African Milk Bush (Euphorbia Bicompacta): Complete Plant Care & Growing Guide

African milk bush is also known as Euphorbia Bicompacta is common in the Eastern and Northern Cape of South Africa and is a perennial plant generally found on the side of roads and paths and along fences and walls. It prefers sunny areas where it can get full sun and it’s a hardy perennial herb. It grows in various habitats, including sandy soil, clay, and even shaded forest floors. It can grow in hot, dry climates and can even tolerate salty soils. 

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The native habitat of the plant is the tropical and subtropical dry forests of Africa. It is also found growing in parts of the Sahara Desert, Asia and North America. The plant grows in areas with high humidity and a low amount of rainfall. In these habitats, the plant can grow on sand dunes, rocky outcrops, and clay soils. The plant does tolerate limited sunlight, so you will find this plant thriving in shady places.

Scientific Name
Euphorbia Bicompacta

Scientific classification
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Genus: Euphorbia
Species: E. grantii
Binomial name
Euphorbia grantii

Plant Characteristics.

A milk bush can be easily distinguished by its tall, bushy appearance and its dark green leaves, which are up to 7 inches long. It has short stems that are usually covered in a greyish-white waxy powder. The waxy powder gives the milk bush its common name, ‘milkbush,’. In addition, the leaves have an unpleasant smell when crushed. The leaves taste pretty bitter if ingested, and they are extremely toxic.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones 10a (30 °F)
  • USDA Hardiness Zone 10b: (35 °F)
  • USDA Hardiness Zone 11: (40 °F)

Milk Bush Habitat.

The milk bush prefers to grow in hot, humid regions such as tropical forests, savannas, shrubland, and even coastal areas. It thrives in hot, dry climates with high humidity, but it can also survive in low humidity areas. The plant will grow in areas that get few inches of rain per year. The plant can tolerate low water levels in the soil; thus, it does well in saline soils. It can even tolerate some shade and drought, but the best conditions are full sun and a medium amount of moisture. It is tolerant to a degree of salty soils, but you won’t find too many this plant thriving in places that have too much salinity in its soil.

African milk bush

Care and Cultivation.

Propagation of this plant is made through seed or from cuttings. When growing the plant from seeds, start your seeds early in the spring, so they have time to develop into plants before the weather turns warm. Alternatively, seeds need to be sown at least about three months before the first frost. Growing your plants from seedlings can take up to a year, so buying a little more matured plant is better than starting your own. The milk bush seeds need regular watering to germinate, but after the seedlings have sprouted, they can get away with having a bit less water. As soon as the seedlings are large enough, it would be best to keep watering at a minimum and ensure your plant is not overwatered.

Remember that it will be best to have moist soils to give your plants a suitable environment for growth especially when your plant is still young. If you have a pot, plant your seeds in it and then transplant them into a larger container once they have grown into seedlings. Milkbush can also be cultivated from cuttings but bear in mind that you should keep the plants in a location that gets plenty of light to allow plant to thrive.

African Milk Bush

Indoor Care.

The milk bush can be used as an indoor houseplant or placed in a window that gets a lot of sunlight. When growing the plant indoors, you can place it near a window or where your plant will be exposed to the most amount of sunlight and keep your indoor plant at temperatures between 21-27° C. The soil in your pot for your milk bush needs to be kept moist so strive to add enough water so that the soil remains moist, this is particularly important if you have a young plant. If you don’t, your plants may die off due to their soil drying out. Ensure that you fertilize your indoor plant if you want it to grow bigger and healthier. You can use a liquid fertilizer or an organic fertilizer such as kelp, which contains all the nutrients your plant needs. You can also add compost or peat moss to your soil to make it more nutrient-rich. The plant also loves to have a bit of room to breathe, so you should give it a container large enough in its diameter. Planting your milk bush indoors is easy to do, but you should watch out for any pests and get rids of them as soon as they are discovered. 


The planting process for the milk bush is quite simple. First, you must prepare the soil, plant the seeds, and keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. If you want to plant the seeds in pots, ensure that the soil is not too dry. You can also plant the seeds directly into the ground, but make sure that the soil is moist. Next, fertilize your plants if you want them to grow big and healthy. You can use a liquid fertilizer or an organic fertilizer such as kelp, which contains all the nutrients your plant needs. You can also add compost or peat moss to your soil to make it more nutrient-rich. The plant also loves to have a bit of room to breathe, so ensure that your container or pot is large enough to allow your plants roots to easily spread. 

African milk bush

Sowing & Germination:

Ensure that your soil is not too dry when sowing your seeds and strive to keep its soil moist with pH levels between 6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic). The seeds will germinate within 7-14 days and its environment will need to be kept at temperatures between 20-25° C. Keep the seeds warm during this time, and then you can plant them once they have sprouted. If you have your plant in a pot, you can plant transplant them into a larger container once they have grown into seedlings. 

African Milk Bush: Growth Rate

Milk bush seeds can take up to three to four weeks to germinate, but in some cases longer. The seeds can either be direct-seeded or they can be sown in seed trays and then transplanted into bigger containers. If you want your seeds to germinate within two weeks, then you should sow them in soil that has been kept moist. Make sure that you don’t leave your seeds too wet because this will cause them to rot. You should also make sure that you have a location that gets lots of light.

  • Growth & Size: The size of the milk bush varies. 
  • Height: The milk bush can grow up to 23 feet tall, but it can grow as low as 1 foot tall.
  • Width: The milk bush leaves can be about 7 inches wide.
  • Flowering: The milk bush has yellow flowers.

African Milk Bush: Flower

The African milk bush usually blooms from April through July, although it can bloom at any time of year. The flower of this plant is yellow in color. You can expect your African milk bush plants to start flowering around October in certain areas. You can expect to have your plants flower for about 6-8 weeks and once the plants are fully bloomed, you should cut them back to encourage further and new growth.  

Soil & Transplanting

Ensure that the soil is well-drained. If your soil has too much clay, then you may need to add sand to make the soil loamy. You should also make sure that you add enough fertilizer to your soil. The soil for your plants should be kept moist, but it shouldn’t be too wet when transplanting. When you are planting the seeds, you should make sure that they have enough space between the seedlings to allow for proper growth. 

African Milk Bush

African Milk Bush: Light & Temperature.

You should use a light source that has a high amount of light during the day. If you don’t have enough light, then you should add some artificial lights. You should make sure that the temperature is not too cold. African milk bush needs a lot of sunlight to grow well. If you want to grow your milk bush outside, then you will need to allow maximum sunlight exposure to your plant.  If you don’t have enough sunlight, your plant may not do too well. 

Common Pests & Diseases.

African Milk Bush Insect Pests: You shouldn’t worry about the African milk bush because it is very toxic and may not be palatable to most pest. However, some insects can affect it. Some of the pests include aphids, caterpillars, ants, and whiteflies. Pests can cause damage to the leaves, stems, and flowers. If you notice any pests on your plants, then you should try to get rid of them by using insecticides. If you notice any whiteflies, then you should spray them with insecticidal soap. Other issues with this plant include root rot and leaf spot. Ensure that you keep the soil around the plant moist. The milk bush is fairly drought-resistant and will survive in poor soil. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is African Milk Bush poisonous?

Milk bush is considered to be a very toxic plant so, ensure that you thoroughly wash your hands when you handle this plant and before eating.


African milk bush is a fast-growing plant. It is also straightforward to grow. It can be used as a decoration, and it is an excellent plant for your garden

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