Euphorbia Antisyphilitica Care: All About Growing Candelilla

Euphorbia antisyphilitica [yoo-FOR-bee-uh, an-tee-sif-ih-LY-tih-kuh], also known as Candelilla, is a perennial plant and a member of the spurge, poinsettia family Euphorbiaceae, and native to the Chihuahuan desert.

Its natural range includes Texas and New Mexico, as well as areas south of the United States border into the Coahuila, Durango, and Chihuahua areas of Mexico.

Blooms on Euphorbia Antisyphilitica
Image: Salicyna [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The plant’s species name comes from the old wives’ tale, which declared the sap of the Euphorbia antisyphilitica plant could be used to treat venereal disease, syphilis. 

The plant’s common name is about its upright stems with bright blossoms on end. 

They resemble candles, and the name, Candelilla, means “little candle.”

Euphorbia Antisyphilitica Care

The general Euphorbia care tips presented in this video are readily applied to Candelilla.

Size & Growth

This herbaceous perennial tends to grow in clumps about 30″ inches high.

Candelilla’s foliage is leafless and consists of tall, straight, stiff grayish-green branches and stems about the thickness of a pencil. 

The foliage grows in a dense, stiff, erect formation.

Flowering & Fragrance

Pretty flowers grow at the ends of the stiff, green stems. 

The flowers are cream-colored with a deep, pinkish-red center. 

The white and pink blooms appear early in May and sometimes persist into the early autumn months. 

The blooms are attractive to pollinators and hummingbirds.

Light & Temperature

Antisyphilitica euphorbia grows equally well in partial shade or full sun. 

It is extremely heat tolerant, and it can tolerate cold temperatures down to 28° degrees Fahrenheit (-2° C). 

This plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11.

Watering & Feeding

Water deeply and infrequently. 

Allow the soil to dry completely between waterings.

Fertilizer is not necessary, but a top dressing of worm castings at the start of the growing season is sure to be appreciated. 

Soil & Transplanting

This plant prefers well-draining limestone soils. 

It can do well in sandy soils or sandy loam. 

A good cactus or succulent potting mix is appropriate.

Grooming & Maintenance 

No grooming and maintenance are necessary. 

The plant will spread slowly and will need to be divided every few years.

How To Propagate Antisyphilitica Euphorbia Candelilla

Propagate this succulent by separating the clumps when you repot or divide them. 

Or propagate by seed.

Euphorbia Pests or Diseases

This hardy plant is trouble-free and, when properly cared for, is not prone to infestation by pests or disease. 

Excessive watering, too little light, or poor ventilation will lead to problems with fungal infection.

Learn more on Controlling Succulent Pests

Is The Euphorbia Antisyphilitica Candelilla Toxic Or Poisonous?

Like all members of the Euphorbia family, Antisyphilitica does produce a milky white latex sap which is very irritating to the skin of some people. 

In Mexico, the sap of the plant is used to produce a very high-grade wax which is used to make:

  • Phonograph Records
  • Insulation Material
  • Waterproofing
  • Sealing Wax
  • Shoe Polish
  • Floor Polish
  • Ointments
  • Lubricants
  • Candles
  • Soap

The plants’ sap is toxic and has been known to kill cattle when ingested. 

Contact with the sap can irritate the mucous membranes, eyes, and skin. 

People who are infirm, very old, very young, or in poor health are more likely to be negatively impacted by contact with the sap.

Additionally, the toxicity of the sap may vary depending on the location of the plant. 

In areas where there are toxins in the air, water, and soil, the toxicity of the plant is naturally more intense. 

Toxicity also varies depending upon the individual plant’s stage of growth and which part of the euphorbia is touched or ingested.

Because of Candelilla’s potentially toxicity, you must take care to keep it away from pets and children. 

Remember to wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection when handling this plant.

Is The Candelilla Wax Plant Invasive?

This slow-growing succulent is dependent upon very specific environmental circumstances to survive and thrive. 

As such, it is only native to Texas and New Mexico within the US and is not invasive elsewhere. 

Suggested Uses for Euphorbia Antisyphilitica Candelilla

Because of natural habitat of antisyphilitica euphorbia along the slopes, hillsides, and mountainous regions of Mexico, New Mexico, and Southwest Texas, Candelilla is a good choice for rock gardens, succulent gardens, and desert gardens. 

Candelilla’s columnar shape and pale green color makes it a very attractive accent specimen. 

It is a good specimen for a small garden and does well as a potted plant.

Additionally, it does very well in narrow planters because of its tall, slim, upright growth habit.