Ultimate Guide: How to Care for Crown of Thorns Plant

The crown of thorns plant has a few characteristics that set it apart from other plants. The purple and yellow flowers along the stem and the spines on its leaves give the plant a rugged yet beautiful appearance. The crown of thorns plant does not require much maintenance and can thrive in containers or in the ground.

The Crown of Thorns Plant, popularly known as the Christ Plant, is one of the most liked ornamental indoor succulent plants. Native to Madagascar, this bushy and slow-growing plant flourishes above 55°F, the average temperature for most homes. These fascinating plant flowers almost all year round. The Christ Plant is a highly sought-after indoor plant because it is super easy to care for, and all that is required is adequate light and water.

The woody stem serves as an adequate water reservoir. The sharp thorns, bright green leaves, and the bright leaf-like structures below the flower make this unique plant stand out in your home. We recommend wearing gloves when handling the plant because it is poisonous, and the sap can be toxic not only to you but also to your pets. However, the crown of the thorns plant can last for a long time with proper care. Read on to learn how to take good care of your crown of thorns plant.

How much sun do crown of thorns need?

This indoor plant is a sucker for bright light. We suggest placing your plant in indirect light because direct sunlight can damage your leaves. Choose the most illuminated spot in your home for this ornamental, preferably near a sunny window for at least 3 to 4 hours of direct sun. After a week, give your potted plant a quarter turn for even growth.

If your plant can not get enough light in your house, take it outside for the required amount of sunlight. Remember, your plant cannot bloom without enough light. During winter, the light levels are low, and you can move the plant to a cooler spot with sunlight or supplement using artificial sources. 

How often should you Water your crown of thorns plant?

The Crown of Thorns plant might be the plant for you if you have a busy lifestyle as it thrives on neglect. You can water your plant less frequently because it stores water in its thick stems and prefers slightly dry soil. The Christ Plant has different watering needs depending on the season. Your plant will require very little water during winter, but during late spring and early fall, you should water your Crown of Thorns plant when the soil is halfway dried out. 

A crown of thorns plant that has just been watered.
It stores water in its thick stems and prefers slightly dry soil.

To confirm whether your plant needs water, use your finger. In the winter, the soil should dry to a depth of 2 to 3 inches before watering. An inch’s depth of dry soil should get you watering your plant during spring and late fall. Fill the pot until flooded, wait for the excess water to drain, and empty the saucer below the pot. You can also spray your crown thorns with a weak saline solution as the plant thrives in the seaside. Allow the soil to dry because excess moisture can lead to root rot. If the leaves turn yellow, reduce the watering.

Humidity & Temperature Tolerance

Succulent plants store water, so average to low humidity is enough; the crown of thorns plant is no exception. The plant does well in warm temperatures starting from 55° F. Do not worry about taking your plant outdoors during the summer as it can withstand temperatures of up to 90°F/32°C.

A plant  having indirect sun light.
The plant does well in warm temperatures starting from 55° F.

Your plant leaves will start falling off, and your plant might have difficulty flowering if the temperature is lower than required. The plant thrives in low humidity and high temperatures.

Pruning

Fast-growing or bushier Crown of Thorns will benefit from pruning and trimming. The preferred time to prune and shape your plant is right after blooming. Preferably during autumn and in time for spring when new growths start showing. A few branches appear at every pruned branch leading to a bushier and fuller plant. 

Before pruning, sterilize your shears or scissors to avoid passing on diseases from one plant to another. Then, cut the stem tip at its point of origin to stop stubby and unattractive branches. 

Remove the aged leaves and stems and get rid of them for good. The main reason for trimming is to keep your plant in shape. If the branches lean towards a direction you would not want, trim them. 

Cutting a branch of a plant.
Sterilize your shears or scissors to avoid passing on diseases from one plant to another

Remember to wear gloves as the poisonous white milky sap can irritate the skin, eyes, and mouth. We recommend cutting back your crown of thorns when your children and pets are not around because even small ingested amounts can irritate the mouth and cause stomach upsets. In addition, the sticky sap can stain your clothes, so wear old clothing when pruning.

Pests & Diseases

Infestation is not significant for this tough plant because a crown of thorns is very pest-resistant. Problematic pests include Scale, Mealybugs, and Aphids. Be observant and look out for these harmful organisms around the growing tips because pests are drawn to new growth. 

If the pests are a few, manually scrape them off by using a pump-up water sprayer. Another good option you could try is to wipe the foliage with diluted soap or dishwashing liquid using a cotton ball or swab. Running water is an equally good option. 

Alternatively, swab with cotton dubbed in alcohol or get rid of the infected part altogether. Pests multiply quickly and may infect your other house plants, so make sure you treat any infestation straight away.

Flowering

A Crown of Thorns Plant produces colorful bracts in the early spring and through late summer. Under the right set of conditions, the crown of thorns can produce flowers all year. The flowers are in clusters of red and yellow and shades of pink, salmon, red, and bicolor. 

The flower buds are located in the leaf axils of each leaf. If you want your plant to bloom all year round, choose a sunny location, use good potting soil, water as needed and use a fertilizer high in phosphorus content during the flowering stage.

Soil & Fertilizer

Crown of Thorns requires stable soil as they tend to grow top-heavy. Layer with gravel at the bottom for excellent drainage. Avoid light-weight mixes, instead use a potting mix amended with sandy, quick-draining soil. 

The mix should be two-thirds cactus or succulent soil mix and third perlite or coarse sand. Well-drained soil will prevent root rot. However, poor drainage can also lead to a sudden decline in leaves.

A top view of a plant, shovel and a soil.
It requires stable soil as they tend to grow top-heavy.

The plant requires little nourishment. Therefore, we recommend adding the fertilizer as a solution containing 150-275 ppm fertilizer at the planting stage. You can also add slow-release fertilizer. Never feed your Crown of Thorns plant with fertilizers containing boron, as your plant can react sensitively to the micronutrient.

For regular feeding, dilute the water-soluble fertilizer to half the recommended strength and feed every month. The plant food should be low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus. Do not add fertilizer in winter when the flowering period is over. Too much fertilizer can lead to leaf tip burning because of excess salt build-up in the soil.

Repotting

The Crown of Thorns plant only requires repotting every 2-3 years because it is a slow grower. Shift your plant to a larger pot with a drainage hole to avoid a mushy medium and root rot. We recommend just a few inches larger, nothing bigger. 

You can replace a few top inches of the potting mix with a fresh mix for larger plants. If you prune the extra stems and only water your plant as required, you might not need to report your plant after a short time.

Repot your mature plant that no longer fits in its container to keep it in good health. We suggest doing this during summer because this is the time when the plant is at its hardiest. How do you report your plant?

  • Gently remove the Crown of Thorns plant from its current container. 
  • Loosen the soil
  • Prune old and dead roots
  • Make ready an inch thick of sandy well-draining pot mix
  • Place the plant slightly lower than its initial placement 
  • Fill spaces with the rest of the mix
  • Relocate your pot to a sunny window with at least 3 hours of direct sunlight.

Propagation

Propagating your Crown of Thorns Plant from stem cuttings is relatively easy. First, take cuttings from the younger branches in the spring and early summer. You can use any sharp blade, such as a simple razor, to cut at the point where the branch meets the trunk.

Immediately after cutting, dip the end of the stem tip cutting in warm water and spray the original plant with cold water on the trimmed areas to avoid the sap from oozing out. Dry your cuttings on a paper towel for a few days. Then, immerse the hardened ends of the cuttings in a rooting hormone product and poke them into the moist soil.

A top view of a red Crown of thorn plants.
Immerse the hardened ends of the cuttings in a rooting hormone product and poke them into the moist soil.

Move the pot to a warm location with bright and indirect light for some time. Do not water the plant for a few weeks. Your cutting should develop roots after about six weeks. If you tug gently on the cutting and there is some resistance, the roots have already formed. Begin watering lightly after about a month when new signs of growth appear.

Crown of thorns problems & How to Avoid them

No Flowering

Lack of blooming is a common issue with indoor plant growers. Give your plant at least a year if it is still young. You might want to check on the amount of light your plant is getting if your plant is not flowering. Do not place your plants in a dark room. Lack of nutrients is another factor. Apply fertilizer with a high phosphorus content to encourage flowering.

Yellow Leaves

The most probable reason for your plant leaves turning yellow is too much watering. Reduce the amount of water, especially in the winter. Overwatering will cause the roots to rot; when their function is impaired, the entire plant will lack the required nutrients leading to signs of dying, such as yellow leaves. Once you notice yellowing, stop adding water and place the pot under sunlight for faster evapotranspiration.

Toxicity to Pets

The crown plant is mildly toxic to pets. If your pets ingest the milky sap, they will exhibit symptoms such as stomach upsets and mouth irritation. Consult your Vet immediately in case of ingestion. 

Indoor planting is not as complicated and time-consuming as it appears. Instead, try out a low-maintenance plant that can fit perfectly into your schedule, like the Crown of Thorns Plant.

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