A thorn flower for all year long

The miniature crown of thorns, euphorbia splendens bojeri, a leafy and quite shapely succulent, blossoms almost continuously year round. Its true flower is tiny, circular, and glistering orange, flanked by a pair of overlapping lime-shaped light-red bracts resemble the beaks of hungry, newly hatched cardinals, except much redder.

Each blossom stem bears one or two pairs of flowers which, even after three weeks, appear to have just opened. Deep-green, almost oval leaves grow densely on the main stem and side stems that bear almost twice as many substantial dark thorns.

The succulent is easy to grow. All it requires is air, light, sufficient sun , and adequate water.

Our crown of thorns receives as little water as the aloe vera and has dropped only one small leaf in four months, despite the advice of some exotic-plant growers that is should be kept moist at all times.

This 7 1/2-inch plant thrives in a mixture of one-third sand, one-third loam, and one-third compost in a 4 1/2- inch clay pot with a pebble mulch to retain moistures.

Among these rounded pebbles is a small clamshell, tipped slightly toward the succulent's stem, which is kept filled with water to add moisture to the atmosphere where most needed. While the plant is watered only once or twice a week, the shell must be refilled daily. Remember, heated indoor air is dry.

During December the plant is watered very sparingly, and after March we water it with diluted fish fertilizer once a month.

During warm rains, if the temperature outside is above 59 degrees F., we set the plant out to be washed and renewed. When the temperature begins to fall, we replace it on its southwest sill.

One grower keeps his crown of thorns above the shade, which is attached to the center of the window, on the narrow top of the lower sash. Late in May, when the window is generally open, the crown of thorns is out on the southeast porch.

Euphorbia splendens may have originated in Madagascar. The succeltnt, a relative of the poinsettia and summer poinsettia, was named for an ancient Greek physician, Euphorbus.

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