General gardening topics

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

Last updated on May 3rd, 2022

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Euphorbia comprises a large genus of plants inside of which there are over 2,000 species, meaning there is literally an endless choice of varieties. Of these, around 1200 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 that is grown by most people over Christmas, as well as the familiar milkweed that is also known as the Euphorbia peplus.

Hardy Euphorbias for rockeries and flowerbeds

Most of the succulent varieties are not very hardy, and if there are being grown in the UK they do better when grown indoors. There are also lots of different hardy rockery varieties available 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 gardeners in the UK will likely want to plant, such varieties include the Euphorbia amygdaloides purpura and the Euphorbia characias.


Easy to Care for

Whether they are flowering or not, Euphorbias are quite simple to care for and they require very little care and maintenance once they are established. Once fully established they are incredibly self-sufficient and won’t die from very much, besides 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 provide it with full sun, the plant will put all of its resources and energy into maintaining itself rather than flowering. This effectively defeats the purpose of having a flowering variety in the first place, that being said, the foliage of many varieties is equally as stunning as the flowers themselves.

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

Watering Euphorbias

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

First, unlike other succulents, Euphorbia does not tolerate long periods of drought so you need to keep a close eye on watering, especially if you are growing them 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 on the 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 Euphorbias

To help them get established when you first plant them, or during their growing season, you can add organic matter, like compost or fertiliser 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 fertiliser 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
  • Package Weight: 2.954 pounds
  • Package Dimensions: 21.0 L x 6.2 H x 13.4 W (centimeters)

Pests and Diseases

The good news is, that Euphorbias are typically problem-free. Very few animals want to contend with the spiky needles or the milky sap they 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. Mealybugs and spider mites are 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 essential 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 and limiting the watering until it’s dry enough to require it, you can avoid this. Dig plenty of organic matter and grit into the soil if the area sometimes becomes 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, however, in bad cases try to improve the air circulation and spray the plant with a fungicide.

FungusClear 18986 Ultra, 3 in 1 Action, Plant Protection Disease Control, 225 ml
  • 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 into one of three pruning categories. Evergreen varieties just need the flowers trimmed when they have finished and turned brown. Varieties with biennial stems (which means they flower on the stems in the second year) just need the flowering stems cut back to ground level in autumn. Finally, deciduous varieties that die back for winter need all the stems cut 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 in your garden and you have decided you would like more there are two propagating options available to you. Firstly, you can propagate from seed, however, this is a very difficult process.

The second, and 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 so it’s important that you wear gloves during this process.

Some of our favourite varieties:

  • Euphorbia grandialata will start out with upright growth and eventually spread into a thorny bush, producing 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 characias 'Black Pearl' Spurge Evergreen Hardy Shrub | 9cm Pot
  • Pot Size (Supplied) - 9cm
  • Characteristics - Evergreen shrub, upright and bushy habit, grey-green narrow leaves, lime green cup-shaped flowers, suitable in borders and mixed perennial beds
  • Growth & Spread - Height 0.6m - 0.9m, Spread 0.6m - 0.8m
  • Flourishing Season - Flourishes throughout the year, flowering in Apr - June
Bestseller No. 2
3 x Euphorbia Ruby Glow - Ascott Rainbow - Silver Swan - Ready to Plant in 9cm Pots
  • Three Plants Ready To Be Planted In The Garden
  • Includes unusual Variety Ascott Rainbow
  • Amazing Plants For Autumn/Winter Colour
  • Perfect For Patio Pots In The Garden
Bestseller No. 3
Euphorbia × Martini Perennial Large Plug Plants Pack x6
  • An Upright perennial with fleshy stems and red-stained, mid-green leaves
  • Perennial
  • Pack of six large plug plants (approx 40mm root base)
Bestseller No. 4
Thompson & Morgan Hardy Perennial Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ Evergreen Flowering Potted Garden Plants Ideal for Cottage Gardens, Walls, Fences, Patio and Containers (1 x 2 Litre Pot)
  • A colourful display of evergreen blue-grey leaves edged with bright gold
  • Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is extremely hardy, and takes on a rosy pink tinge during the winter months
  • This showy Spurge also bears green flowers towards the tip of each stem in spring
  • Ideal for cottage gardens and rockeries.Supplied with T&M's very own cultural instructions on how to care for your plants.
  • Your satisfaction guaranteed; we want you to be 100% satisfied with any product you buy from us. If you're not 100% happy then neither are we, so let us know and we'll replace your product or give you your money back
Bestseller No. 5
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 very similar to Euphorbia Corallioides, the two species being to all intent and purpose indistinguishable when grown together.
Bestseller No. 6
Euphorbia Plug Plants. 'Purpurea'. Compact, Shade-Loving Evergreen Perennial. Yellow Flowers. Extra Large Plug Plant x 2. Available from Bedwen Plants.
  • Evergreen Perennial
  • Grow euphorbias in moist but well-drained soil in sun to partial shade. use them as a foil for other bright colours or as part of a woodland scheme. Mulch annually with leaf mould.
  • Supplied as Extra Large Plug Plant x 2
Bestseller No. 7
Easy Plants® Large Traditional Evergreen House Plants - Large Cactus Euphorbia Floor plant
  • 50-60cm tall(including pot height), in 17cm pot
  • Increase oxygen concentration in your house through photosymthesis.
  • Highly decorative with its nice shape.
  • Easy care instruction: Place in a light shaded, to bright environment. Room temperature. Water thoroughly. Discard excess water. Do not allow to dry out completely. Fertilise moderately.
  • Also known as African Milk Tree, Cathedral Cactus, Abyssinian Euphorbia, Cowboy Cactus and High Chaparall
Bestseller No. 8
Easy Plants 1 Large Cactus Euphorbia Trigona Rubra African Milk Tree in 17cm grower pot
  • 50-60cm tall (including pot height) in 17cm pot
  • You are welcome to buy 1 or 2 pot(s) of Large Cactus in 17cm grower's pot.
  • African Milk Trees also known as cathedral cactus, Abyssinian euphorbia, cowboy cactus and high chaparall.
  • They are starting to become more and more widespread in people’s homes, where we can already see impressive collections or arrangements of these cute plants. They are beautiful, particular, and interesting. But, more importantly, they are easy to grow and resilient!
  • This characteristic is very important if you travel a lot, you are very busy, or simply forget to water your plants. The good news is that if you care for them properly, these succulents will reward you with a special, relaxing view, and you’ll get plenty of compliments from your guests.
Bestseller No. 9
Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow - Herbaceous Perennial Martin's Spurge - Euphorbia Characias Plant in a 9cm Pot (1 Plant)
  • 🏵️ PERENNIAL FOLIAGE - Ascot Rainbow is a colour-changing Euphorbia that will add interest to your garden throughout the year.
  • 🏵️ FOLIAGE COLOUR -This dwarf shrub produces lance-shaped green leaves that are edged with golden yellow and variegated cream and green flowers that appear in late spring. In the cooler months of the year, the evergreen foliage develops a pink tinge that will make a striking impact in the winter garden.
  • 🏵️ BORDERS & CONTAINERS - Grows in sun or partial shade in moisture retentive, well drained soil. Suitable for mixed borders or in large containers.
  • 🏵️ WHAT YOU GET - This gorgeous plant arrives in a 9cm pot ready to plant. Please note PLANT MAY NOT BE IN FLOWER AT TIME OF DISPATCH.
Bestseller No. 10
Euphorbia Silver Swan - Herbaceous Perennial Purge Silver Swan - Euphorbia Characias Plant in a 9cm Pot (1 Plant)
  • 🏵️ SHADY CHARACTER - This is a compact, shade-loving euphorbia, bearing yellow blooms in contrast with grey, strappy foliage. It’s a good choice for growing at the front of a border.
  • 🏵️ FOLIAGE COLOUR -A variegated selection with white edging to the leaves and bracts, giving a striking appearance. The flowers may open to show a reddish-orange eye, but may be shy to do so.
  • 🏵️ BORDERS & CONTAINERS - Grows in sun or partial shade in moisture retentive, well drained soil. Suitable for mixed borders or in large containers.
  • 🏵️ WHAT YOU GET - This gorgeous plant arrives in a 9cm pot ready to plant. Please note PLANT MAY NOT BE IN FLOWER AT TIME OF DISPATCH.

Last update on 2022-03-17 / 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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