Euphorbia characias wulfenii

Many gardeners have spectacular and well-established specimens of this beautiful sub-shrub to show with pride, but I confess that in our recent horrific winters I have not found it hardy. But it is so handsome that I persevere, and in sheltered gardens, there is less of a problem. A bushy evergreen sub-shrub, E. characias wulfenii has stems which grow to 4 feet (1.2 m). They are covered at least half the way up with narrow glaucous leaves, and above that there will grow in early summer large cylindrical heads closely packed with saucer-shaped flowers, consisting of yellowish-green bracts with a pale orange eye. The stems can be very plentiful on a good plant.

Euphorbia characias wulfenii looks best as a specimen, not in groups, perhaps against a dry-stone wall, and though best known as a sun-loving plant, it will also prosper in light shade. But it is sun-loving plants, like santolina and lavender, which make its most natural companions – it does not look right with anything lush. It needs reasonably good well-drained soil. Take cuttings every spring as an insurance against possible winter loss so that you have young plants in reserve. Some botanists class E. characias and E. wulfenii as separate species.

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