Plant focus: Euphorbia

There are certain plants I can’t be without and Euphorbia is one of them. Euphorbias are good mixers. I love the fizz the lime-green flowers of Euphorbia amygdoloides ‘Purpurea’ brings in late spring, contrasting against its deep-purple stems.

Urn and Euphorbia

Urn with Euphorbia amygdaloides and Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’. By Jardin.

And I love the structural presence of Euphorbia characias subsp.wulfenii, seen below spilling onto the path.

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Country garden by Jardin.

They are evergreen, something I’m grateful for now when I look out at my winter garden; they are good in all borders and do well in pots. They thrive in hot, dry difficult situations, Euphorbia myrsinites looking particularly pretty. Just be careful – they are prone to promiscuity. The other downside is the irritant milky sap when cut. In fact Euphorbia’s common name of “spurge”  derives from the reputedly purgative (laxative) qualities of the sap.

Euphorbia is the fourth largest genus of plants with over 2000 species.

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Recently I was driven through the amazing Euphorbia Drive at Malamala game reserve in South Africa. Giraffe sauntered on their ungainly way, but my attention was drawn to the spectacular display of  giant “Candelabra Euphorbia” ( Euphorbia cooperi) enveloping the track and meandering up the rocky koppie.

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The milky sap is highly poisonous to humans – we all stood well back as our ranger slashed the head off one and the latex oozed out … in a Euphorbia of this size, the slightest splash would cause blisters on the skin and inhalation of the air produces a burning sensation in the throat.

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The lime-green Euphorbia contrasting with Alliums and Centaurea

Lime-green Euphorbia contrasting with Alliums and Centaurea. Front garden by Jardin

Don’t let this put you off planting our tamer garden varieties – just wear gloves when you may be cutting them back. They really are worth that tiny little downside.

9 thoughts on “Plant focus: Euphorbia

  1. Oh yes – Euphorbias great plants. I couldn’t be without them with vicious free draining soil and low rainfall. I particularly like the way they self-seed, but are easy to control unlike some of the ornamental thistles. Love your photo of the Candelabra Euphorbia – how big was it – it looks like a tree!!

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