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Caring for the Devil’s Backbone Plant

The Devil’s Backbone is a popular succulent native to North and South America. Euphorbia tithymaloides is a slow-growing plant known for its unique, crooked appearance. Also known as the Devil’s Spine plant, this low-water plant makes an excellent addition to any houseplant collection.

Caring for the Devil’s Backbone Plant

Devil’s Backbone Appearance

This is a popular indoor plant featuring variegated leaves with green and white. The foliage takes on a pink tint once the temperatures rise. Mature Devil’s Backbone succulents reach between 2 to 3 feet (61 cm to 0.9 meters) tall. While the stems grow crooked, which gives the plant its name, the overall plant appearance remains symmetrical. The blooms are really leaf brackets which produce no fragrance. The brackets appear in summer and can be green or white, but the prized colors are red and bright pink.

Devil’s Backbone Succulent Light Requirements

The Devil’s Backbone prefers lots of bright, indirect sunlight. Place your plant in a bright room, out of direct sunlight, or near a bright window covered with sheer curtains to filter the light. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight as the leaves will burn.

Watering Your Devil’s Spine Plant 

Watering Your Devil’s Spine Plant 
The Spruce

The drought-tolerant Devil’s Backbone does not like soggy soil. Provide water once the soil feels dry. Water until the soil is thoroughly moist all the way to the bottom of the pot. The plant will survive for extended periods of time without water, but leaf drop is a sign the plant needs water immediately. Boost low humidity by misting the plant regularly.

Soil and Fertilizer Requirements

Use a potting soil amended with vermiculite, peat moss, and sand to provide organic matter and drainage. Use an unglazed terracotta or clay pot to allow for wicking of excess water in the soil, which helps avoid root rot. Begin the first feeding in the early spring, then feed once every 3 weeks until early fall. Use a balanced houseplant fertilizer, as directed, to encourage healthy bracket growth. Withhold fertilizer in the fall and winter when the plant goes dormant. 

Temperature and Humidity Requirements

The Devil’s Backbone is not cold hardy and does not tolerate cold drafts. The ideal temperature range for the plant is between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 to 21 Celsius). The plant will tolerate temperatures as low as 50 F (10C) and as high as 80F (26.6C) but monitor the plant’s health for adverse effects. The Devil’s Spine plant prefers high humidity. Supplement dry climates by placing a tray filled with pebbles and water under the pot’s saucer.

Propagating the Devil’s Backbone Succulent

Propagate the plant by cutting a 4-inch stem section from a non-blooming stem. Let the cutting sit for a few days to allow the cut end to form a callous. If desired, use a rooting hormone on the cut end before planting to increase your success rate. Fill a pot with a succulent soil mix amended with perlite. Plant the stem into the pot and water the soil lightly. Place the stem in indirect sunlight and continue to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. In two months, if the root system is established, transplant the new plant into a new pot if needed.

Common Pests and Diseases

Common Pests and Diseases

Spider mites are common pests that infest the Devil’s Backbone. Signs of spider mites are damaged foliage and small webs on your plant. Remove a small amount of spider mites using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Treat larger infestations with neem oil, as directed.

Watch for powdery mildew on your Devil’s Backbone succulent. The primary cause is often a lack of airflow around your plant. Wipe away the mildew with a cotton ball soaked in apple cider vinegar. 

The Devil’s Backbone is an eye-catching houseplant with straightforward care needs. As a succulent, the plant is drought tolerant, making it ideal for busy people or those who travel frequently. 

Devil’s Backbone FAQ

Do I Need to Prune My Devil’s Backbone Plant?

The only pruning needed is the removal of dead branches or leaves to encourage healthy growth. 

Is the Devil’s Backbone Succulent Considered Toxic?

Yes, the plant is considered toxic and should be kept away from pets and small children.

What Zones Can I Grow My Devil’s Backbone Plant Outdoors?

Your plant will grow well outdoors in USDA zones 9b to 11.

Why are the Leaves Dropping from My Devil’s Backbone Plant?

A lack of water is the leading cause of leaf drop with the Devil’s Backbone.

What are Other Names for the Devil’s Spine Plant?

The plant is sometimes referred to as the ZigZag plant because of its crooked growth habit.