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The crown of thorns is a sprawling shrub growing 2-4 ft. tall, 3-4 ft. across. Woody stems are 7 sided and armed with 1 in. long spines. Leaves grow 1-2 in. long and are dropped under moisture stress. Deep red flower bracts start in spring and intermittently throughout the year.

This popular garden plant comes from subtropical climate zones of Madagascar. It grows in frost-free microclimates of the Inland Empire where it is particularly well suited to pots and raised planters in sunny locations. Several cultivars can be found in nurseries and garden centers that provide rose-red to yellow flowers. E. m. var. splendens is a larger plant that grows 4-5 ft. tall and produces the largest flowers for a dramatic spring display.

Water Needs

Crown of thorns is highly adapted to sunny garden locations on well drained soils and with low amounts of supplemental water during summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; more water in the spring will result in a longer flowering season. Drought stress in the summer causes foliage to drop, but new leaves quickly regrow with moisture.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub
Foliage Character: Drought deciduous
Habit: Sprawling, Open, Irregular branching
Growth Rate: Slow
Height: 1 ft. - 4 ft.
Width: 3 ft. - 4 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Medium green
Flower Color: Red
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Clay
Exposure Adaptations: Morning sun, Heat, Drought, Aridity, All day sun, Partial sun
Function: Rock gardens, Residential spaces, Raised planters, Flowering accent plant, Container plant, Small spaces


If needed, carefully prune in early spring to control growth (D). When pruning any Euphorbia, always wear eye protection and gloves, and avoid contact with the highly irritating white sap. If it gets on you, wash it off immediately (S).



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