Euphorbia francoisii #8
Description: Madagascar is home to some fascinating succulent Euphorbia. Euphorbia francoisii is undoubtably one of the most ornate of the Madagascar Euphorbs. Like Haworthia there is great diversity in leaf shape and leaf pigmentation. Over time they will form a small underground caudex that can be raised above the soil line.
The cultivation of these plants is very different than the cultivation of Haworthia. E. francoisii are easy to grow but the do not tolerate cold. In their habitat on the south-east coast of Madagascar the average low during the coldest months is 62 F and the record low is 48 F. The average high during the hottest part of year is 86 F, but I find these plants don’t like excessive heat. For me these plants don’t do well outdoors and they don’t seem happy in the greenhouse either. I grow them in my home under LED and cool fluorescent lights and have some on our windowsills. The soil mix is similar to my haworthia mix (mostly pumice with some coir and a small amount of decomposed granite and slow-release fertilizer) but the proportion of coir I use is higher so the media retains moisture for longer than my haworthia mix. Water about once every 1 or 2 weeks, less often during the winter months.
Euphorbia francoisii breeding program: The current plants offered combine the leaf traits I selected for the past 20+ years with the newer Thai maple leaf genes and the results are very striking. I started breeding these around the same time I started breeding Haworthia. My breeding program started with select plants I acquired from Jerry Wright at the Great Petaluma Desert (this used to be a prime destination for us old time northern California succulent folk). From these plants I bred and selected forms with wide leaves and intense leaf pigmentation and what I describe as guitar shaped leaves -fat at the base with a thin pointed leaf tip. Over the years I incorporated choice plants acquired from eBay into my breeding program and the last couple of years I have incorporated maple-leaf plants bred by master Thai breeder Santiporn Sangchai and most recently some beautiful plants bred by Scott Harris. Breeding francoisii is a slow process. Each flower will make from 1 to at most 3 seeds which are explosively propelled from the pod when ripe.
In my francoisii breeding I’ve been focusing on 4 traits:
- leaf pigmentation - Although Euphorbia are only very distantly related to Haworthia (Euphorbia are dicots, Haworthia are monocots) there are similarities in the leaf pigmentation. Like the spots in Haworthia windows, E. francoisii leaves can have deposits of white pigments on the leaves. And similar to Haworthia the spotting can be sparse, or so dense it completely covers the leaf surface, and these white pigments can be colored pink or red by overlay pigments. I breed to intensify the leaf pigmentation and venation patterns.
- Leaf shape - I combine different leaf form to create unique leaf shapes. Some I am working on include one we call “duck foot”.
- Flower color - I have some plants with reddish flowers. I am working on intensifying those reds.
- Vigor - I try to breed plants to maximize vigor.