Devil’s Backbone Plant Care

Author: Eugeniu V.

Published on 16.09.2022

Devil’s backbone plant is a succulent that has numerous names. You may know those beauties as the zig-zag plant, Japanese poinsettia, Jacob’s ladder, and even the Persian lady slipper plant. Those beauties are native to the tropical environment. They can be found in wild throughout the Central part of America and Mexico

What Does Devil’s Backbone Plant Looks Like? 

The plant belongs to the spurge family. It is famous for its beautiful variegated foliage. Variegations are the perfect blend of white and green. Those Devil’s backbone plant does not produce real flowers. Yet, they have beautiful leaf bracts that are red in color and have somewhat shoe shape. The rosy blush color is caused by the warm weather and sunlight. 

Devil’s backbone plant is famous greenery for both indoors and outdoors. Yet, they like to be in frost-free climates. Those beauties grow pretty slowly. The red “flowers”, which are truly the leaf bracts do not have any smell or fragrance.

Those beauties can grow 3 to 4 feet tall. It comes with thick foliage and oval-shaped leaves. The leaves end with pointed tips. As the plant grows older, the foliage gets thicker. And by the time it reaches maturity, has quite a bushy visual. 


Devil’s Backbone Plant Care


This plant may be grown in any rich potting soil as long as the drainage is adequate. Peat moss, Vermiculite, and a little amount of sand can be added to the soil to help maintain it evenly moist but not soggy. For good drainage, it is recommended to place your greenery in the clay pot. Do not forget the drainage holes. 

You can either prepare the potting mix for Devil’s backbone plant at home. Also, you can get the special soil that those beauties will like. Such mixes are cactus soil and succulent mix.

Water Requirement

Even though it is a tropical plant, the zigzag plant dislikes moist soil. If your home is dry, misting it sometimes helps keep it healthy and replicate the plant's ideal natural environment. This plant prefers equally wet soil. Yet, you should avoid overwatering it since it might develop root rot. 

Although the zigzag plant can withstand dryness, it likes to be moist. Water often in the summer. Yet, make sure to decrease the watering to moderate in spring and fall. In winter, hydrate your devil’s backbone plant rarely. During that time, the evaporation is low. Therefore, frequent watering can cause root rot.

Light, Temperature, And Humidity

Give the zigzag plant a location indoors where it can get enough filtered light. Put it away from the windows and doors that are often open. Drafts can bring some trouble to those plants. Although it does best in a temperature range of 60 to 70 F (15-20°C), it can endure lows of 50 F (10°C) and highs of 80 F (26°C) with no difficulty. Avoid excessive amounts of direct sunlight since it will burn the foliage.

Sunlight is essential for this succulent plant. It thrives at a location with all-day sunshine. USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11 are the suggested growth range. Move the plant inside throughout the winter if it gets below 40 Fahrenheit (5°C). It's a tropical plant that requires both moisture and sunlight. If maintained in a humid environment, it may survive inside at room temperature.


Zigzag plants may thrive without fertilizer. Yet, a summertime nitrogen boost will help the plant develop and grow. It especially affects the growth of reddish flower-like bracts. Give the fertilizer during the growing season. This will provide additional help. Stop feeding the plant in the fall and winter. This will give it time to rest. Too much fertilizer might result in weak or lanky growth. 

It is recommended to use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. The perfect ratio for those plants will be 15:15:15. yet the flowering formula is 7:9:5.  Avoid using high-nitrogen fertilizer since the plant will only produce leaves and no blooms.

We suggest feeding with a diluted fertilizer solution of 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water. From the beginning of spring until the end of the summer, apply the mixture every two weeks, being careful not to get the solution on the foliage. To avoid root burn, fertilizer should always be added to damp soil. Reduce giving the fertilizer if the plant grows an enormous amount of foliage but shows no signs of blooming.


Cuttings can be used to propagate the devil’s backbone plant. Early June is the perfect time to take stem cuttings. You may take several cuttings with just one leaf on each. They should be between three and four inches long.

Let the cutting dry out for some time. Sap has to be dried and the cut has to start healing. For the soil, use the perlite and sand mix and get it moist. Regular potting soil can also do the job. This way, after developing the roots, repotting is not required. 

Pests And Diseases

There aren't many pests that concern the devil’s backbone plant, although occasionally spider mites can be a problem. When this is a problem, the foliage can become dull. To get rid of the mites, gently wipe the leaves with a cotton ball that has been dampened. 

Regarding ailments, you can discover that your plant is relatively prone to powdery mildew. The absence of ventilation or congested circumstances is the typical culprits for this. To improve airflow and give the plant more room, consider repotting it. You may use a cotton ball and a diluted mixture of apple cider vinegar. Carefully clean the leaves with cotton. Additionally, you can also make a solution that can be sprayed. You can do this by mixing warm water and dish soap. 

Toxicity Of Devil’s Backbone Plant

Remember, that the Devil’s backbone plant can be very toxic to both pets and humans. Every part of this plant can bring harm. So, when caring for it, make sure not to get the milky sap on your hands. It can cause skin irritation. Touching the green foliage, roots, and stem itself does not bring harm. 

Bottom Line

In this article, we discussed beautifully and loved the devil’s backbone plant. Those amazing greeneries can be located either indoors or outdoors. They make the perfect addition to any house or garden. Easy to care for, they do not require much. If you give a little love and attention, they will thrive and be happy and healthy.