Firestick plants are beautiful and surprisingly easy to care for. In this post, I’ll show you all you need to know in order to keep them healthy and growing for decades to come.
The firestick plant can be a striking, low-maintenance addition to any collection, once you understand how to take care of them.
This guide on firestick plant care is designed to help you learn what it takes to keep them growing and thriving.
Get key information on basics like water, sun, and soil. Plus get tips for how to propagate, prune, and so much more.
Firestick Plant Quick Care Overview
|Scientific name:||Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks Of Fire’|
|Common names:||Firestick Plant, Sticks of Fire, Red Pencil Tree|
|Flowers:||Small yellow clusters, blooms fall-spring|
|Light:||Full sun, bright light indoors|
|Water:||Allow soil to dry between waterings, do not overwater|
|Humidity:||Little to none|
|Fertilizer:||General purpose plant food spring-summer|
|Soil:||Fast-draining, sandy soil|
|Common pests:||Mealybugs, aphids, spider mites|
Information About The Firestick Plant
The firestick plant, or Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks of Fire’ cultivar, also commonly called a red pencil tree, is a succulent native to Africa.
The common name comes from the pencil-thin branches that turn bright red in the fall and winter, making them look they are on fire.
Small leaves grow and then fall off quickly, leaving brightly colored bare stick-like branches behind.
As they mature, the base of the trunk develops a woody, brown appearance, and bark-like texture.
It’s possible for them to grow up to 30’ tall in the right climate outdoors, but most indoor specimens reach 6-8’ at most.
Firestick Plant Flowers
You may never see it happen indoors, even with the best care, but believe it or not, a firestick plant can flower.
Clusters of tiny, yellow flowers can appear on the branch tips and joints at any time during the year, but they typically bloom in the winter.
They’re insignificant, but attractive to butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
The firestick plant is toxic to both humans and animals. It can cause digestive upset when ingested, and also has a milky white sap that can be a skin and eye irritant on contact.
For more information about the toxicity, check out the ASPCA website.
How To Grow Firestick Plant
Before we talk about how to care for a firestick plant, first we should discuss the ideal location. Choosing a good spot can make them easy and low-maintenance.
Sticks of fire is not a frost hardy plant. It can only survive outside year round in the warmest growing zones of 10+.
They can tolerate lows of 30°F for short periods, but will suffer and die in prolonged frost or freezing weather.
Where To Grow A Firestick Plant
The best location to grow a firestick plant is somewhere very sunny and dry. They don’t do well with excess moisture, and require lots of light to get the bright color.
In warm climates that stay above 30°F, they can be planted in the ground, and remain outdoors year round.
For colder areas it’s best to keep them in containers as houseplants, so they can be moved inside when temperatures drop. Any pot with drainage is fine.
Firestick Plant Care & Growing Instructions
Now that you know the best locations to grow them, let’s talk about firestick plant care. These tips will help you learn what it takes to keep them healthy and happy year after year.
Give your Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks of Fire’ full sun outdoors to help trigger the vibrant red color. Indoors, provide it with bright light for at least 8 hours a day.
A south-facing window is best, but east or west can also work, the color just won’t be as prominent. Turn the plant once a month to have balanced color and growth.
If you have trouble providing enough from a natural source, a grow light is a great way to supplement.
The best way to care for a firestick plant is to allow it to dry completely between drinks.
It does not do well with soggy soil or wet feet, so wait until the medium is dry at least 2” down. Then water thoroughly until it drains out the bottom, and discard all excess.
If you have trouble, use a moisture meter to help you know exactly when it’s time to give it more.
Since they thrive in dry, arid climates, they do not like a lot of humidity. If you live in a place with higher humidity, you can water less often.
The ideal temperature range for firestick plants is between 60-95°F, making them well situated for most indoor environments.
They can tolerate lows of 30°F for short periods of time, but prolonged freezing temps will cause damage and eventually death.
On the other hand, they can easily tolerate highs of 100°F or more, especially when kept hydrated.
When the it drops to 60-70°F in the fall and winter outdoors, the red and orange colors will become much more vivid.
Firestick plants don’t need a lot of fertilizer as part of their regular care, but the occasional feeding can help stimulate growth.
Stop completely during the fall and winter to let the plant rest.
Use a fast-draining, sandy soil for your firestick plant. A commercial mix can work, but even those are best when amended to make them more porous and gritty.
Transplanting & Repotting
Young firestick plants tend to grow faster, especially when given the proper care. So they may need repotting annually in the spring, or at least every 2-3 years.
When growth has dramatically slowed, or roots are poking through the drainage holes, it’s time to size them up.
Choose a container 2-3” wider and deeper than the current one, with good drainage, and repot it at the same depth.
Firestick plants only need to be pruned to control their size and shape, or to trim away dead branches.
The best time to tackle it is in the summer or fall, when the plant is a little drier. It can handle as much pruning as you like to manage the size.
Use sharp, clean pruners, to make the cuts. Also, be sure to wash your tools and hands with soap and water afterward.
Pest Control Tips
Healthy red pencil trees rarely have issues with pests. However, sometimes spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs can become a problem.
Treat visible bugs with a blast of water, or dab them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Firestick Plant Propagation Tips
Firestick plants are very quick and easy to propagate with cuttings. Take healthy branches, and dip the cut end in water to stop the milky sap from flowing.
Leave them out to dry and callous over a few days. Then dust them with rooting hormone and plant in a soilless or well-draining mixture.
Keep them barely moist and in low light for 2-6 weeks, or until you start to see new growth.
Troubleshooting Common Care Problems
Firestick plants are usually easy to care for, but over the years you may run into one of these common issues. Use my tips to help get them back into good health.
Firestick Plant Reverted To Green
Sticks of fire will revert to green if they don’t receive enough sunlight. This can happen during long dark winters, or if your plant is located in the shade.
Ensure they receive 6 or more hours of bright light or direct sun daily. Grow lights can be very helpful if you have trouble providing enough inside.
Leggy branches are most commonly caused by lack of light. If new growth is spindly and sparse, move it to a brighter location, or add a grow light to help supplement.
Firestick Plant Not Growing
There are many reasons your firestick plant may not be growing. It could be lack of light, improper watering, or it’s severely pot-bound.
Provide plenty of bright light daily, and only water when the soil has dried completely.
If you see roots coming out of the bottom of the pot, it could be time to move it into a larger container to reinvigorate growth.
Plant Is Shriveling
Shriveling stems and leaves are most often a sign of under watering. In that case, the branches will appear droopy, dried, and deflated.
Give it a thorough drink to rehydrate it, then drain off the excess from the bottom of the pot.
Leaves / Stems Turning Brown
Browning can indicate a few different problems, like improper watering or extreme sun. However, it is normal for the base of the main stem to turn brown with age.
Make sure it isn’t sitting in water, but also avoid letting it stay bone dry for too long.
While a firestick plant thrives in full sun, take care not to move it from indoors to a full exposure location outdoors, or it can cause sunburn.
Here I’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about firestick plant care. If yours isn’t on the list, please add it to the comments section below.
Is the firestick plant poisonous?
The firestick plant is poisonous to both cats and dogs when ingested, and the milky sap can be a skin and eye irritant on contact. Use caution and protection when handling the plant.
Can you touch a firestick plant?
Yes, you can touch a firestick plant. But if the milky sap comes into contact with your skin or eyes, it can cause irritation. Wear gloves and safety glasses when handling it to be safe.
How fast do firestick plants grow?
Firestick plants grow rapidly when they’re young and given the proper care, but tend to slow down as they mature. They can put on several inches per year.
Can you grow firesticks indoors?
Yes, you can grow firesticks indoors. They’ll do best when provided with good drainage and plenty of bright light.
How tall do firestick plants grow?
Firestick plants can grow very tall, they can get up to 30’ in height. But they usually only get that tall in the ground outdoors. Indoors they generally only reach a maximum of 6-8’.
Now that you know the ins and outs of firestick plant care, you can be confident adding one to your collection. These tips will help you keep it thriving, so you can enjoy it for years to come.
If you want to learn all there is to know about maintaining healthy houseplants year round, then you need my Winter Houseplant Care eBook. It’ll show you how to keep any indoor plant thriving, no matter how cold and dark it gets outside. Download your copy now.
More Houseplant Care Guides
- Growing Plants Indoors – The Ultimate Guide
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Share your firestick plant care tips in the comments section below.