbone plant’s name comes from the spiny growing pattern of its stems.

It has wide varieties, including Jacob’s ladder, Devil’s Ribcage plant, and Crown of Thorns.

Devil's backbone plants with dramatic stems.
This impressive succulent is also known as the Red-bird cactus or Shoe flower.

To know more about this plant, check out the table below.

Scientific NameEuphorbia tithymaloides
Common NameDevil's Backbone, Red-bird flower, Japanese Poinsettia, etc.
Plant OriginCentral and Western America
Growth ZoneUSDA zone 9-11
Growth RateMedium
Habit and Life SpanSucculent, Perennial shrub
Leaf CharacteristicsAlternate, ovate, thick and fleshy
Greenish yellow color
Blooming TimeJune and July
Flower ColorReddish-purple
Inflorescence TypeTerminal or apical cyme
Plant Size3-4 feet in height
ToxicityToxic to pets
UsesUsed as a dye, against snake bite, to lower the blood pressure, improve digestion

Devil’s Backbone Plant for Sale

If you are about to buy Devil’s Backbone Plant to garnish your home, these online nurseries can help you.

SitesDelivery Time
Etsy3-7 days
Carousell2 days
eBay2-7 days
Amazon7-20 days

Devil’s Backbone Plant Care

This slender, succulent shrub possesses green and white variegated leaves and is fond of bright, indirect sunlight. Make sure you meet all crucial requirements of this plant.

Grow & Care Guide for Devil's Backbone Plant
Consistent watering and a warm, humid environment speed up plant growth.

1. Sunlight & Temperature

Accommodate this refreshing indoor plant in a bright room out of direct sunlight or close to the sunny window behind the curtains to filter the light.

The prolonged exposure to direct sunlight brings about the browning of leaves with brittle edges and stunts the plant’s growth.

Generally, Devil’s Backbone loves to grow in indirect, bright sunlight, at least 6-8 hours a day, as direct sunlight will scorch its foliage.

When planted in shady areas, this dramatic plant adds beauty to your garden, where it can get enough morning and evening sunlight.

Moreover, they tender a warmer environment and happily bloom between 60 and 70°F.

But Devil’s Backbone also can tolerate temperatures as high as 80°F and as low as 50°F for a certain period of time.

Rising temperatures turn out the pink tint on its foliage.

But above tolerable temperatures, the plant shows symptoms like yellowing or browning of leaves due to temperature stress.

Water the plant frequently to prevent heat stress to the plant, or you can place the container in shady places if grown indoors.

And for chilling stress, reduce the watering frequency and place the plants in a warm, sunny environment.

2. Watering & Humidity

This zigzag succulent requires regular watering about once a week, mainly during the blooming season.

You can water Devil’s Backbone once every 2 weeks in the growing seasons, i.e., spring and summer.

But misting it a bit during winter is enough so normally, the plant is not fond of excessive amounts of water.

However, the foliage turns yellowish or grayish and eventually halts the growth of the new plant in the case of underwatering, while overwatering invites fungal invasion.

This easy-to-grow houseplant does well in low humidity (25-49%).

devils backbone indoors
Like succulents, Devil’s Backbone prefers dry soil.

A tray filled with pebbles and water is also placed under the pot’s saucer to maintain adequate humidity during dry climates.

Depletion from optimum humidity enriches the possibility of crisping foliage. The rotting leaves by molds are a symptom caused by high humidity.

Devil’s Backbone plants flourish well in low humidity, so avoid wet places inside your house or use dehumidifiers.

And for outdoor Devil’s Backbone plants, don’t mist the leaves; water the soil around the roots.

3. Soil & Fertilization

If the potting soil is compact and has an odor or mold growth, there is something wrong with the potting mix.

In such cases, plants show symptoms like stunted growth and early senescence of leaves.

Devil’s Backbone plants require humus-rich, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.1-7.8.  Moreover, soil amended with vermiculite, peat moss, and sand in a ratio of 3:1:2 is best.

Turmeric curcumin, Espoma, and Miracle-Gro are widely used commercial potting mixes.

Though Devil’s Backbone is not heavy fertilizers, do not avoid feeding it. 

Underfertilization or nutrient deficiency results in the yellowing of leaves, and stunted growth of plants.

Moreover, Nitrogen deficiency increases the prevalence of fungal invasion on plants.

On the other hand, overfertilization brings about salt accumulation in soil, which prevents plants from uptake enough water, and plants show symptoms like stunted growth and yellowing of leaves.

If you get symptoms of overfertilization on your plants, flush the soil with distilled water as soon as possible. Additionally, remove the crust of minerals from the outer surface of the soil.

Devil’s Backbone prefers fertilizer in the early spring, then once every three weeks until early fall. Use the pocket amount of balanced, water-soluble organic fertilizers for a healthy bract.

Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food and Osmocote Plus are commonly used liquid fertilizers for the Devil’s Backbone plants.

Withhold fertilizer during fall and winter as the plant goes relatively dormant at this time.

4. Potting & Repotting

The terracotta ceramic pot is best for quickly drying an overabundance of water in the soil to avoid root rot.

Furthermore, 18 inches container with some big drainage holes is suitable for growing this vibrant succulent.

If you see the roots of plants emerging out of drainage holes of containers or if the plant shows reduced growth, then simply understand that it’s time to repot your plants.

But remember, the plant may wilt and even die if the rootbound condition remains long.

Devil’s Backbone must be repotted in a well-drained potting mix every 2-3 years.

Before repotting, assemble the new pot with fresh growing medium, then simply pull the plant from the container and remove the old potting mix.

Insert the plant in the new pot and water thoroughly.

5. Occasional Pruning

This low-maintenance plant desires limited care in the course of pruning.

Before starting the task, carefully examine the damaged leaves, branches invaded by insects and fungi, and overgrown branches of the plant.

Use well-sterilized sharp kitchen scissors for cutting small leaves and pruning shears for bulky leaves.

Prune the Devil’s Backbone with extended branches and leaves yearly after the blooming season to enhance the plant’s beauty and healthy growth.

Moreover, pruning the insects/disease-infected plant parts prevents outspread of diseases to healthy plant parts.

This table may help you to identify the disease/insect symptoms and their control measures.

Pests & DiseasesSymptomsSolutions
Mealy BugsCottony white wax, yellowing, stunting and death of plantsUse of insecticides and isolation of infected plants
Spider Mites Damaged foliage and tiny webs on plantsNeem oil, 70% ethyl alcohol
Powdery Mildewswhite powdery masses and premature senescence of leavesWipe with apple cider vinegars
AphidsCurling, wilting and yellowing of leavesInsecticidal soaps, neem oil and removal of nearby weeds

Furthermore, fungicide and Neem oil are popularly used insecticides available in markets.

Conclude the pruning by concealing injured plant parts with neem leaf paste.

Devil’s Backbone Plant: All About the Growth Rate

Devil’s Backbone plant shows a moderate growth rate and grows up to 2-3 feet tall, requiring 2-3 years to mature.

It collects the 2-foot-tall stems with green and white colored alternate leaves about 35-75 mm long in lance-shape.

The main highlight of the Devil’s Backbone is its slipper-shaped, reddish-purple and adorned with terminal or apical cyme inflorescence. 

Devil’s Backbone turns into a shrub from the size of 2-2.5m.

Also, the plant blooms in mid-Spring with leaf brackets, having no fragrance. The blooms can also range from green, white, and red to pink in shade. 

But do not expect the Devil’s Backbone to flower for long. 

Toxicity of Devil’s Backbone Plant

The plant has some toxic traits besides it’s beauty add-ons to your homes and gardens.

The milky sap of the Devil’s Backbone plant is poisonous to pets (dogs and cats) and humans if ingested and cause skin and eye irritation. 

BufadienoloidesHeart problems especially in dogs

Because of its poisonous milky sap, you should keep pets and toddlers away from this plant. But if they ingest it accidentally, you can contact:

Propagation of Devil’s Backbone Plant via Stem Cuttings

Propagation of this perennial succulent spurge is not so laborious, as you can grow this plant through stem cuttings.

The Devil’s Backbone is mostly active in spring, so this is the best time to propagate it.

Go after the below-mentioned treads for growing more Devil’s Backbone plants.

  • Firstly, collect a terracotta ceramic pot with drainage holes filled with the appropriate potting mix.
  • Cut a 4-6 inches section of the stem from the non-blooming branch from the mother plant.
  • Immediately dip the detached stem section in a cup of water to cease sap flow.
Devil's backbone plant with pink tint on its foliage.
You can use rooting hormones to stem sections to increase growth rate while propagating.
  • Allow the cuttings dry for 2-3 days until the regeneration of the callus.
  • Finally, insert the stem into the pot, keeping the leaves above the soil. 
  • Locate your plants in indirect, bright sunlight and spray or water them as needed.
After the cuttings germinate, the propagated plants are ready to transplant within twelve weeks into the new pot. 

FAQs about Devil’s Backbone Plant

What are the benefits of Devil’s Backbone plants?

These plants are widely used to treat inflammation, fever, coughs, and heal wounds.

Moreover, antimicrobial compounds are also prepared from this plant.

What is the reason behind the drooping leaves of Devil’s Backbone Plants?

Watering issues with overexposure to direct sunlight are the leading cause of drooping leaves.

Is the Devil’s Backbone plant poisonous to humans?

All parts of the plant are poisonous, so people can suffer vomiting and stomach pain if consumed.

What are Devil’s Backbone plant varieties? 

There are three types of Devil’s Backbone, including Variegata, Pulcherrima, Flaming.

Some varieties include Jacob’s Ladder, ZigZag plant, Slipper Plant, Redbird Cactus Flower, Wild Poinsettia, and Devil’s Ribcage Plant. 

From Editorial Team


The blooming Devil’s Backbone plant mesmerize your circumference with its unique patterned stem with the touch of a bit of pink blush on its leaves.

Besides being toxic, it is characterized by medicinal behavior, and it is a wise recommendation to utilize this plant for indoor and outdoor decor.