Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Spurge, Your Secret Weapon: 6 Best Varieties to Plant in the Garden

Search

Spurge, Your Secret Weapon: 6 Best Varieties to Plant in the Garden

April 13, 2018

We think of the spring greens of spurge as heralds of a new season, but there are many evergreen varieties that have been keeping the show on the road all winter as well. While not all spurges are reliably hardy, they are reliably self-seeding, so a victim of frost is replaced by a selection of progeny. You just need to recognize when self-seeded plants have chosen a better spot than you might have.

Spurge’s horticultural name Euphorbia is easy to remember, sounding like “euphoric” (an emotion you will feel when it fills the garden in early spring).

Here are six of our favorite varieties of spurge.

Photography by Britt Willoughby Dyer, for Gardenista.

E. Characias Subsp. Wulfenii

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii outside gardening writer and designer Beth Chatto&#8
Above: Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii outside gardening writer and designer Beth Chatto’s house in Essex, England.

Treading gingerly last month around designer and gardening writer Beth Chatto’s own back garden (which is mainly open to the public like the rest of the property), we noticed that self-seeded euphorbia has been given pride of place. One Mediterranean spurge grows against the house, naturally splaying to reflect the shape of a trained rose (above). Another grows in front of a Buddleia that has been espaliered against a wall; surely a pairing of happy accidents.

Before the sap starts to rise in Mediterranean spurge, overwintering flowering bracts draw attention in a gravel garden. This is the time to enjoy their self-determining stems and elegantly drooping flower heads. Hardy to USDA zone 8a.

Euphorbia Myrsinites

Euphorbia myrsinites crawls along on a layer of gravel.
Above: Euphorbia myrsinites crawls along on a layer of gravel.

Resembling a succulent in winter, ground-hugging E. myrsinites flowers from April through to the middle of summer. Grow this spurge where you can see it, at the front of a gravel garden, and ideally near your back door.

Euphorbia Rigida

Euphorbia rigida at RHS Hyde Hall in Essex.
Above: Euphorbia rigida at RHS Hyde Hall in Essex.

Like a larger, more upright version of Euphorbia myrsinites, E. rigida is a structural evergreen, with flowers that begin to glow in February. Its hardiness, like that of Mediterranean spurge, does not have a cast iron guarantee in the US but it is gently self-seeding.

Euphorbia x Martinii

Euphorbia x martinii in Beth Chatto&#8
Above: Euphorbia x martinii in Beth Chatto’s garden.

For arresting color, the glaucous palette of Euphorbia x martinii will give you something to look at in winter before it bursts into lime green flower in spring. In other words, it looks good for most of the year.

The inspiring color palette of Euphorbia x martinii.
Above: The inspiring color palette of Euphorbia x martinii.

Euphorbia Amygdaloides Var. Robbiae

Reflective evergreens, wood spurge with periwinkle in Beth Chatto&#8
Above: Reflective evergreens, wood spurge with periwinkle in Beth Chatto’s woodland garden.

Not all spurges hanker after a Mediterranean climate; some are better suited to a woodland situation, such as Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae. Its spreading nature integrates it into a tapestry of ground cover ,such as this one (shown). It is an excellent solution for dry shade.

Euphorbia characias ‘Portuguese Velvet’

Euphorbia characias &#8
Above: Euphorbia characias ‘Portuguese Velvet’ at Hyde Hall.

E. characias ‘Portuguese Velvet’ prefers shelter and sun and brings an idea of sunnier places in its looks alone. When the flowers open they reveal dark eyes. When it is less wet, the leaves are soft and fuzzy.

Self-seeded Mediterranean spurge that has designed itself into a corner outside Beth Chatto&#8
Above: Self-seeded Mediterranean spurge that has designed itself into a corner outside Beth Chatto’s plant nursery in Essex.

See more growing tips in Spurges: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design and for companion plants, see Roses: A Field Guide and Daffodils 101. For more inspiration:

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0