Commonly known as “spurge”, this striking plant is well known for its unusual architectural shapes and are the perfect way to add character and clout to your garden.
What is euphorbia?
Euphorbia is a large and diverse genus with over two thousand species all with unique colours and many sporting extraordinarily shaped leaves.
Euphorbia can be shrubs, annuals, perennials, evergreens or succulents and are hugely diverse in shape, colour and size.
These plants are easy to care for and are a perfect way to add depth and dichotomy to gardens, making them hugely popular worldwide.
Choosing the euphorbia that’s right for your garden
As mentioned, there are thousands of species of euphorbia so it can be quite a daunting task to decide which variety will best suit your garden, so we have put together a list to help guide you to the perfect Spurge for you.
Arguably one of the most famous euphorbias, Christmas poinsettias is easily identified by its large, red, star-shaped bracts.
This species flowers from December to January and with its festive colours it is easy to see why it has become such a popular Christmas decoration.
Originally hailing from Mexico, this species is widely grown indoors over the festive period, but often people throw them out along with the Christmas tree when the holidays are over.
However, with patience and care, Christmas poinsettias can be kept and cared for all year round and will reward you with their beautifully coloured bracts the following year.
This funky, fir cone-shaped fellow is the perfect addition to a rock garden but will also do well in soil with good drainage in a hot, dry, sunny location.
Needing virtually no care once established the euphorbia myrsinites will grow no higher than 10cm and can spread to up to half a metre.
With it’s fleshy, scale-like leaves this characterful, evergreen euphorbia produces flat yellow flowers in early summer and is a great way to add texture and definition to your garden.
This variety is best suited to summer containers and has an extremely long flowering period lasting from late spring to autumn.
Known also as diamond frost it produces frothy silvery flowers which are a great way to lighten up darker areas of your garden or patio.
Euphorbia hypericifolia thrives in full sun or partial shade in rich, well-drained soil and is low-maintenance.
Euphorbia x martini
One of the most striking foliage plants, the euphorbia x martini, this evergreen sub-shrub produces masses of narrow dark green leaves and in late spring will treat you to sprays of small yellow-green flowers with purple centres.
This euphorbia typically grows to up to 60cm in height and can spread to up to the same in length.
Placed in full sun and well-drained soil, this dynamic plant is perfect for beds and borders as well as Meditteranean themed gardens.
Euphorbia x pasteurii
This euphorbia is a large, evergreen shrub with elongated, dark green leaves which turn a gorgeous red hue come autumn.
This species produces sweet, honey-scented blooms from April to July and can grow 1.5m in height and the same in spread.
Best positioned in the middle or back of borders, this exotic looking euphorbia thrives in full sunlight or dappled shade and will tolerate most soil types.
Now that you have some inspiration about which euphorbia you want for your garden, it’s time to start planting. Obviously each species needs may vary slightly, but in general, most euphorbias can be planted and cared for in a similar way.
Choosing where to plant euphorbia
In general, most euphorbias require a sunny location and should be planted in fertile, well-drained soil. That said, many varieties will tolerate some shade and many different soil types and can tolerate periods of drought.
How to plant euphorbia
You will usually buy your euphorbia from a garden centre in a pot. You will then want to dig a decent hole for it and add in some leaf mould and compost.
Place your euphorbia in the hole and gently firm it in, water well and then add a layer of mulch to hold in the moisture and prevent the growth of weeds.
Caring for your euphorbia
As we have mentioned, euphorbias are generally very low-maintenance plants and are very easy to care for. In fact, it is more common for euphorbias to run into problems from over-care as opposed to neglect!
Their main requirements are good light and moderate moisture, and once you have those two things locked in, then it’s usually plain sailing all the way.
Euphorbia does not require fertilising often. Simply wait until the lower leaves begin to turn yellow and then feed them with water-soluble plant food.
The amount of pruning your euphorbia needs will, of course, be dependent on the variety, but generally you only really need to prune if they start getting out of hand.
The good news about spurges is that they are almost impossible to kill, and so are ideal plants for a new gardener.
We do however always recommend that you wear gloves, long sleeves and even goggles as the euphorbia’s milky sap can be an extreme irritant to the skin and eyes.
How to propagate euphorbias
Once your euphorbias are established, you may wish to share cuttings with friends or introduce them to another part of your garden.
If you have cut back your euphorbia, it will produce new basal growths which are ideal for taking cuttings from and the best time to take these is in spring.
Take pieces that are up between two and three inches in length and trim off any lower leaves.
Place your cuttings into coarse horticultural sand in either small pots or trays. You can then pot up singularly when they have rooted.
It’s also important to note that many euphorbias also self-seed and produce new plants.
Once again, we strongly advise wearing gloves for this to avoid skin irritation.
Pests and problems
It is unlikely that you will run into any significant problems with your euphorbia as long as you try to keep it in a fair amount of sunlight and moist soil. However, there are a couple of things to be aware of.
Despite the name, whiteflies aren’t actually flies and are in fact much closer to aphids.
They suck the sap from the plant, weakening it and their sticky excretions cause a black, sticky mould to form which is very unsightly.
The easiest way to get rid of whitefly is to simply blast them with the hose. You can then use a mild insecticidal soap to rub on the leaves of your euphorbia to prevent their return.
Euphorbias can also occasionally suffer from a group of related fungi called powdery mildews which attack the plant and leave a white, dusty coating on the flowers, leaves and stems.
The best way to combat this problem is by early prevention. Make sure you are planting your euphorbias in dry, sunny spots, where the soil has good drainage.
Essentially, if you follow our tips on where to plant and how to care for your Euphorbias, you are unlikely to run into this issue.
If however, you do find it becoming a problem then spraying twice a week with potassium-bicarbonate will kill the spores and your spurges will be fighting fit in no time.
Hopefully this article has filled you with inspiration, and you’re now ready to fill your garden with euphoric euphorbias.
These are such easy and rewarding plants to grow and with so many varieties to choose from the possibilities are truly endless.
Always remember to research the variety you have chosen to make sure you give it the best chance to thrive and always remember to wear gloves when handling your plant.
Coming in all colours, shapes and sizes if you have an urge for spurge there is always space to be made for this beautiful plant and no matter the style of your garden, euphorbias will always seem right at home.