What is a Slipper Plant?

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  • Written By: Karen Carter
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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A slipper plant is a succulent plant that belongs to the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. This cactus is an evergreen bush without any thorns. It produces tiny leaves along segmented stems. The lime green stems are half an inch (1.27 cm) in diameter and reach up to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall. The stems are joined at the bottom and spread out near the top of the plant, and they can be snapped off at the joints to keep this shrub at a certain height.

In fall and spring, orange-red, slipper-shaped flowers appear on the tubular stems. The brilliant, unusual blossoms of the slipper plant are also called redbird flowers because they resemble a bird when fully opened. These blooms attract hummingbirds searching for nectar to the garden. It is common to find this succulent under desert trees in its natural landscape.

This plant is native to the Sonora and Baja California peninsula area and Mexico. It grows wild in low desert climates. This succulent is damaged by frost.

This plant grows in the shadow of cacti and shrubs in the desert, but it can endure exposure to full sun. The slipper plant is very tolerant of drought, but it does best with some water in the late spring and summer. The plant gets enough water if it rains every other month.


The stems of the slipper plant are coated with candelilla wax or vegetable wax. This prevents the evaporation of moisture from the stems. The wax can be used to produce candles, cosmetics, chewing gum, polishes, food coatings, dyes and other products. The commercial variety of candelilla wax is obtained from the candelilla plant, which has a higher quality of wax than that of the slipper plant.

Thos plant is also known by its Latin name, Euphorbia lomelii. It is related to the poinsettia plant, which is in the spurge family as well. Its other names are Pedilanthus macrocarpus, Tithymalus macrocarpus and Tithymalodes macrocarpum.

Slipper plants make good container plants in areas where the climate is not ideal for growing outside. A heavy clay pot that will accommodate the height of this succulent should be used. If a container is not large enough to prevent the plant from tipping over, a layer of stones can be added to the bottom of the pot.

A sandy soil, such as a commercial cactus soil, works best for the slipper plant. The container should be placed on a board with wheels to make moving it easier. The plant should be brought inside whenever the weather turns cold and chilly.


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Post 4

I have a slipper plant potted in a container that I keep year round. I have this sitting outside on my patio in the warm months and bring it inside when it gets cold.

I have had this plant for about 3 years and have only had a few blooms on it. I hope as it gets bigger it will produce more blooms than it has in the past. They are a pretty orange-red color, but I just wish there were more of them.

Post 3

I have never had a slipper plant, but get a poinsettia plant every year at Christmas. The bright red leaves of this plant are very fitting for the holiday season.

Some people have had success getting these plants to flower again the next year, but I have never been able to get mine to do this. Since the slipper plant and poinsettia plant are related I wonder if hummingbirds ever visit poinsettia plants?

I have never heard of this but I don't live in an area where poinsettia plants are native. I know that hummingbirds are attracted to bright red colors, so could see why they might be interested in this plant as well.

Post 2

One thing I really like about growing slipper plants is they don't have any thorns. I love the look of cacti plants, but don't like the sharp thorns that seem to stick me every time I water them. They are also a pain if you ever want to transfer them to another pot. With slipper plants, you don't have to worry about getting poked with any thorns.

Post 1

My sister lives in the Southwest and I have seen these plants growing in this area when I visit. She refers to them as lady slipper plants. I have been there more than once when they are in bloom, and love the vibrant orange-red flowers they produce.

I only get hummingbirds during the summer months, but she has them most all year long. She has a couple of these planted by her kitchen window and is lucky enough to watch the hummingbirds come to feed on this plant when I still have freezing temperatures.

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