EUPHORBIA – spurge

This huge family of plants includes succulents, shrubs, perennials and annuals. In the garden the hardy herbaceous perennials are valuable border plants grown for their colourful bracts and foliage.

Suitable site and soil. They will grow in a sunny or partially shaded site and will tolerate most soil types, but generally do best in moist yet well-drained soils.

Cultivation and care. Plant from autumn to spring. No real pruning is needed but cutting back old flower stems keeps the plant bushy.

Propagation By basal cuttings in either spring or summer or by division in early autumn or late spring. With some effort they can be grown from seed.

Recommended varieties. E. griffithii, an excellent hardy perennial, has reddish stems up to around 60cm – 2ftwith profuse dark-green leaves with red veins. The flowers bloom in summer. Best variety is ‘Fireglow’ with its brick-red flowerheads. E. polychroma is a fully hardy perennial evergreen sub-shrub with mid-green leaves and in spring sulphur-yellow flower-heads. It grows 45cm – lI – 2ft high and wide. E. characias wul-fenii is an upright evergreen shrub with grey-green leaves and in spring bright, greenish yellow blooms.

Pests and diseases. Generally trouble-free but less than fully hardy species that are damaged by frosts might be afflicted with grey mould (botrytis).

STOP THE SAP

To prevent the irritant sap flowing from euphorbia when it is cut and used in displays, you have to scald the newly cut stems by dipping them in very hot water.

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