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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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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