Euphorbia (spurge): A Vigorous Relative Of Poinsettia

Euphorbia, commonly called spurge, is a succulent and is a valuable plant for use in hot dry sites.

euphorbia millifera

Photo: Tony Rodd

Euphorbia millifera

Euphorbia, commonly called spurge, is related to Poinsettia, as the outer bracts look like flowers. There is usually a single colorful female bract, actually a leaf, surrounded by male bracts born beneath the inconspicuous true flowers.

Euphorbias are succulents so are valuable plants for use in hot dry sites, as one would expect, as they are native to the Mediterranean region. The stems contain a milky sap that can irritate a person’s skin.

Care and Varieties

Gardeners should cut off the flowering shoot at the base of the plant after the bloom fades. Propagate by division in spring or early summer. Plants also self sow, and tip cuttings may be taken in summer. Many varieties prefer morning sun and some afternoon shade.

A common variety is cushion spurge, so called because it mounds and provides good fall interest.

All spurges are deer resistant, and E. ‘First Blush’ is hardy zones 4-9 and has a compact mounding habit and green and cream variegated foliage tinged with rose.

E. ‘Polychroma’ has outer bracts of a bright yellow in summer that turn red in the fall. E. ‘Tiny Tim’ features chartreuse and red. Euphorbia milii has the common name of “crown of thorns” because it is spiky, but it blooms almost constantly in good light so is used often as a house plant.

Some spurges are quite vigorous so plant them in a pot at first to see if they seem like a good fit for your garden.

One source for perennial spurges is Bluestone Perennials.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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