General gardening topics

Pruning Euphorbia to get the most out of them

Last updated on May 4th, 2022

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Euphorbias make a wonderful addition to any garden, not only because of their flowers but thanks to their colourful bracts of foliage that take on a very unique shape. However, there are three different types that you can grow in your garden. Each of which requires different levels of pruning, some are evergreen and just need the flowers cut back, whereas others (which consist of many perennial varieties) need pruning to ground level in autumn.

Learn more about growing Euphorbias in our article here

Pruning advice!

No matter which variety you have, all Euphorbias produce a thick, milky sap. This 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, 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 pruning it falls so that you can make sure you are undertaking the correct method 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 to the appropriate degree based on the variety of plants 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.

In 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 that have to be cut down every autumn to the ground which is probably the easiest to do.

Evergreen Euphorbia

Cut back flowering stems after they have finished flowering

Euphorbia mellifera

If you have an evergreen variety you simply need to give it a quick trim after it has finished flowering. 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 examples of varieties of Euphorbia that can be pruned in this way include:

  • Euphorbia mellifera
  • Euphorbia Red Wing
  • Euphorbia blackbird
  • Euphorbia x pasteurii

Biennial Euphorbia

Cut only stemming stems back to ground level.

Euphorbia x martini

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 grew.

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 way include:

  • Euphorbia x martini
  • Euphorbia rigida
  • Euphorbia myrsinites
  • Euphorbia characias

Herbaceous perennial Euphorbia

Cut back the whole plant in autumn

Euphorbia chameleon
Euphorbia chameleon

If you have the herbaceous perennial, a deciduous variety that dies back for the winter, you will need to deadhead it after it has finished 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 from late summer to the early autumn, you need to 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 schillingii
  • Euphorbia Villosa
  • Euphorbia Wallichii
  • Euphorbia Oblongata
  • Euphorbia Palustris

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 of pruning. The last thing you want to do is to cut back a Euphorbia to ground level that only needs to be deadheaded. Regularly pruning as necessary based on the type you have will help keep the plant healthy and floriferous.

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