How to Grow Slipper Plants

Slipper plant (Euphorbia lomelii) in bloom


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This exotic-looking slipper plant is the perfect choice to brighten up landscaping in hot and dry climates. A slow-growing succulent, Euphorbia lomelii sports vertical, light green stems that grow from a woody root crown. The stems are jointed, mostly unbranched, and coated in wax. Tiny green leaves grow at spread-out intervals, but slipper plants are often seen without these leaves. The foliage is short-lived and quickly falls away after emerging.

Red, slipper-shaped flowers grow to about one inch long and are the star of this all-around unique plant. The interesting blooms are where this plant gets its common name: slipper plant. Not only is this plant an eye-catching plant to observers, but it also attracts hummingbirds

Botanical Name Euphorbia lomelii
Common Name Slipper plant, lady slipper
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 3-6 ft. tall, 2-3 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Sandy, Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Bloom Time Spring, Summer, Fall
Flower Color Red, Orange, Yellow
Hardiness Zones 9-11, USA
Native Area Central America
Toxicity Toxic to pets

Slipper Plant Care

The slipper plant is a low-maintenance plant once established, making care a breeze. They are drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, and thrive in poor, dry soil. With plenty of sunshine and well-draining soil, the slipper plant can grow up to 6 feet tall and produce plentiful but short-lived red blooms. 

Their low watering needs make them perfect for xeriscaping or desert gardens. The slipper plant also grows well in containers. They do not often have problems with pests or diseases. 

Light

Full sun is needed for this plant to flower. The more sun this plant receives, the more flowers it produces.  

Soil

The slipper plant is hardy and not picky about its soil conditions or pH levels. However, the soil must be dry and well-draining for the plant to thrive.

Water

This desert dweller does not need frequent watering. Established plants are drought tolerant and may only need a couple of watering sessions a month, depending on the plant's location. This plant has been featured by water conservation campaigns as an excellent choice for water-conscious landscaping. 

Temperature and Humidity

This plant is heat-tolerant and can withstand very hot temperatures. Though native to warm regions, the slipper plant is also tolerant of cold weather and can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Younger growth is damaged by freezing temperatures, however.

Low humidity levels pose no problem for the slipper plant, thanks to its drought-tolerant nature. As a result, it can survive in even very dry climates.  

Fertilizer

This plant thrives in poor desert soil that is low in nutrients. Therefore, fertilizer is not needed. For plants grown in containers or excessively poor soil, you may provide a boost by applying fertilizer at half-strength on a monthly basis. 

Are Slipper Plants Toxic?

The sap from the slipper plant can cause skin irritation or allergic responses. If ingested, it can cause an upset stomach. Because it is not meant to be ingested, it is best to consider all parts of this plant to be toxic by keeping curious pets or children away. 

Propagating Slipper Plants

The slipper plant can be propagated by means of root division and cuttings. Because the slipper plant is slow-growing, it is not recommended to start it from seed.

To propagate by division:

  1. Using a garden shovel, gently dig up the plant’s root system by digging in a circle around the plant. 
  2. Once the plant is loosened, lift the plant out of the ground. 
  3. Using the shovel or a pair of garden snips, divide the root system into roughly equal portions. Be sure each division has healthy roots and foliage, which will support the new plant.
  4. Plant each division in its own area or container. 

To propagate from cuttings:

  1. Using clean, sharp scissors or garden snips, trim a cutting from the light green, succulent stems.
  2. Place the cutting in the shade. Allow the cutting to dry until the cut end has calloused over. 
  3. Plant the cutting in well-draining soil, place in a sunny area, and water every few days. 
  4. Gradually decrease watering to every two weeks or so.

Potting and Repotting Slipper Plants

The slipper plant grows very well in pots and makes a great choice for container gardens. This is also a good idea if you plan to grow these plants in cooler regions, since they'll be easy to move indoors during the winter months.

A large pot, around three gallons or so, is needed for mature plants. Be sure the pot drains easily to avoid any sitting water. Since the slipper plant is slow-growing, it does not need to be repotted often. However, if you notice that the plant is becoming root-bound and has outgrown its pot, gently work the root system out of the container. It may help to tip its container on its side to allow the plant to slide out. Choose one pot size up and plant the slipper plant in well-draining soil. 

Overwintering Slipper Plants

Since these plants are typically grown in areas without harsh winters, overwintering is often not a concern. The slipper plant can tolerate temperatures as low as mid-20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you live in a climate with winter temperatures that dip below this mark, then you will need to take steps to overwinter your slipper plant.

You can gently uproot the plant from the ground, being sure to unearth the root system, and then plant it in a suitable-sized container before bringing it indoors. If your slipper plant is already planted in a container, then overwintering it as simple as bringing it inside. While some plants may struggle to adjust to drier indoor air, these plants do fine in dry conditions and generally won't have trouble adapting. Find a sunny window location and water as needed.