Euphorbia antisyphilitica (Candelilla) - An upright growing leafless succulent about 2 feet tall that spreads slowly by suckering from the base to form large clumps with narrow round stems that are a gray-green color. In late winter on into spring this plant flowers along the stems with small white flowers that have red centers but flowering in irrigated gardens can happen anytime from late winter to fall.
Plant in full sun (shade grown plants are taller, less gray and more lax) in a well-drained soil. Hardy to around 10 °F (USDA Zone 8a). This plant is tolerant of hot dry conditions (even reflected heat) and alkaline soils.
The interesting color of its stems are due to them being coated with a gray wax that slows water loss from the stems, an adaptation to its native habitat in the Chihuahuan desert where it can be found in south-west New Mexico east into Texas and south into Mexico. There are a lot of uses for this plant other than for its attraction in the garden. The name for the genus is derived from Euphorbus, the Greek physician of King Juba II of Numidia and later of Mauritania. In 12 B.C. King Juba named a cactus-like plant he found in the Atlas Mountains after his physician and later Carl Linnaeus assigned the name Euphorbia to the entire genus. It has been used in the past for medical purposes, including its possible use in the treatment of syphilis, which gives the plant its specific epithet and the common name Candelilla, meaning “little candle” is from the use of the waxy substance as a high-quality wax that forms after the stems are boiled and the substance extracted. The dried stems are also used as fuel and in some parts of Mexico, the over-harvesting of Euphorbia antisyphilitica has made it scarce. The name Candelilla is also occasionally used for another Euphorbia relative, Pedilanthus macrocarpus. The sap from this plant is irritating, so best to avoid contact with it.
Information about Euphorbia antisyphilitica displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.