Euphorbia obesa, also known as the baseball plant, is a succulent plants that make excellent indoor houseplants. Their most striking characteristic is the unusual form of its leaves, reminiscent of baseballs, hence their common name (e.g., Euphorbium means “spurge” or “spurge-plant”).
Euphorbia obesa plants produce pretty white flowers with yellow centers and rank high among the top succulent Euphorbias as far as ease of care and beauty is concerned.
These Euphorbias have several names, due to their resemblance to a baseball bat or different types of meat. They are native to Madagascar.
Euphorbia obesa plants require the bright light of an east window although they do better in a shadier spot than most euphorbias which have thin leaves and stems such as ‘Sticks on Fire’ or Euphorbia tirucalli.
Euphorbia obesa plants have a unique appearance. They are covered with long and pointed leaves that resemble a baseball bat. Their flowers appear in summer and autumn, they are small and waxy white with yellow centers.
The succulent Euphorbia obesa plants produce very little, if any, natural fertilizer. For this reason, they need to be fed regularly with a commercial cactus plant fertilizer such as Osmocote or Peter’s Professional 20-20-20 Fertilizer.
These fertilizers are high in nitrogen which stimulates the growth of new leaves. Water the plant when the soil is dry to the touch, but do not allow it to get completely dried out. Keep an eye on the plant and water again if needed.
In winter, water less frequently as growth slows down considerably during this time of the year due to lower temperatures and shorter days.
How to propagate Euphorbia obesa ‘baseball plant’
Like most succulents, Euphorbia obesa generally propagates by separating off cuttings and allowing them to dry for a few days before planting them in lightly shaded, gritty soil.
The cutting should be at least 10 cm long. Smaller cuttings are likely to dry out and die before they root. Larger cuttings, on the other hand, are almost certain to root, provided there is enough moisture.
Cutting from a parent plant will root faster and give more uniform results than cuttings taken from another. (Plants also tend to be slightly different in appearance.)
Cuttings can be given bottom heat using a heat mat or seedling heat mat, but bottom heat is probably not necessary for the health of the plant.
Cutting off a leaf and planting the base will sometimes produce plants with shorter roots. These are often called “pups” as they resemble animal offspring. Pups can have thicker stems than cuttings from lower parts of the plant’s trunk and their leaves tend to grow faster. They can sometimes be produced by simply rubbing away the top half of a leaf-cutting so that only part of the stem remains below the cut.
Planting Euphorbia obesa ‘baseball plant’
When planting cuttings and pups, lay them on their sides, with their leaves facing down (apart from pups). The original leaves should not have been removed, but new leaves will emerge from the top of the cutting after a few weeks.
The main reason for planting cuttings in this way is to avoid creating air pockets in the soil that can prevent roots from developing. It also helps keep the leaf surface flat in contact with the soil, which may give slightly better results when rooting occurs, keeping the ends of cuttings dry until they are planted and can help improve results.
If using a sand/soil mix, avoid putting too much soil over the base of the cutting (as this will prevent water from reaching its leaves). When first planted, it may be necessary to support pups by placing them on a little mound of soil.
Prune off any dead leaves, but try not to disturb the root system.
Propagation from seed
Seed is usually produced in spring at the same time as buds start to form. The seeds can take up to six months to germinate (sometimes longer). If a board with seed litter is kept well watered, good results may be obtained by sowing the seeds in spring or summer and planting the seedlings out in autumn (avoiding frost damage as this usually kills them if they have not already been hardened off properly).
Euphorbia obesa seeds usually require no treatment before sowing, but may be boosted by soaking them in hot water for a few minutes. This is not essential, however, and the seeds can be planted directly into normal seed mixes. Clearing debris from around the base of the parent plant regularly will help to ensure better germination.
If the parent plants are in pots (instead of growing outdoors), they can be overwintered in a cold greenhouse and transplanted early the following spring.
An alternative method is to sow seeds into pots or seed trays indoors and then harden off the seedlings before planting them out later in spring/early summer (May). The seedlings can be planted out in their permanent positions later (avoiding frost damage as this usually kills them if they have not been hardened off properly).
After germination, seedlings should be turned around after a few weeks to ensure even growth and development.
General care information for how to propagate euphorbia obesa ‘baseball plant’
Euphorbia obesa plants require bright light to maintain their variegated leaf coloration. The amount of light needed depends on the growing conditions, which can range from full sunlight to no direct sun at all. In general, these plants do better in a little more light than they get outdoors in the shade under trees and other vegetation.
A window with partial sun exposure is a good, consistent place to put Euphorbia obesa, but they will also thrive in bright indoor rooms. Dark leaves usually mean the plant needs more light.
Soil should be well-drained and this plant will grow in most soils but performs best in soil that has been amended with organic matter. It may grow well in clay or sandy soil, as long as it is not allowed to dry out. The cacti do not need the best quality potting mix, hence any potting mix that has organic substances should be fine.
Euphorbia obesa should be grown in a very free-draining soil mix. A suitable mixture would be 3 parts of peat and 1 part each perlite or sand (or 2:1:1).
Euphorbia obesa is an epiphytic plant, meaning it will grow naturally in environments with little soil (on rocks and trees). Creating the best growing environment for an epiphyte is difficult because they are used to minimal amounts of soil. The soil should never be allowed to dry out and can be watered more frequently than other types of plants.
Apply a mulch to the soil surface in the summer months. This will help prevent evaporation and also stop the ground from drying out, especially if under full sun. Do not apply too thick mulch or it can become an ideal breeding place for slugs.
If leaves start to turn brown at their tips, this can be a sign of overwatering. This can sometimes also cause water spots on the leaves, especially after rain.
As mentioned above, only give pups a little food at first so that they do not rot (especially if kept in full sun). Cuttings usually root at their bases and so do not need any supplementary feeding.
Watering your baseball plant should be fairly light (but regular), with little or no standing water in saucers. Try to keep the soil neither too dry nor too wet. Excessive watering can sometimes cause rot of cuttings that are still rooting as well as rotting the tips of pups. It is much harder to correct this problem, so it is rather better to simply under-water.
Cutting may be fed with a dilute (1:5) solution of Organic Tomato food (for example). A little more can be given after 6 months if growth appears slow. Avoid feeding pups at first.
After 6 months or so, basal cuttings will probably have rooted. This can be determined by gently tugging on a leaf to see if it is firmly attached to the base of the cutting.
If the leaves are still central, it is best to leave the cutting in place for another 6 months or so (by which time it should have rooted). If a leaf has been removed by mistake then no harm will be done by replacing it as soon as possible.
Pups that show no sign of rooting after several months can be repotted, or the top part (including the roots) can be used as a cutting.
Euphorbia obesa cuttings and pups are very free-flowering, with many flowers produced on each stem.
The baseball plant does well with a light fertilization regimen, using any of the common fertilizers for succulents. Unlike some euphorbias, they seem to appreciate being watered more than once per week during their growing season and will grow faster and better with more water as long as it doesn’t get soggy or cold overnight*.
A light compost or other organic fertilizer is best to use since it won’t leach and are full of micronutrients that most succulents can’t get enough of.
Feed pups from the end of summer to early autumn every 6-8 weeks with a dilute solution of organic tomato food (e.g. at 1:5 ratio). It’s best to feed on alternate days, not daily as this can cause leaf tips to rot and dry out.
The best temperature for growing Euphorbia obesa is between 60°F and 70°F. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 40°F, but the plant will grow significantly slower.
One of the most common issues with growing the baseball plant is that its temperature is too low during the resting stage (when it does not have any leaves). When a stem reaches 2 years old, it goes through a resting phase where all of the energy is used to grow a bulb underground.
If the temperature is too cold during this time, the plant will die because it cannot replenish its energy supply. The best temperatures are between 60°F and 70°F with minimal light and no water for 1 year (this includes not watering from the top).
At the end of the resting period, if the temperature has been properly regulated, the plant should produce a new stem and leaves.
The baseball plant should be kept in a well-ventilated area, where humidity ranges from 50 to 80%. The soil should be kept moist at all times.
The best time to prune Euphorbia obesa is early in spring. The leaves and stems can be removed, but keep the base of the plant intact with a few branches so that it can produce more stems and leaves. This should be done when new shoots are about 2 inches tall.
Euphorbia obesa plant grows extremely slowly, so it should only be repotted every few years. The best time to repot is when the plant is actively growing (usually in the spring).
Place it in a pot that is about 1-2 inches larger than its current pot. It can also be propagated by cuttings, but this will take much longer than waiting for a new bulb to grow.
It’s best to put Euphorbia obesa at least 8 inches apart from each other, but they can also be grown in a single pot together. If they are planted too close together or have the same schedule of watering and feeding, one plant will take all of the nutrients from the soil and will eventually kill its neighbor.
The baseball plant is extremely slow-growing. It takes at least two years for a new leaf or stems to appear, and it may take 3 or 4 years before the bulb produces flowers.
Euphorbia obesa usually produces its first flower when it reaches 5 years old, but there are records of flowering taking place after only 1 year. The flower is 3-4 inches wide and usually has a dark red center.
This plant can be grown outdoors in hardiness zones 10 and up.
The baseball plant is not toxic or harmful to humans.
Pests and diseases