Skip to main content

For lush blooms, here’s how to grow a crown of thorns plant inside your home

From basic maintenance to propagating, here are tips on growing a crown of thorns

Every rose has its thorn, but with a crown of thorns plant, it's all thorns and a few bold, lush bracts surrounding tiny flowers. Though intimidating in looks, the crown of thorns plant is beloved for its low-key care requirements. And although it flowers, it's actually pretty easy to care for indoors. From finding the just-right growing medium to propagating stem tips, here's everything you need to know about this striking houseplant.




30 minutes

What You Need

  • Crown of thorns plant

  • Thick gardening gloves

  • Potting mix

  • Sand

  • Peat moss

  • Balanced liquid fertilizer

  • Pruning shears

  • Newspaper (optional)

Crown of thorns with bright red bracts
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why is it called a crown of thorns plant?

Scientifically referred to as Euphorbia milii, the crown of thorns gets its colloquial name from biblical lore. As the story goes, Jesus wore this at his crucifixion as a crown, the red bracts representing his blood. Native to Madagascar, a crown of thorns plant features small leaves and tiny flowers with showy bracts on woody stems with long spines. The bracts are typically red, but you may find light pink, orange, white, and yellow blooms, as well. In optimal conditions, the plant can grow up to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

As you might have already guessed from the barbed stems, this plant is toxic and can irritate the skin, so you should handle it with caution. If you need to repot it, it's best to wear thick leather gloves and wrap it around layers of newspaper when dealing with it. Additionally, keep an eye out for curious pets and children who might play around it.

Crown of thorns with salmon bracts
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do you care for a crown of thorns plant?

Because of its succulent nature, the crown of thorns plant is pretty easy to care for. While it's technically only hardy in climate zones 9 to 11, it can be overwintered in virtually any home that gets sufficient sunlight. Luckily, its care requirements indoors are quite simple. Don't fret if you notice little growth — crown of thorns are slow growers and only need to be repotted every three years.

Step 1: Growing medium

Keep your crown of thorns in a well-draining potting mix that's sandy. For extra drainage, you can also mix sand into your potting mix. If you must move your plant, remember to use thick leather gardening gloves and roll the plant in newspaper to keep it from poking you.

Step 2: Lighting

Place your plant next to a bright window that receives southern exposure. Crown of thorns can be very happy indoors, but it does thrive outside. During the hottest days of summer, move your plant to an area where it can receive afternoon shade.

Step 3: Temperature

Leave your crown of thorns in an area where it gets no colder than 55 degrees Fahrenheit — room temperature around the 60s or 70s is a sweet spot for this plant. When the temperatures dip into the 50s, you may notice falling leaves.

Step 4: Watering

Water your plant when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Crown of thorns doesn't like to dry out completely, but they can tolerate some neglect.

Step 5: Fertilizing

From spring to early fall, fertilize your crown of thorns with a balanced liquid fertilizer at half strength every two weeks.

Crown of thorns with pink bracts
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do you get a crown of thorns plant to bloom?

As a rule of thumb, crown of thorns blooms from early spring to the middle of summer. However, you can get your plant to bloom all year long if you give it adequate lighting. In fact, a crown of thorns kept as a houseplant might be more likely to bloom after the traditional growing season.

Keep in mind that the flowers themselves are tiny, and it's the bracts (the modified leaves positioned beneath flowers) that are colorful — just like the poinsettia flowers you see during the holidays (which are also euphorbias).

Step 1: Place your plant by a window with southern exposure to give it the most amount of direct sunlight it can possibly receive — at least 3 to 4 hours of bright light per day is ideal.

Light will give your plant the energy it needs to bloom. You might also consider supplementing natural light with grow lights or bringing your plant outdoors if the temperature is warm enough.

Step 2: Keep your crown of thorns as healthy as possible by watering it consistently and leaving it in warm temperatures.

When your plant is stressed, it will be less likely to bloom.

Step 3: Fertilize your plant at a biweekly cadence — overfertilizing can actually lead to more foliage and less blooms.

Shears angled at tip of crown of thorns
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do you propagate a crown of thorns?

Propagating your crown of thorns plant from seed is possible but a time-consuming task. You'd essentially need to pollinate your plant by hand to get it to produce seeds, wait for seed capsules to form, and then germinate those seeds. The easiest way to propagate a crown of thorns plant is by carefully taking stem tip cuttings — with a big emphasis on the carefully!

Step 1: With gloves on, cut off a growing tip 3 to 4 inches down the stem with sterilized pruning shears.

Step 2: Allow the milky sap to dry out and let the plant form a callus for about a day.

Step 3: Place your cutting in a lightly moist peat moss and sand mix, keeping it in an area that gets bright indirect light.

Step 4: Transfer your plant into a regular potting mix once you see roots form in about one to two months.

The crown of thorns plant might be tough in looks, but it's actually quite easy in care. Able to tolerate neglect, its main requirements are bright light and well-draining soil. From there, you'll be able to foster slow but consistent growth. Just remember to handle it with caution!

Editors' Recommendations

Stacey Nguyen
Stacey's work has appeared on sites such as POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, The Balance, TripSavvy, and more. When she's…
Cordyline care: How to make your cordyline plants thrive and bring the tropics indoors
Make sure your cordyline thrives with these tips
Potted green cordyline plants on the ground

Cordylines are beautiful tropical plants native to the Pacific Islands and portions of Southeast Asia. With their striking colors and vibrant leaves, they can add some color to any garden. However, tropical plants are not always easy to grow outdoors. Unless you live in a tropical region or have a greenhouse, you'll need to grow cordylines indoors. Luckily, these plants are fairly easy to grow indoors and add both color and interest to your houseplant collection! This guide to indoor cordyline care will help ensure your new cordyline thrives.

Read more
Madagascar palm care guide: Everything you need to know about this lush succulent
Care tips and tricks for steady growth on your Madagascar palm
Madagascar palm tree

For lush tropical vibes with a desert twist, the Madagascar palm tree (pachypodium lamerei) is the perfect addition to your space — truly, it's one of the most eye-catching plants you can have. Technically, this plant is a succulent instead of a true palm, which means that it’s fairly low maintenance in terms of watering and humidity needs.

While the Madagascar palm thrives in full sunlight, it’s definitely suitable as an indoor houseplant if you give it adequate lighting. Before bringing this hardy plant into your house, here's everything you need to know about Madagascar palm care.

Read more
Incorporate these shower plants into your bathroom for a green infusion
These plants help greenify your bathroom
Bathroom plant layout

As you turn your home into a jungle, transform your bathroom into paradise with the help of shower plants. Adding extra greenery to your bathroom can switch up the ambiance for a lush vibe — it’ll be like taking a shower in the great outdoors while enjoying the comforts of your home. When picking out shower plants, keep humidity-loving species, such as ferns and figs, at the top of your list!

Curious about incorporating tropical vibes into this nook of your home? Read on to learn how to hang plants in the bathroom and how to select plants that work best for this steamy environment.

Read more