Euphorbia Lactea: The beautiful Ghost Cactus

Euphorbia Lactea, or White Ghost Cactus, is actually not a cactus at all, but a form of succulent.

This gorgeous plant has been on my wish list for quite some time now. I visit a lot of plant shops and it’s not a plant you see too often. So you could imagine my excitement when I finally found one.

I am a huge fan of succulents and cacti. This one especially, will all it’s variegation, is just very special.

About Euphorbia Lactea

This stunning plant gets its creamy white appearance from a lack of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their usual green appearance and also helps the plant absorb energy from light. Since this plant lacks this chlorophyll, super harsh direct sun rays will greatly burn and damage the plant. The variegation also hinders the plants growth somewhat. It isn’t a fast grower.

The plant grows vertically and shrub like, growing up to 16 ft. tall! It has ridges lined with spines. Euphorbias, unlike cacti, tend to like more frequent watering, tend to have leaves, and has thorns as opposed to spines.

Most don’t know this but the plant is a tropical one. It is found throughout Asia but mostly found in India, where it is used medicinally. Like many plants, the Ghost Cactus produces a poisonous milky sap. If you have a sensitivity to latex I would be cautious when handling this plant. Because of this latex sap, it is toxic to pets.

Light and Temperature Requirements

Since the plant is tropical in origin, I would be careful not to expose it to extreme temperatures. Extreme heat and cold will damage the plant. Most indoor home temperatures or a shaded greenhouses will be perfect environments.

I have been placing my Ghost Cactus in a window where it receives plenty of morning light but tends to shade off in the afternoon. Some hours of direct morning sun is perfect, and bright diffused light in the afternoon is ideal. You can acclimate your plant to withstand more sun slowly. I’ve noticed some of my ghost cacti has some pink coloration due to sun exposure.

Watering and Soil

Euphorbias may look like cacti but they’re pretty different. Euphorbias are more like succulents. They like to be watered more frequently than cacti. Cacti are specialized in surviving major periods of drought. They can go months between watering. Euphorbias on the other hand, are not specialized in doing do.

I would water once you notice the soil is bone dry. Depending on how much light you give the euphorbia, you may water more or less frequently. They are still prone to root rot, so I would water so the soil is dampened but not soggy. A major way people have killed euphorbias is by over watering. Especially in the winter months, I would recommend watering once a week or two. With shorter light hours, the soil may not be able to dry out as quickly as in the summer.

I recommend planting your euphorbias in a well draining mix. You can use 1/3 perlite, 1/3 cactus mix, and 1/3 charcoal. This should be a great mix for all your euphorbias, cacti, and succulents.

Euphorbias, unlike cacti, have rows of thorns along the spine rather than spikes.

I can’t wait to see how tall my euphorbias get! I will be sure to post updated photos of my plants after the summer.

If any of you have any experience with the plant and would love to share some tips and tricks, I would love to hear from you.



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