Devil's Backbone, Zig-Zag Plant (Pedilanthus tithymaloides)
A fun plant for growing indoors or out during warm weather. The thick succulent stems grow in a zig-zag direction, back and forth between each leaf. The green and white variegated leaves take on a rosy blush in bright, sunny conditions. Devil’s Backbone can be grown as a landscape plant in frost-free areas where it develops into a shrub from 6-8′ (2-2.5m) and produces small red flowers. Plants grown indoors rarely bloom but are prized for their beautiful form and colorful foliage.
A word of caution; all parts of this plant contain a milky sap that can irritate skin and may be harmful if eaten. Take care to locate the plant where it won’t be in contact with children and pets. Wear garden gloves when pruning or transplanting to avoid possible skin irritation.
Grow as a houseplant in any bright location. Makes a nice patio plant outdoors during warm weather. A useful landscape plant in frost-free climates.
Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly during active growth.
Allow soil to dry between thorough waterings.
Well-drained potting mix for cacti and succulents.
Basic Care Summary
Easy to grow. Provide a bright location indoors or a sunny to party shaded location outside. Requires well-drained soil and minimal watering, just once a week is usually adequate. Prune freely to maintain size and shape.
Start with a good quality, commercial potting soil. These are usually lighter in weight than topsoil, sterile and pest-free. Many are available with a mild starter fertilizer in the mix.
Select a container with a drainage hole or be prepared to drill holes for drainage if there are none.
Prepare the container by filling with potting soil up to 2” (5cm) from the rim of the planter. Remove the plant from its pot.
Make a small hole in the soil slightly larger than the root ball either by hand or using a trowel. Insert the plant into the hole and press soil firmly around the roots and just covering the root ball. When all the plants are potted, water thoroughly to settle the soil and give plants a good start. Place plant in a reliably sunny location.
Repot every 2 years in the same container or in a container slightly larger than the diameter of the roots.
Prefers moist but well-drained soil. Check the soil moisture with your finger. If the top 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, or plants are wilted, it is time to water.
Apply water at the soil level if possible to avoid wetting the foliage. Water the entire soil area until water runs out the base of the pot. This indicates that the soil is thoroughly wet.
Most container plants can be pruned freely to maintain the desired size and shape. Keeping the foliage trimmed also keeps the plants looking neat and tidy, encourages the plant to develop more side-shoots and flowers, and reduces the demand for the plant to develop a larger root system. This is important since the roots are in a confined space.
Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product with a nutritional balance designed for foliage plants.
Too much fertilizer can damage plants so it’s important to follow the package directions to determine how much, and how often, to feed plants.
Slow-release fertilizers are an especially good, care-free choice for container plants. A single application can often provide plants with the proper level of nutrition all season long.
|Height Metric Range||46-61cm|
|Space Metric Range||30-46cm|
|Available Colors||Grown for foliage|
|Companion Plants||Aloe, Crown of Thorns, Kalanchoe|
|Lowest Temperature||50° to 80°F|
|Lowest Temperature Metric||10° to 27°C|
|Bloom Time||Grown for foliage|
|Plant Light||Bright Light|
|Hardiness Zone||11, 12|