Euphorbia euphoria

Sorry for that title.  But it does reflect the way I feel about euphorbia in the sun.  No other plant has such luminscence, such effervescence in its inflorescence, such zingety zang, such pizazz!

There is a Euphorbia (or spurge) to suit any location in the garden.  My favourite for dry shade (under trees) is this one, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae (Mrs Robbs’ Bonnet).  Be careful, because it will take over.  You can read about my personal tangle with this Euphorbia in I’ve had enough of your behaviour).  Euphorbias generally send runners through the soil and spring up a few inches from where you planted them.

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae

A variation on the green-greeniness, is Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.  This has burgundy leaves but the same lime green crazy flowers.  They seem to float in mid-air, like flying saucers above the basal leaves.  The colour combo is exactly like freshly podded peas and beetroot.  The dark foliage sets off the florescence even more.  Here’s mine last year:

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’

Note the tulips in the background?  Euphorbia is the perfect partner for tulips.

If you have lots of space in your garden, then consider planting this beast, Euphorbia charracias subsp. ‘Wulfenii’.  It is tall, and can get gangly, but is the earliest flowering euphorbia, often in bloom in March.  This too is great for dry spots.

Euphorbia charrachias subsp. ‘Wulfenii’

Perhaps my absolute favourite is Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’.  This loses its leaves over winter, but then sends up wonderful shoots with a bright red mid-rib.  The inflorescences are an incredible vermilion-orange, softening to apricot into summer.

Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow'
Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

This Euphorbia looks stunning with purple, burgundy or orange tulips.  I grow it with Tulipa ‘Recreado’, ‘Ronaldo’ or ‘Ballerina’.

Speaking of burgundy, look at Euphorbia  x martini, with its sweet little splat at the centre!  This is a compact and well-behaved euphorbia, except that it is likely to die after three years.  Don’t get cross: it is just short-lived, like stars so often are.  I love this spurge with maroon or flame-flowered perennials, like Centaurea ‘Jordy’, orange or yellow hemerocallis, or any of the geums.

Euphobia x martini

And when this spring exuberance is over, don’t worry, because there are late spring and summer-flowering euphorbias too!  Here is Euphorbia palustris (marsh spurge), which is good at the back of the border, owing to its loftiness:

Euphorbia palustris (3)
Euphorbia palustris

I grow mine with Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’ and the bright pink rose ‘Thomas a Beckett’.

For the end of the growing season, here is Euphorbia schlingii, which flowers from July until September, with wide open plates of flowers:

Euphorbia schlingii
Euphorbia schlingii

I plant this one with other late-flowerers, like Hellenium, Rudbeckia, Crocosmia and Helianthus.  They will keep your borders looking fresh into autumn.  Euphorbia is a mainstay of my bright border.

I know I haven’t mentioned the milky sap.  It is a skin irritant, so always wear gloves when handling euphorbia.  You can get away with it for a while, but are likely with repeated exposure to suddenly develop a horrible reaction.  If you cut the stems for a vase, sear them in boiling water for a few seconds to stop the sap leaking out into the vase and killing the other flowers.

But don’t let that put you off.  Remember Edward Scissorhands?  Most Euphorbias mean well, and have a beautiful shining presence.  If they outstay their welcome, here’s what to do!

Do you have a favourite Euphorbia? 


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38 Comments Add yours

  1. I love them …. that vivid lime green!

    1. Ali says:

      It is one of my (many) favourite colours!

  2. bcparkison says:

    New to me but the “fireglow” is beautiful

    1. Ali says:

      It is stunning, and looks quite different in different lights and at different stages. I never get bored of looking st it.

  3. I am not a fan of euphorbia in general – something about green flowers on green bracts that doesn’t sit with me. But I do like the bright red ones (fireglow and martinii) you have are brilliant. Perhaps my mind has changed slightly

    1. Ali says:

      I am pleased to tempt you!

  4. Ah, and we have colorful Euphonias, sweet little birds of the Neotropics! Beautiful post!

    1. Ali says:

      “Sweet little birds of the neotropics”! I love that!

  5. I love Euphorbias but have had no luck at all in growing them. Many are not hardy enough for my cold Quebec garden but even the few that should survive the winter, don’t. So I have to be content with Euphorbia envy instead of Euphorbia euphoria.

    1. Ali says:

      That’s like me and echinacea- I love them, but they don’t love me! You win some, you lose some.

  6. FlowerAlley says:

    Just got one called “tiny tim” today. Love the title.

    1. Ali says:

      JUst googled it – compact form of martinii – lovely!

  7. fredgardener says:

    Nice collection! I have 2 (Characias and Martinii) but I would like to have more and more … It is not easy to find other varieties here except online purchase. I will do it but I need to find good places first

    1. Ali says:

      I buy mine online, Fred. I like Claire Austin hardy plants. Once I find a good supplier I stick with them!

      1. fredgardener says:

        I will take a look and see if they deliver to France. Tks

  8. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I don’t have any euphorbias in my present garden, which is silly because they grow really well in this climate. I think it’s because I had ‘Wuflenii’ in my previous garden and it behaved thuggishly. I’m certainly tempted by some that you’ve posted about here.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, I do think you have to pick your spot. I have ‘Wulfenii’ against a house wall where it’s dry and not much else grows well. Robbiae is also thuggish, but the others are better behaved.

  9. Heyjude says:

    What a wonderful round-up on this plant. I shall come back to it and study them in more detail. I’m sure I can squeeze one or two in somewhere 🙂 Great photos too Ali.

    1. Ali says:

      It’s amazing how many plants you can squeeze into a full garden, isn’t it? 😂

      1. Heyjude says:

        The lawn is shrinking fast. And I keep reminding myself of Monty Don’s saying “7 plants are enough”

      2. Ali says:

        Hurrah for a shrinking lawn! Me too! That seems a bit rich, coming from Monty, doesn’t it? 7?!! I remember spitting my tea out at that. For a small area, maybe. Or if you want a designer garden. But I love the surprises that keep on coming.

      3. Heyjude says:

        My garden is a small area, but I am sure it can accommodate more than 7 plants – I am working on the theory of 7 types: daisy, umbellifers, bulbs, grasses, succulents, climbers and ground cover 😉

      4. Ali says:

        Yes! That’s what he meant! 😀

  10. Jill Kuhn says:

    Wow! I learn so much from your blog! 😊 The Fireglow looks like a fire ball of color and the Martinii one looks like the shape of one… how cool is that! 👍 I will pay more attention the next time I’m at the garden store. Thanks for the info and the photos of your garden! Cheers! 🌼🐝

    1. Ali says:

      Now you say it, Jill, the geometric shapes in Euphorbia martinii are very like one of your curvy doodles!

      1. Jill Kuhn says:

        Thanks Ali! 😃

  11. Such a fab structural plant. I love your photo!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you love them too!

  12. griffin says:

    Love the bold color, especially the lime greens!

    1. Ali says:

      It is such a vibrant green, isn’t it? Zingtastic.

  13. Annette says:

    I love Euphorbia too, such star plants, love them so much that they seem to take over the garden 😀 ! E. griffithii is fab for later, especially pretty in autumn when the stems turn fiery red. At the moment it’s E, characias, amygdal., dulcis and myrsinites which all look fab in the company of spring bulbs. Fab pics, thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      I’m glad that you share my enthusiasm about this plant! I am very tempted by myrsinites!

  14. I am so impressed and amazing by your plant knowledge!

    1. Ali says:

      I amaze myself, Shelly! 😂🤓🤪

  15. Les says:

    My favorites are ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and wulfenii. Unfortunately ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is short-lived and doesn’t always survive our wet winters, plus it is expensive. My current favorite is Euphorbia helioscopia (a.k.a. Mad Woman’s Milk) an annual agricultural weed pulled from my cousin’s soy bean field. I have no trouble growing it, and may be reported for introducing an invasive species to my neighborhood.

    1. Ali says:

      I think I used to get a lot of Euphorbia heliascopia in my old garden, and it was a bit of a beastie. ‘Ascot Rainbow’ does look nice.

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