How to Grow a Mermaid Tail Succulent: A Magical and Low-Maintenance Plant

Coral cactus (Euphorbia lactea Cristata, mermaid tail) plants against white background

If you’re looking for a unique and magical plant to add to your collection, look no further than the mermaid tail succulent, also known as crested senecio vitalis or narrow-leaf chalksticks. This rare plant, native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa, is highly sought after for its flattened stem and cactus-like bumps, which give it the appearance of a mermaid’s tail or whale tail. Here’s everything you need to know to grow your own mermaid tail plant.

Euphorbia Lactea is also known by the common name, Mermaid Tail. Both plants share most of their morphological attributes except for their’ leaves,’ and similar husbandry protocols work for them.

Choosing the Right Light Source

The mermaid tail succulent prefers a light shade to direct sunlight, making it a perfect addition to a sunny spot in your living room or garden fillers. While it can tolerate low light, it won’t thrive in dimly lit areas. It’s also important to protect it from too much direct sun, which can cause its blue-green foliage to scorch.

Getting the Right Soil Mix

Like all succulent plants, the mermaid tail succulent requires well-draining soil to avoid root rot and fungal infections. A mix of sandy soil and fresh soil with a drainage hole is a good idea. You can also add some perlite or coarse sand to improve drainage.

Mermaid's Tail Succulent Overhead view of a green spiny cactus. A green cactus close up with sharp white spikes in it and more cactus in the background in nature

Watering Your Mermaid Tail Plant

The mermaid tail succulent is a low-maintenance succulent, making it a great choice for first-time plant owners. It prefers low water during dry periods and is a winter grower. Water it only when the soil is dry to the touch, and be sure to avoid excess water, which can lead to fungal infections. In the winter, you can reduce watering even more to avoid overwatering.

Feeding Your Mermaid Tail Plant

A half-strength liquid fertilizer can be used during the growing season to supplement its nutrient requirements. However, it’s not necessary for the plant’s survival.

Common Problems and How to Solve Them

Like all plants, the mermaid tail succulent can suffer from a few common problems. Here are some tips on how to solve them:

  • Fungal infections: To prevent fungal infections, ensure that the soil is well-drained and avoid excess water. If you notice any signs of fungi infections, remove the affected area and replant in fresh soil.
  • Spider mites: Spider mites are tiny pests that can damage your plant. To prevent them, regularly mist your plant and keep it away from any other infected plants.
  • Purple tips: If you notice the tips of your plant turning purple, it’s a sign of sunburn. Move your plant to a shadier spot to protect it from direct sunlight.

Where to Find a Mermaid Tail Succulent

The mermaid tail succulent is a rare plant and is in high demand. Your best bet for finding one is at a local plant store or online. It’s important to ensure that the plant is legal in your area and is safe to grow in your hardiness zone.

We love these Mermaid Tails from Woos Garden. 3ExoticGreens also has nice succulents including Mermaid Tail (Euphorbia lactea/Crested Cactus).

Mermaid's Tail Close-up of a euphorbia lactea cristata

Propagating a Mermaid Tail Succulent

Propagating a mermaid tail succulent is an easy way to get new plants and expand your collection. Here are two methods you can use:

  1. Stem Cutting Propagation

Stem-cutting propagation is the most common method of propagating a mermaid tail succulent.

Here are the steps:

  • Use a clean, sharp knife or scissors to cut a stem from the plant. Choose a healthy stem with no signs of damage or disease.
  • Leave the stem to dry for a few days to allow the cut end to heal and form a callus.
  • Once the cut end has dried, dip it into a rooting hormone to encourage root growth.
  • Plant the cutting in well-draining soil and keep it in a bright, indirect light until it has established roots. Water it sparingly, and only when the soil is dry to the touch.
  • After a few weeks, you should start to see new growth from the stem cutting.
  1. Leaf Propagation

Leaf propagation is a less common method of propagating a mermaid tail succulent, but it can be effective if done correctly.

Here are the steps:

  • Choose a healthy leaf from the plant and remove it cleanly from the stem. Make sure the leaf is fully intact and has no damage or disease.
  • Allow the leaf to dry for a few days to form a callus.
  • Once the callus has formed, place the leaf on top of well-draining soil and mist it lightly with water.
  • Keep the leaf in a bright, indirect light and make sure the soil stays moist but not wet. After a few weeks, you should start to see new growth from the base of the leaf.
  • As the new growth develops, you can transplant it into its own pot and care for it as you would a mature mermaid tail succulent.

Propagating a mermaid tail succulent can be a fun and rewarding way to expand your plant collection. Whether you choose to propagate through stem cuttings or leaf propagation, make sure you use clean tools and keep your new plants in a well-draining soil with adequate light and water. With a little patience and care, you’ll soon have a beautiful new crop of mermaid tail succulents to enjoy.


The mermaid tail succulent, also known as crested senecio vitalis or narrow-leaf chalksticks, is a unique and low-maintenance succulent with a magical appearance. With the right light source, soil mix, and water requirements, you can grow your own mermaid tail plant and add it to your plant collection. Remember to keep it in a well-drained soil, protect it from direct sunlight, and avoid excess water to keep it healthy and thriving.

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