Spurge, otherwise known as Euphorbia, is that cool plant you can have just one, or you can get the bug and try out several species. The ones on “Spotlight” here are some of the most popular shrub and ground cover types readily available to buy.
As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been focusing lately on California’s Mediterranean climate with long dry summers…
The Euphorbias discussed below come from another Mediterranean climate region, Europe.
Let’s take a look…
Euphorbia amygdaloides – Wood spurge. Europe and western Asia. It can grow to 2′ though many cultivated forms tend to be smaller, like E. a ‘Robbiae’ and E. a Purpurea. Deep green leaves of E. amygdaloides are loosely set around the stems and flower clusters are open and rise far above the foliage around mid-spring and lasting into summer, at the coast.
Euphorbia ceratocarpa – Italy and Sicily. Late spring flowering with a long flowering season. Floral show with cheery yellow bracts and leaves at the shoot tips. Growth: Open plant with slender stems growing nearly erect to – 5 feet tall.
Euphorbia characias – Shrubby plants growing 2′ to 5′ tall. Woody base sends out several leafy and thick stems. The leaves are long and narrow to 4″ making them very unique. Add to that an interesting bluish green leaf color and then watch the flower clusters unfold in late winter (at the tip ends of 2nd year stems) until they become broad towers as much as a foot long. Color: Brilliant chartreuse to yellow color floral leaves and bracts, with flowers bright green. Color lasts for several weeks. Hardy to 0-10 degrees F. Subspecies: wulfenii is large to 4 feet while cultivar ‘Portuguese Velvet’ grows smaller.
Euphorbia cyparissias – Cypress spurge. Europe. Awesome plant for borders or to use as a ground cover. Enjoy its loveliness in spring when it’s covered in umbrella shaped flower clusters glowing with bright greenish yellow bracts. Cypress spurge’s billowy one foot mounds grow by rhizomes, which means that you may have to rogue out some volunteer shoots in unwanted places.Euphorbia x martinii – Here is a spurge to grow in heavier clay soils! Growing smaller than Euphorbia characias, (one of its parents) but still with the bright green chartreuse leaves and bract flowers that elevate significantly above the foliage and are several inches long. Other parent, amygdeloides, might be responsible for bringing out the lovely reddish purple shading when young. Hardy to 10 degrees or less.
Euphorbia myrsinites – Donkey Tail Spurge. Southern Europe. This drought tolerant perennial grows to a captivating mound with thick prostrate stems originating from a narrow base. (Stems sprawl or trail with spiraling grey-blue leaves). In spring, shoot tips carry unique large yellow flower clusters. Great for rock gardens and dry garden ground cover. Hardy to 0 degrees or less.
What are your favorite Euphorbias?
CAUTION – It’s important to handle this plant with care, especially when pruning. Euphorbias have a toxic milky sap which can irritate your skin so it’s best to wear gloves and protect your skin, and, definitely skip this plant in “a Kid Friendly Garden!”