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Growing euphorbia plants and care guide to getting the most out of your plants

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Last updated on April 27th, 2020

Euphorbia comprises a large genus of plants inside of which are over 2,000 species so there is literally an endless choice of varieties. Of these, around 1,200 are succulent species that provide some of the most remarkable shapes and look very similar to cacti. They are cultivated because of the range of foliage in architectural shapes they have but only a few are known for the flowers they produce. Those that do produce flowers bloom in the spring or summer and tend to go into dormancy come winter.

Of these non-succulent varieties, the euphorbias are deciduous and the most popular flowering varieties include the traditional Christmas Poinsettia, the poinsettia as grown by most people over Christmas as well as the familiar milkweed also known as Euphorbia peplus.

Hardy poinsettias for rockeries and flower beds

Most of the succulent varieties are not very hardy so they do better in the UK when grown indoors but there are also many hardy rockery varieties too. There are many perennial varieties that provide much-needed winter colour with many being evergreen while some die back for winter before emerging again in spring, these perennial Euphorbia are what most Uk growing will likely want to plant which include varieties such as EUPHORBIA amygdaloides purpura and EUPHORBIA characias.

Easy to care for

Whether flowering or not, euphorbias are quite simple to care for and they require very little care and maintenance once they get established. Once established they are incredibly self-sufficient and won’t die from very much besides from too much care or too much watering.

Regular care

Beautiful blooming wood spurge in March

Plant euphorbia in full sun to partial shade

Euphorbias require areas with full sun but they do tolerate partial shade, especially the woodland varieties. If you have a flowering euphorbia, full sun is a necessity to get the most out of the flowers. If you don’t give it full sun, the plant will put all of its resources and energy into maintaining itself rather than flowering which effectively defeats the purpose of having a flowering variety in the first place, that being said the foliage of many varieties is equally stunning.

Even though there is very little you have to do to care for the plant, there are some specific requirements to give them the best chance of thriving.

Watering euphorbia

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

First, unlike other succulents, euphorbia does not tolerate long drought so you need to keep an eye on watering, especially when grown in pots. You’ll have to water your plants sometimes weekly during the summer months. Effectively you want to water whenever the soil becomes dry in on surface being careful not to overwater. Once you note that it’s dry enough, water it deeply but don’t let it sit in the water because this can lead to root rot.

Feeding euphorbia

To help them get established when you first plant them or during their growing season you can add organic matter like compost or fertilizer such as bone meal or fish blood and bone into the soil. If you are growing your euphorbia in a container, you can give it a half-strength fertilizer on a monthly basis.

Vitax Ltd Blood Fish & Bone Fertiliser, 1.25kg
  • Contains nitrogen and phosphate, with added potash for strong root development
  • Improved ripening and healthy growth of fruit and vegetables.
  • With added potash for strong root development

Pests and diseases

The good news is, euphorbia are typically problem-free. Very few animals want to contend with the spiky needles or the Milky sap there are known for. It’s worth noting that the milky sap can irritate the skin so always wear gloves when cutting them back or taking cuttings.

Mealybugs and spider mites

Mealybugs
Mealybugs

However, there are a few bugs that have taken a liking to euphorbia which mealybugs and spider mites being the most common pests and they will feed on your plant until such time as it eventually dies. These insects increase in numbers very rapidly so it’s imperative that you catch the problem early on and rectify it by spraying the plants with a pesticide spray.

Provanto 84436674 Ultimate Bug Killer RTU 1L
  • Up to 2 weeks control of a wide range of pests
  • Rapid action and long-lasting protection
  • Use on flowers and a wide range of edibles
  • Targets lily beetle, whitefly, scale, greenfly, red spider mite, blackfly, mealybug, thrips and leaf hopper
  • Use outdoors and indoors

Root rot

As mentioned, they are susceptible to root rot. This really only happens when the plants are in wet soil for too long. By having well-draining soil in limiting the watering until such time as it’s dry enough to require it, you can avoid this. Dig plenty of organic matter and grit into the soil if there area does sometimes become waterlogged before planting.

Mildew

There are some issues of mildew if you have bad air circulation. You can correct this by changing the growing conditions to provide better airflow around your euphorbia before you resort to a fungicide but it bad cases try to improve air circulation and spray the plant with a fungicide.

FungusClear Ultra 225ml
  • Systemic protection and control of blackspot, powdery mildew and rust
  • Use on roses and other flowering or ornamental plants
  • Protects new growth and protects plants for over 3 months, when used at intervals recommended in usage instructions
  • Use between March to September
  • Apply using a garden pressure sprayer washed before and after use

Pruning

Euphorbia usually falls onto 3 pruning categories, evergreen varieties just need the flowering trimming when they have finished and turned brown. Varieties with biennial stems which means they flower on the stems in the second year just need to flowering stems cutting back to ground level in autumn. Finally, deciduous varieties which die back for winter need all the stems cutting back to ground level in autumn, ideally before the first frost.

Read our detailed guide on pruning euphorbias with examples of varieties and which pruning method to use.

Propagating euphorbia 

Euphorbia cuttings growing well
Euphorbia cuttings growing well

If you have a successful euphorbia plant that you want to propagate, you can technically propagate from seed but this is very difficult to do. The most common way to propagate is by taking cuttings. Be cautious of the fact that the cuttings ooze a sticky, milky white sap that is an irritant to the skin and the eyes as already mentioned so it’s important that you wear gloves during this process.

Some of our favourite varieties:

  • Euphorbia Grandialata will start out in an upright growth and eventually spread into a thorny bush with coral red flower bracts in the summer.
  • Euphorbia lactea has fan-like branches with black spines.
  • Euphorbia milii is a thorny, bushy plant that provides floral bracts of red, orange, yellow, and white throughout the year.
  • Euphorbia obesa is round and plump and it has reddish Stripes. It tolerates some shade.
  • Euphorbia symmetrica is a smaller, round subspecies of the euphorbia obesa.
Bestseller No. 1
Euphorbia Purpurea Plants - Herbaceous Perennial Purple Euphorbia Plant in a 13cm Pot
  • SHADY CHARACTER - This is a compact, shade-loving euphorbia, bearing acid-yellow blooms in contrast with purple, strappy foliage. It’s a good choice for growing at the front of a border
  • FOLIAGE COLOUR - A compact, shade-loving euphorbia that has long-lasting, acid-yellow flowers in spring that contrast beautifully with the deep purple, strappy foliage strung in whorls around stiff stems
  • WHAT YOU GET - This gorgeous plant arrives in a 13cm pot ready to plant. PLease note PLANT MAY NOT BE IN FLOWER AT TIME OF DISPATCH
Bestseller No. 2
Euphorbia Amygdaloides 'Purpurea' Shrub Plant 30-40cm Tall 3Ltr Hardy Evergreen
  • 30-40cm Tall Euphorbia Plant (photo shows two of the actual plants)
  • Details: 'Purpurea' is a softly downy evergreen perennial to 75cm tall, with deep purple stems and leaves, and contrasting lime-green flowers opening at the ends of the leafy stems in spring and early summer
  • Grown in a Black Plastic Pot 19cm wide a 15cm high - 3 Litre
  • Ideal for Pots and Containers in the Patio or Garden
  • Evergreen Shrub
Bestseller No. 4
Plant World Seeds - Euphorbia Oblongata Seeds
  • Genuine Plant World Seeds branded packets supplied direct from Plant World Seeds UK
  • Common Name: Syn. Euphorbia Corallioides palustris zauberflote. Eggleaf spurge. Oblong spurge.
  • Height: 45-60cm
  • Packet content (approximately): 20
  • Too rarely seen or grown, the "Coral Spurge" a non-running clump former, has dazzling yellow flowers and bracts in dense profusion on massed wiry stems. These are produced from earliest spring until early winter, making this fabulous and attractive plant one of the longest-flowering and valuable of commercial cut flowers too. It is synonymous or very similar to Euphorbia Corallioides, the two species being to all intent and purpose indistinguishable when grown together.
Bestseller No. 7
Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea' 10 Seeds, Purple Wood Spurge- Perennial
  • Evergreen with purple red coloured leaves and yellow bracts. It is a beautiful plant for rock gardens. Purple wood spurge grows well in sun or partial shade.
  • Hardiness Zone: 5a - 9b Hardiness Degree: -20°F (-28.9°C) Blooming Season: Late Spring, Summer
  • Spacing: 9 - 12" (23 - 30cm) Height: 12 - 18" (30 - 46cm) Width: 18 - 24" (46 - 61cm)
  • For best results, sow immediately onto a good soil-based compost. Cover the seeds with fine grit or compost to approximately their own depth. They can be sown at any time, and germination can sometimes be quicker if kept at 15 to 20 degrees C.
Bestseller No. 9
YouGarden Euphorbia lactiflora Cristata (Elkhorn) 11 cm pot
  • Euphorbia lactea 'Cristata', AKA Elkhorn or Coral Cactus, is such a curiosity that it is well worth growing!;A crested cactus with undulating, fanning branches which snake out from the central crown - an absolutely stunning feature plant
  • The convoluted branches are marked with beautiful zigzag patterns which transform this cactus into something rather special
  • Easy to grow, Euphorbias are very easy to care for to and once established - they actually thrive on neglect!;Supplied as an established plant in an 11cm pot. Plants will reach 30cm x 30cm
Bestseller No. 10
XL Euphorbia Ingens Succulent Cactus in 17cm Pot House Indoor Garden Plant
  • Euphorbia Ingens, also known as Desert Candle Cactus.
  • Highly decorative with its nice shape.
  • Easy to care for. Water sparingly during growing season and stop watering in winter.
  • Plant height (Pot Included): 60-70cm
  • Common Name: Candelabra Tree, Desert Candle Cactus, Cowboy Cactus, Cactus Euphorbia, Good Luck Cactus

Last update on 2021-05-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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