Today in Key West: 'White Ghost' Euphorbia

Up north, anything you might call a cactus almost always craves all the sun and heat you can muster. The sun is so much more powerful in the tropics, though, that many more succulents are content with some shade.


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This stunning silvery succulent is thriving in the shade of an adjacent Bismarck palm; it could become fatally scorched if sited in full sun. Even in the comparatively weak light of a New England summer, Euphorbia lactea 'White Ghost' is probably a plant for mid-day shade.


'White Ghost' certainly keeps its chlorophyll under wraps. The newest growth is a pale tan, and only on older growth has the the milky-white coloring receded more to the center of the stems to reveal dark-green splotches up the edges. 


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Even where hardy, this euphorbia must be kept dry in the Winter. This is especially true when overwintering in a greenhouse, such as mine, that can go down to fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Although Key West is rarely that chilly, its dry season is, helpfully, also in the Winter, when temperatures are as cool as they would ever get.


The native "soil" in Florida is typically limestone sand and contains little organic matter. For Euphorbia lactea, this is good, in that the danger of rotting in the state's notoriously humid and occasionally drenching Summers is reduced. This succulent is most active in the high heat of Spring and Summer, which is another reason it tolerates such hot-season moisture. Without shelter from precipitation, this species might fail in the reverse moisture pattern of a classic Mediterranean climate, where rain and humidity peak in the Winters, and Summers are hot and dry.


Euphorbia lactea grows well in a container, so I should be able to protect mine from extremes of moisture as well as cold. 


I'll profile 'White Ghost' when I can feature a containered specimen in my garden.

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