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Welcome to My Little Garden
Welcome to My Little Garden

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Tropical Garden, Batu Caves, Malaysia
Gardening is part of my life and I want to share that portion of my zeal and joy with you. These are my thoughts, my experiences and life work. I hope it enrich and add value to you too.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Zig Zag Plant

To have or not to have.
What if all the neighbours around your surrounding area plants this same plant - Would you consider planting this plant in your garden? That is the underlining questions that makes my garden.

That question about gardening - keeping it in common terms - would want to keep my garden different from my neighbours (OK - I'm repeating myself again) or consider all those hardy easy plants planted with minimum care.

It would be a folly to purchase this plant, its so easy to take care & propagate that I think many nurseries would have wished this planted had spend it days and died (since this plant is so successful, you don't need to buy this plant a second time) but I guess its a curse, probably that's why they call it the Devil's Backbone?
(Hmm.. why the Devil's Backbone - expect it to be twisted?)

I had found this huge plant cut and thrown out - more like a castaway. Its just one plant with many branches - many I mean about 20 or so (with mini-branches from the secondary stalk) - that's quite heavy for one plant to bear. Regardless, when I found it it was bare without leaves - just those zigzag branch. Thought that was exotic - sort of those modern contemporary garden idea theme - a garden without leaves?

Anyway, I have finally decided to invite this plant in, no worries about it's survival, very aware that this one never dies, unless its drowned with tonnes of over watering - otherwise I never heard this plant had ever died. Ahh! Yes - forgot to mention - another rescued plant.

The first two pictures where taken in Jinjang near my mother in law place. Someone had an open concept in gardening without fence - these are by the street side. I guess it must be the variegated type - Didn't realise that the ones I have was lacking the white & pink tinge - probably the good sunlight may have attributed to the colour.

Finally the leaves in my zigzag showed up, but they have given those green tones which is somehow goes well with my variegated collection. Good thing I didn't regret bringing this one in.

Some information about this plant:
Common name: Devil's backbone, Zigzag plant, Jacob's ladder
(Pedilanthus tithymaloides)
Family: Euphorbiaceae

1) Drought resistant - over watering can cause root rot.

2) Keep it slightly dry. If the plant gets too dry, it will drop all of its leaves but won't die and will recover when given water.

3) This plant is in the Euphorbia family which its sap can be slightly toxic.

4) Propagation: Just take short cuttings and press it in the soil but allow the milky sap on cuttings to dry out before planting. You can even leave it out for few days to dry before planting - just as planting any succulent & cactus plants.
( I had kept this aside for few weeks until got the time to purchase the soil & pots - so they are really really hardy plant)


  1. I do tend to stay away from plants that are overused in the landscape. But, sometimes I make an exception because there is usually a good reason that a particular plant is often used :^)

  2. I love these as houseplants (ref.), so it'd be an easy decision for me: I'd take it, propagate it, and plant them all over.

    I don't really understand worrying about whether or not you should plant something just because the neighbors all have them. I mean, if you're tired of looking at them in everybody else's yards, then maybe you shouldn't bother in your own. But it's your garden, not everybody else's. No?

  3. I love the Devil's Backbone plant. It does very well over here in Central Florida as well.

    I know what you mean, though. When I moved here, I definitely noticed which plants were most common and avoided them like the plague in my first big planting phase. But...I've since come to grips with the fact that these plants are so popular because they're so easy. I have used them so much more in later planting phases...bottlebrush, camellias, viburnums, hawthorns, and date palms come to mind.

  4. Devil's backbone plant is everywhere here in PJ especially at those 'older' homes. It's one of those plants that were planted long time ago and still popular. The nurseries are still selling them. I saw some with a little pink. But I was not sure if there are new hybrids or new leaves. It's an unusual looking plant to have in the garden. Good that you rescued it :-D

  5. Hi James, I had a zigzag plant but somehow some time ago, it got lost. I must say I was never really exited about it, I don't know why, as it is a pretty and interesting plant. My neighbour and I have many plants in common as we share with each other new and old plants.
    If I like a plant it does not matter to me if somebody else plants it too. The gardens here are big and secluded.

  6. I too try to steer clear of overused landscape plants here - I call them the "roundabout" plants as they seem to be planted at every roundabout - but some are worthwhile in the garden - just like this one of yours which I had never heard of till I came over here. This is'nt seen on the housemarket scene here either in the UK - maybe because of its toxicity. Lovely plant leaves - it looks like the leaves of a cornus.

  7. That is a good looking plant. I like to be different, too, but if lots of people were growing a plant I really loved, I would go ahead and plant it. I'm a bit afraid of the euphorbias that grow around here. Most are quite spready. I just have one kind, and pull out any runners I see.

    I had to laugh about your hair dryer comment on my blog. I hope all the snow is melted soon.

  8. Thanks Noelle, Mr.Subjunctive, Floridagirl, Stephanie, Titania, Rosie & Sue.
    For your thoughtful comments.

    It doesn't trouble me to have the same plants as what the neighbours have. I guess it sort of the Asean thing not to have the same garden plants as that would indicate a copy-cat factor.
    Especially when my garden is mostly open for all to see from my house - practically nothing is hidden.
    Regardless, at the end of the day - like what Mr.Subjunctive mentioned: Its my garden and so Im the master of what I decide to plant (what stays & what goes)

    Like Stephanie mentioned - I remember zigzag as an "old-world garden" here as they had been planted ages ago. And that might subconcious may have triggered that I don't what to be identified as an "old gardener"
    Perhaps (lol)

  9. I am thinking of growing this one. Yours is doing fine and I see a tinge of pink among the leaves. I have seen a revival of these plants around my neighbourhood.

  10. First time here...your blog is lovely. following you.
    You got a great collection of foliage. I have similar ones, but didn't have all the names - now i do...see you around.

  11. Your plant is so healthy and have such beautiful variegation...the pink tinge is so attractive! James, is its sap that oozes when cut toxic? I remember planting a solid green variety many years ago that caused a skin allergy for me when in contact with its sap during a pruning session. Since then I've never dared plant this variegated beauty even though I'm very attracted to it.

  12. Belle - Do grow them Belle, they are very hardy. The pink tinge are taken (pic) near Jinjang area. Somehow I realise that they appear when receive good sunlight.

    Urban Green - Thanks & welcome. Good to know that you can identify them. Hope to hear from you more often.

    Jacqueline - The sap does oozes out and Im very careful when I attend to this one but comparing this to dumbcane - I found dumbcane seemed to be very toxic and had severely caused much pain than the zigzag. Do wear gloves if you intend to introduce this one in your garden.
    I had not pruned any of it since I last planted this plant. They are slow growers.

  13. mary usa mo.
    i have a good size devils back bone and i was told it would blooms is this so cause mine has never blood, and can i set it out side in the summer mary from missouri

  14. mary usa mo.
    Devil backbone needs good sunlight for it to bloom.

  15. KLbalconynovicegardenerJune 18, 2012 at 3:00 AM

    Thanks allot. I saw this plant in Tesco last night - the flowers looked like little pink birds facing each other and the foliage was unique - there was no lable on the name of the plant . Due to the thick green stems and leave appearance I thought this was a succulent and can live in partial shade. I live in apartement block and only able to garden on the balcony. After goggling all night on what can be the possible plant name -using keywords like bird like flowers and finally able to locate it using zig zag stem and at your website.

  16. KL balcony novice gardener,
    Glad to note that my blog helped you in your search for the ID.
    I'm guessing that the plant you have is a new hybrid but of the same similar species of this zig-zag plant.
    The plant is quite hardy - just watch out for overwatering as they might tend to rot.

  17. I found this plant several years ago,and gave mom some and I couldn't believe how fast it grew and how big it got.for me in the summer time it had 2 toned green leves some time green and white,but during the cold months the leaves started turning red,thought wow that's interesting.i lost mine but now I see they grow like crazy my sis has moms plant in her yard she wont miss a couple cuttings plusi might do same for her and she wont miss what I took.shes gonna freak when she sees them start to over grow her big pot heehee

  18. Can someone please give me a devil backbone plant. marypage56@yahoo.com. I just love this plant. I'm from Brewton Alabama but I live in Northfield Ohio now. .

  19. Is the zig zag plant a succulent plant ??? I would appreciate it. Thanks

  20. A splendid plant I have long admired it (in Southern Australia) but had to come to Thailand to actually buy one!! Nice blog.


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