The Ultimate Guide to Growing and Caring for Devils Backbone Plant in 2024


Devils Backbone Plant
Devils Backbone Plant/Devil's Backbone Plant

Devils Backbone Plant, also known as Pedilanthus tithymaloides, is a unique and fascinating plant that deserves a place in every indoor and outdoor garden. With its distinctive appearance, easy-to-grow nature, and numerous health benefits, Devil's Backbone Plant has become a popular choice among plant enthusiasts worldwide.

In this ultimate guide, we will explore everything you need to know about growing and caring for Devils Backbone Plant, from its origins and characteristics to its ideal growing conditions and maintenance tips.

Origins and Characteristics

Devils Backbone Plant is native to Mexico and Central America, where it grows as a small shrub or herbaceous perennial in dry and rocky areas. It belongs to the Euphorbia family, which includes more than 2,000 species of succulents, cacti, and other ornamental plants.

The most striking feature of Devils Backbone Plant is its unusual zigzag stems that resemble the backbone of a devil. The stems are green or reddish-brown and can grow up to 2-3 feet tall in optimal conditions. The leaves are small, oval-shaped, and arranged in pairs along the stems. They are typically green but can turn reddish or purple in bright sunlight.

The plant produces tiny yellow or greenish-yellow flowers in late winter or early spring, which are followed by small, capsule-like fruits that contain the seeds.

Ideal Growing Conditions

Devils Backbone Plant is an easy-to-grow plant that thrives in bright, indirect sunlight and well-draining soil. It can tolerate some direct sunlight but may scorch in intense or prolonged exposure. The plant is also sensitive to cold temperatures and should be protected from frost and freezing.

To grow Devils Backbone Plant successfully, you should provide it with regular watering and fertilization. The plant prefers slightly moist soil but can tolerate some drought. Overwatering or waterlogging can cause root rot and other fungal diseases, so it is essential to let the soil dry out partially between watering sessions.

Fertilizing Devils Backbone Plant once a month during the growing season (spring and summer) can promote healthy growth and flowering. You can use a balanced liquid fertilizer or a slow-release granular fertilizer with low nitrogen content. Avoid fertilizing the plant during the dormant season (fall and winter) when its growth slows down.


Devils Backbone Plant
Devils Backbone Plant/Devil's Backbone Plant

Devils Backbone Plant can be propagated from stem cuttings or seeds. Stem cuttings are the most common method and yield faster and more reliable results.

To propagate Devils Backbone Plant from stem cuttings, you should follow these steps:

Choose a healthy stem with several pairs of leaves and cut it off with a clean, sharp knife or scissors.

Let the cutting dry out for a day or two to form a callus on the cut end.

Plant the cutting in a pot filled with well-draining soil or a rooting medium, such as perlite or vermiculite.

Water the cutting lightly and place it in a bright, warm, and humid location, such as a windowsill or a greenhouse.

Wait for the cutting to root and develop new growth, which can take a few weeks to a few months.

Maintenance Tips

Devils Backbone Plant is a low-maintenance plant that requires minimal care once established. However, it may need some attention to stay healthy and attractive.

Here are some maintenance tips for Devils Backbone Plant:

Prune the plant occasionally to shape it and remove dead or damaged stems and leaves. Wear gloves and protective clothing when handling the plant, as it contains a milky sap that can irritate the skin and eyes.

Watch out for pests and diseases, such as mealybugs, spider mites, scale insects, and powdery mildew. You can use natural or chemical controls to manage these problems, depending on the severity and extent of the infestation.

Provide support or stakes for the stems if they become too long or heavy. You can use bamboo canes, wireframes, or other materials to prop up the plant and prevent it from toppling over.

Clean the leaves and stems regularly with a damp cloth or a gentle spray of water to remove dust and debris. This can enhance the plant's appearance and prevent pests and diseases from settling in.

Devils Backbone Plant Benefits

Devils Backbone Plant
Devils Backbone Plant/Devil's Backbone Plant

Devil's Backbone Plant is not only a beautiful and intriguing plant but also a beneficial one. It contains several medicinal compounds that have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various ailments.

For example, the milky sap of the Devils Backbone Plant contains tannins, alkaloids, and glycosides that have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. These compounds can help relieve pain, reduce swelling, and fight infections.

Devils Backbone Plant has also been studied for its potential to lower blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Some researchers suggest that the plant may be useful for managing diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders.

In addition, Devils Backbone Plant has been used in folk medicine as a remedy for skin conditions, such as warts, blisters, and eczema. The sap is applied topically to the affected area to promote healing and soothe irritation.


What is Devils Backbone plant good for?

The Devils Backbone plant, also known as Euphorbia tithymaloides, has a variety of uses and benefits. Here are some of them:

Ornamental plant: Devils Backbone is a popular ornamental plant that is commonly used for landscaping and indoor decoration.

Medicinal properties: The plant has been traditionally used in herbal medicine to treat a variety of ailments such as cuts, burns, stomachaches, and even cancer.

Skincare: The sap of the plant is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, making it useful in treating various skin conditions such as acne and eczema.

Insect repellent: The plant has been shown to repel insects such as mosquitoes, making it useful as a natural insecticide.

Environmental benefits: Devils Backbone is also known to have environmental benefits. It can be used to prevent erosion, and its roots help to hold soil in place.

Food source: The plant is also edible and has been used as a food source in some cultures. The leaves can be cooked and eaten, and the sap can be used to coagulate milk in the production of cheese.

Overall, Devils Backbone is a versatile plant that has a range of uses and benefits. However, it is important to note that the sap of the plant can be toxic and should be handled with care.

Is Devils Backbone an indoor plant?

Devils Backbone Plant
Devils Backbone Plant/Devil's Backbone Plant

Yes, Devils Backbone can be grown as an indoor plant. In fact, it is a popular choice for indoor decoration because of its unique and attractive appearance. It can tolerate low light conditions and is relatively easy to care for, making it a good option for beginner plant enthusiasts. 

However, like any plant, it does have specific requirements for proper growth and should be placed in a location with adequate light and kept in well-draining soil. It is also important to note that the sap of the plant can be toxic and should be handled with care.

How do you take care of a devils backbone plant?

Here are some general care tips for a Devil's Backbone plant:

Light: Devil's Backbone plants prefer bright, indirect light but can tolerate lower light conditions. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight as it can cause leaf burn.

Water: Water the plant when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot. Allow excess water to drain out of the pot and empty the saucer underneath.

Temperature: Devil's Backbone plants prefer warm temperatures between 60-85°F (15-29°C) and do not tolerate cold drafts.

Humidity: The plant can tolerate low to moderate humidity levels. You can increase humidity by placing a tray of water near the plant or by using a humidifier.

Soil: Devil's Backbone plants prefer well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. You can use a mixture of potting soil, sand, and perlite to create a suitable growing medium.

Fertilizer: Fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season (spring and summer) with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.

Pruning: You can prune the plant to control its size and shape. Wear gloves when handling the plant as the sap can be toxic.

Propagation: Devil's Backbone plants can be propagated from stem cuttings. Allow the cuttings to dry for a few days before planting them in well-draining soil.

Remember that the care requirements may vary depending on your specific growing conditions and environment, so it's important to observe your plant and adjust your care accordingly.

Is Devils Backbone plant poisonous?

Devils Backbone Plant
Devils Backbone Plant/Devil's Backbone Plant

Yes, the Devil's Backbone plant is poisonous, especially its sap. The sap contains a milky, white, latex-like substance that can cause skin irritation, rashes, and blisters. If the sap gets into the eyes, it can cause severe irritation, redness, and temporary blindness.

Ingesting the plant or its sap can also cause digestive problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. In severe cases, it can lead to respiratory problems, seizures, and even death, particularly in pets or young children.

Therefore, it is important to handle the plant with care, especially when pruning or propagating. Always wear gloves and protective clothing when handling the plant and keep it out of reach of children and pets. If you come into contact with the sap, wash the affected area immediately with soap and water, and seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.

Can we grow Devil's Backbone in water?

Yes, Devil's Backbone can be grown in water. The plant is able to root easily in water and can be propagated by stem cuttings.

To grow Devil's Backbone in water, follow these steps:

  • Take a stem cutting from the plant that is at least 6 inches long and has several leaves on it.
  • Remove the lower leaves from the stem, leaving only a few at the top.
  • Place the stem cutting in a container of water, making sure that the bottom of the stem is submerged.
  • Change the water every few days to prevent bacterial growth and keep the water fresh.
  • Wait for roots to grow from the bottom of the stem cutting, which usually takes around 2-3 weeks.
  • Once the roots have grown to a sufficient length, you can transplant the plant into a pot with well-draining soil.

Remember to keep the plant out of direct sunlight and avoid exposing it to cold drafts. Additionally, be sure to change the water regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria and algae.

What is the price of Devils Backbone plant?

You can check the price on Amazon. If not available on Amazon, you can also order online on Comfort Plants.

How much sunlight does a Devils Backbone plant need?

Devil's Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides) can tolerate a range of lighting conditions, but it prefers bright, indirect sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can scorch the leaves and cause them to turn yellow or brown.

If you are growing Devil's Backbone indoors, place it in a location that receives bright, filtered light such as near a north or east-facing window. If your plant is receiving too much direct sunlight, you can move it further away from the window or use a sheer curtain to diffuse the light.

If you are growing Devil's Backbone outdoors, it can be grown in partial shade to full sun. However, in hot climates, it may be best to provide some shade during the hottest parts of the day to prevent the plant from getting burned.

In general, it is important to observe your plant and adjust its lighting as needed. If the plant appears leggy or is not growing well, it may be an indication that it needs more light. Conversely, if the leaves are turning yellow or brown, it may be getting too much direct sunlight.

How often should you water devils?

Devil's Backbone should be watered when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other problems, so it is important to avoid letting the plant sit in water for too long.

The frequency of watering will depend on various factors such as the size of the plant, the type of pot it's in, the humidity levels in your environment, and the amount of light it receives. In general, Devil's Backbone should be watered about once a week during the growing season (spring and summer) and less frequently during the dormant season (fall and winter).

It's important to note that different growing conditions may require different watering schedules, so it's important to observe your plant and adjust your watering as needed. To avoid overwatering, make sure the pot has good drainage and that excess water is allowed to drain out of the pot. You can also check the soil moisture level by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil. If the soil feels dry, it's time to water.

Why is my devils backbone plant turning pink?

Devils Backbone Plant
Devils Backbone Plant/Devil's Backbone Plant

Devil's Backbone can turn pink or red due to various reasons. Here are some possible reasons why your plant is turning pink:

Light: Exposure to bright light or direct sunlight can cause the leaves to turn pink or red. If your plant is getting more light than it's used to, the leaves may respond by changing color.

Temperature: Temperature fluctuations can also cause the leaves to turn pink or red. If your plant is exposed to cold drafts or temperatures below 60°F (15°C), the leaves may start to change color.

Stress: Any type of stress on the plant, such as being moved to a new location or being repotted, can cause the leaves to turn pink or red.

Nutrient deficiency: A lack of nutrients, specifically phosphorus, and potassium, can cause the leaves to turn pink or red.

Natural variegation: Some varieties of Devil's Backbone have pink or red variegation naturally, so it may be a natural characteristic of your plant.

It's important to note that while some pink or red coloring is normal for Devil's Backbone, excessive discoloration may be a sign of a problem. Check the plant for any signs of pests, disease, or damage. If you're unsure about the cause of the color change, consult a plant expert or horticulturist.

Why is my devil's backbone plant losing leaves?

There are several reasons why Devil's Backbone may be losing leaves:

Overwatering: If the soil is too wet, the roots may start to rot and the plant may drop its leaves. Make sure you are allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings, and that your pot has good drainage.

Underwatering: Conversely, if the plant is not receiving enough water, it may start to drop its leaves. Make sure you are watering the plant thoroughly and consistently.

Temperature stress: Devil's Backbone prefers temperatures between 65-75°F (18-24°C). Exposure to temperatures outside this range, such as cold drafts or temperatures below 60°F (15°C), can cause the plant to drop its leaves.

Pest infestation: Check the plant for signs of pests such as spider mites or mealybugs. These pests can cause leaf drops and other damage to the plant.

Disease: Some diseases can cause leaf drops in Devil's Backbone. Check the plant for any signs of fungal or bacterial infection, such as spots on the leaves or a moldy smell.

Natural shedding: Like many plants, Devil's Backbone will naturally shed leaves as it grows and matures. If you notice only a few leaves dropping and the plant otherwise appears healthy, this may be a normal part of its growth cycle.

It's important to identify the cause of the leaf drop in order to address the issue and prevent further damage to the plant. If you're unsure about the cause, consult a plant expert or horticulturist for assistance.

Is Devils Backbone a cactus?

Devil's Backbone is not a cactus. It is a succulent plant that belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae. While some species of Euphorbia have a cactus-like appearance, they are not classified as cacti. Devil's Backbone has thick, fleshy stems and leaves that store water, which is a characteristic of succulent plants. 

However, unlike cacti, it does not have spines or thorns. Devil's Backbone is a tropical plant that is native to Central and South America, and it is commonly grown as a houseplant or in outdoor gardens in warm climates.

Does Devils Backbone plant bloom?

Yes, Devil's Backbone can produce small flowers in the right conditions. The plant produces small greenish-yellow flowers at the tips of its stems, usually in late winter or early spring. The flowers are not particularly showy and are usually considered to be of secondary importance to the plant's attractive foliage. 

However, if you want your Devil's Backbone to bloom, it's important to give it the right growing conditions, including bright light, moderate temperatures, and regular watering and fertilizing. Bear in mind that flowering is not guaranteed, as it depends on various factors such as age, health, and growing conditions of the plant.

What soil to use for devils backbone plant?

Devils Backbone Plant
Devils Backbone Plant/Devil's Backbone Plant

Devil's Backbone prefers a well-draining, sandy soil mix. You can create a suitable soil mix by combining equal parts of regular potting soil and coarse sand or perlite. The sand or perlite will improve drainage and prevent the soil from becoming too compact. It's also a good idea to add a small amount of organic matter, such as peat moss or coconut coir, to improve soil structure and retain moisture.

When planting or repotting Devil's Backbone, make sure to choose a pot with good drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating in the soil. It's also important to avoid overwatering the plant, as this can lead to root rot and other issues. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings, and be sure to avoid getting water on the leaves or stems, as this can cause damage to the plant.

Can Devil's Backbone be planted outside?

Devil's Backbone is a tropical plant that is native to Central and South America, so it can only be planted outside in warm, frost-free regions with temperatures above 50°F (10°C). If you live in a warm climate, you can plant Devil's Backbone outside in a well-draining soil mix in a spot that receives partial to full sun, depending on your climate. 

However, make sure to protect the plant from direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day, as this can cause leaf burn. Devil's Backbone is also drought-tolerant, so it doesn't require frequent watering once established. Be aware that the sap of the plant is toxic and can cause skin irritation or other issues, so make sure to wear gloves and protective clothing when handling the plant.

Why is it called Devil's Backbone?

Devil's Backbone is so named because of the unusual zigzag shape of its stems, which resemble the shape of a spine. The stems are green and often have red or purple markings, which add to the plant's distinctive appearance. 

The zigzag shape is thought to resemble the back of a mythical creature or monster, which may be the reason for the "devil" reference in the name. Additionally, the plant's sap is toxic and can cause skin irritation or other issues, which could also be a reason for the ominous-sounding name. Devil's Backbone is also known by other common names, including "Redbird cactus" and "Jacob's ladder".

What are the different names of Devil's Backbone Plant?

Devil's Backbone is known by several different common names in English, including:

  • Jacob's Ladder
  • Redbird Cactus
  • Zigzag Plant
  • Candelilla
  • Naked Lady
  • Slipper Flower
  • Jetty Plant

Some of these names refer to specific features of the plant, such as the zigzag shape of the stems (Zigzag Plant), while others are more generic (Naked Lady). However, regardless of the name, Devil's Backbone is a popular houseplant that is valued for its unusual shape and attractive foliage.

From where can I buy Devil's Backbone plant?

If it's convenient, you can check the availability in your nearby nursery or order them online on Amazon. If not available on Amazon, you can also order online on Comfort Plants.


Devil's Backbone Plant is a fascinating and versatile plant that can add beauty and health benefits to any garden or indoor space. With its unique appearance, easy cultivation, and medicinal properties, Devil's Backbone Plant is a must-have for plant enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals alike.

By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this ultimate guide, you can grow and care for Devil's Backbone Plant with confidence and success. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner, Devil's Backbone Plant is a plant that can bring joy and satisfaction to your life.

Did you add a devil's backbone plant to your home recently? Or, have you already had them before? How has been your experience with their care? Do share your experience with us by commenting below! 

We would love to hear from you! Thanks and cheers!

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