Last updated on April 27th, 2020
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Euphorbias make for a wonderful addition to any garden with colourful bracts of foliage that take on a very unique shape. However, there are three different types that you might grow in your garden each of which requires various levels of pruning, while some are evergreen and just need the flowers cutting back others which consist of many perennial varieties need pruning to ground level in autumn.
No matter which variety you have, all euphorbias produce a thick, milky sap which is a highly irritating compound for your eyes and your skin so you should always wear gloves and if you have them goggles when you handle the plant and especially when pruning.
Which variety do you have?
Evergreen, biennial or perennial
It is important to know which variety you have and under which category of falls so that you can make sure you are applying the right type of pruning. In order to get the most out of your Euphorbia, you need to mix deadheading with a pruning technique at the appropriate time into the appropriate degree based on the type of plant you have.
There are certain popular evergreen varieties that require you to cut back the faded flowers after they have finished flowering and turned brown.
Other varieties that have biennial stems, the flowering stems only need to be cut to the ground once they have flowered. Finally, there are deciduous varieties which have to be cut down every autumn to the ground which is probably the easiest to do.
Evergreen euphorbia: Cut back flowering stems after flowering
If you have an evergreen variety you simply need to give it a quick trim after it has flowered. Wait until the stunning flowering bracts have turned completely brown. Then, cut them back to the very first healthy set of leaves below the bract. Some varieties of Euphorbia pruned in this way include:
- Euphorbia mellifera
- Euphorbia Red Wing
- Euphorbia blackbird
- Euphorbia x pasteurii
Biennial Stems: Cut only stemming stems back to ground level.
If you have a biennial variety such as Euphorbia x martini, the kind that has two types of shoots, some from the previous season on which your flowers grow and some from the current season, you will need to cut down the shoots from the previous season on which the flowers grow. For this, you want to cut those stems all the way down to ground level either at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn so that the new shoots from the current season will be able to flower the following year. Some popular varieties you prune in this pay include:
- Euphorbia x martini
- Euphorbia rigida
- Euphorbia myrsinites
- Euphorbia characias
Herbaceous perennial euphorbia: Cut back the whole plant in autumn
If you have the herbaceous perennial, a deciduous variety that dies back for the winter, you will need to deadhead it after flowering to keep it looking good, something you can do whenever the flowering is complete. Then you will have to cut back the entire plant to the ground ideally before the first frost, so when it’s looking a little tatty late summer early autumn, prune it back to ground level. Rest assured your plant will reappear the following spring. Some examples of herbaceous perennial varieties include:
- Euphorbia chameleon
- Euphorbia griffithii
- Euphorbia Villosa
- Euphorbia Wallichii
- Euphorbia Oblongata
- Euphorbia Palustris
Overall before you start cutting away at your euphorbia, just make sure you know which type of plant you have so that you can use the appropriate severity in your pruning. Regularly pruning as necessary based on the type you have will help keep the plant healthy and floriferous.