dragon's back?

by Christopher
(Liberty, TN, USA)

Someone called it a dragon's back, but I can't find it anywhere. It's in a a pot with an Aloe and it has little leaves that all fell off when I forgot to bring it back inside for a chilly spring night. The stems have a very distinctive zig-zag shape.. I hope that's enough for you to identify it. Thanks so much!

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Christopher, I've never heard of that common name - it's fabulous! It certainly does have very distinctive stems, so maybe someone else will recognize it.

Many plants that we call houseplants are hardy somewhere in the world, but most are not cold hardy. Sometimes they drop leaves as a survival tactic, to re-grow when conditions are more suited to them. Hopefully, your Dragon's Back plant will recover in time.


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Aug 22, 2011
Similar Plant
by: Jim

I have a similar plant to the one pictured. It was given to me by a friend who called it a "Dragon's Back".

I have not been able to find any information about the plant.

I planted it outdoors (I live in Central Florida) in semi-shaded area next to my house. It has thrived for the 7 years I have had it.

Recently I cut it back as it was getting very tangled. It has come back very strong and beautiful.

I took some of the cuttings and are hoping they will grow. If you have any information, please forward. Thanks.

Apr 17, 2011
Dragon's back plant
by: Labour of Love

It's a type of Euphorbia: Pedilanthus & here's a link for more info: Euphorbia pedilanthus.

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Do you know what this plant is?

by Brett
(Cape Town, South Africa)

Hi There,
I have this plant, and I have no idea what it is.
I don't know what the best position for it would be. Indoor or outdoor, or how often to water it. At the moment I have it indoor (in my bathroom). It is really very pretty, with zig zag stems, but sometimes the leaves are pink and others are green. They often loose leaves too.
It looks like it needs some TLC - can you advise.

Kind Regards,

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Brett, that is one of the most unique and different plants - it's called Devils Backbone, or Dragons back, or to give it the proper botanical name it's Euphorbia tithymaloides, variegated Devil's Backbone. (This link to Dave's Garden Website will open in a new window).

Happy Growing!

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Crown of Thorns AKA Dragon's Back?

by Susan Gast
(Central Florida)

Hi Jacki and all,

This is Susan from central Florida and I have the very same plant in my garden that was sent in recently, and I'm pretty sure my dad called it "Crown of Thorns" ... so here's some photos of my plant!

Susan Gast :-)

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Susan,
As you may know, the naming of plants is always interesting - Euphorbia is a huge genus with many species, including the plant with the common name of Crown of Thorns, and Dragons Back.

Both of these are related, although you wouldn't know it to look at them.

The plant your dad refers to as Crown of Thorns is the same as the Dragon's Back, but Crown of Thorns is used to refer to Euphorbia milii and Dragon's Back goes by the botanical name of Euphorbia tithymaloides, or its old name of Pedilanthes (just to complicate things even more!)

See this post for the original submission from Christopher about his Dragon's Back plant. By the way, I highly recommend reading the link on that post - it's hilarious!

Good luck with all your Euphorbia, whether they're Crowns of Thorns, Dragon's Backs or Devils Backbones.


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please help identify my mystery plant

by Joanne
(Brooklyn, NY)

Friend of mine gave me this plant but had no clue what it was. It seems to be doing well by the window but would like to know it's name. Thank you

Hi Joanne, this is a plant called 'the Devils Backbone' and you can imagine why! This one is a bit unusual in that it's variegated; usually they're just green.

These are easy plants to grow; however, they do prefer it bright, although full sun isn't necessary.

You can see more about the variegated Devil's Backbone here on Dave's Garden Website and more information about how to grow the plain green Devils Backbone.

See more stories about this plant on this site;

Do you know what this plant is?

Crown of Thorns aka Dragons Back

Please be aware that they're not kidding about the fact that these are poisonous - keep pets and kids away from the plant, and pick up any pieces that drop.

You can see more about poisonous succulent plants here.
Hope that helps,

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green plant w/ multicolored leaves

green stalk like plant w/ green, white, and pink leaves

This is a plant that gets a lot of attention; it's called the Devils Backbone, and this is a variegated form. You can see more about it here: Euphorbia tithymaloides.

Please keep in mind that all members of the Euphorbia genus are poisonous, and this one is no exception - sweep up fallen leaves, keep out of the reach of cats and small children, and avoid getting the sap on skin or in eyes as it can cause severe contact dermatitis, or even blindness.

With those safeguards in place, you should be able to enjoy your plant without worrying about the danger.

Best of luck,

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Mar 11, 2013
by: jenn

I think I might have killed my plant but I'm not sure cause I've never owned this one. The leaves are turning brown and falling off. The stalks were a vibrant green but now they are turning brown on 1 side from top to half way down:-(

Hi Jenn, without pictures and more details about where you're growing your plant, it's impossible to give you any feedback.

Please post on the Ask the Horticulturist page. Follow the instructions there, and I'll be able to help with your problem. See you there!

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