Column: The Garden Girl – Euphorbia

January 10, 2016 18:35 pm · 12 comments


Euphorbia is a tough, water-wise evergreen shrublette that will thrive in almost any Claycord landscape.

Its interesting foliage and unique flowers are extremely appealing.  Euphorbia looks great surrounded by stone, along rock walls, incorporated along dry river beds, near swimming pool, or in hard to water containers.

Many years ago we learned about the drought tolerance of Euphorbia quite by accident.  It was installed in the flowerbed of an English Garden.  Barbara, a longtime customer, was an experienced gardener.  Euphorbia was a” new to us” plant.  She was taken by the dark foliage, and thought it would contrast well against the white blooming candytuft.  After a couple months in the ground, the Euphorbia gave up and died.  Barbara did what any garden-lover would do, and bought a couple more.  She was determined to grow her vision.  Again, the Euphorbia started to fail.  Barbara dug up the plant and inspected the roots, they were drenched and smelly.  The Euphorbia couldn’t tolerate the water that the rest of the flowerbed was receiving.  Lesson learned.

Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow has an awesome variegation of cream, green and salmon.  In the late winter through spring flower stalks curl upwards towards the sky.  Clusters of cream bracts with burgundy centers create the flower display.  This Euphorbia will grow 18”-2’ tall and wide.  It can by used as a small shrub in a landscape layer.  If you are installing a minimal amount of plants in an area, the Ascot Rainbow Euphorbia can stand alone, surrounded by dark colored mulch and still make a statement.  Companion plants to consider accenting Ascot Rainbow Euphorbia could be Tom Thumb Phormium, Coreopsis Early Sunrise and red foliage Smoke Bushes.

Euphorbia Black Bird has dark, eggplant colored foliage.  The flower display is born in clusters of lime green colored bracts with burgundy centers.  This selection of Euphorbia is very desirable.  The growth u-shaped, 2’ tall and wide.  Euphorbia Black Bird is excellent in any full sun landscape.  Use this evergreen as a layer with the taller Coleonema Sunset Gold and trailing teucrium majoricum.  If you are using the popular black barks in your planting area, it is important to install Euphorbia Black Bird with contrasting plant material, or it may get lost in the mulch.

Euphorbia Tasmanian Tiger has a crisp green and cream variegation that lends its self nicely to landscapes filled with purples and red color flowers.  Bred to be dwarf, Tasmanian Tiger will reach 12-16” tall and about double as wide.

Not all Euphorbia is shrub-like.  Euphorbia Rigida is a ground cover selection.  The shape of the leaves of this Euphorbia is often confused with a succulent.  Gray, triangular-shape leaves lines sturdy, tube-like stems. When in bloom, green bracts and green flowers contrast off the Rigida’s gray foliage.  Euphorbia Rigida looks great in a rock garden.  Give this evergreen some space.  Rigida will set seed and spread throughout a landscape.

Another great attribute of all Euphorbia is that they are totally deer and gopher resistant.  Their milky sap is toxic, so critters leave the plants alone.

When planting Euphorbia there’s no need to over condition the soil.  Euphorbia doesn’t like its soil too rich.  Make sure you don’t bury Euphorbia too deep either.  It’s a good practice to leave almost an inch of the root-ball above the soil grade, this will help promote better drainage.

This plant seems rugged January 10, 2016 at 6:38 PM

going to plant a few…

clg January 10, 2016 at 6:59 PM

These are lovely and I have never heard of them before. Thank you for enlightening me! I will be on the lookout for all pictured.

Silva January 10, 2016 at 8:53 PM

Euphorbia are wacky and wonderful. I once had one that looked like a tall upright branching cactus, but without spines, sort of had little tiny leaves instead. Poinsettias are a euphorbia, as is… oh I can’t think of the name, but you see them in the center devide on 80 heading towards Sack ‘o Tomatos. Big bushy plants that bloom in red, white or pink. there’s also the pencil cactus (Euphorbia Tirucalli) which turns flame colors in winter. So many to choose from. Don’t eat any!

Anonimo January 10, 2016 at 9:06 PM

On a separate subject… Is there anything I should be doing now to help a drought stricken patchy lawn?

Pucky January 10, 2016 at 10:41 PM

Anonimo..Yes there is…Pray…

Kim January 10, 2016 at 11:35 PM

Mine grow like weeds,and spread. I pull them up and plant them some other place and they take off.
I like them.

Garden Girl January 11, 2016 at 6:02 AM

Hi Anonimo.
Yes there is. But my answer would be long enough for an entire column. You’ll have to read my answer on Sunday. Or you you can’t wait call me at the shop. I can speak faster than type, and I’ll have some questions regarding your lawns current condition.
Thanks for reading.

Trent January 11, 2016 at 11:00 AM

What are some good house plants that can survive these dark winter days with little light coming from Windows?

Sara G January 11, 2016 at 12:39 PM

Might plant these along my white picket fence.

ent January 11, 2016 at 12:49 PM

Unrelated as well but hey Garden Girl, if you don’t mind sharing your opinion… best non-toxic weed treatment? The weeds are taking over the backyard after all the rain we’ve had. I just happened to make a mix of water, white vinegar, and dish soap today. Am I doing it right?

Silva January 12, 2016 at 9:14 PM

Oleander! It’s a euphorbia! I finally remembered the name.

Mary Fouts January 13, 2016 at 2:51 PM

@Trent #8 – There are many such plants, I’ll share a few (using plant common names) with which I’ve had great luck inside the house:

Christmas Cactus (needs a bit of work with dark light to get it to bloom around the Holidays)
Peace Lily (has a pretty white bloom on occasion)
Mother in Law’s Tongue, also known as Devil’s Tongue
Zebra Plant (will also occasionally bloom)
Philodendron (easy to propagate by rooting cuttings in water)
Elephant Ear plants, various leaf colors

I’ve also had good luck with Spider Plants in shaded home areas, even though they are typically identified as needing bright indirect light. Easy to propagate the ‘spiderettes’. Be careful not to over water.

Many varieties of ferns and ivy are also shade tolerant inside the house, although they aren’t on my preferred plant list by personal choice. Good luck!

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