Euphorbia Information – Care and Maintenance

Basic information about Euphorbia.  Includes Origin, Growing & Cultivation, Common Pests & Diseases, Interesting Facts & Uses,  and Garden Design Tips.

Euphorbia Origin

euphorbia first blush
Euphorbia ‘First Blush’

The scientific genus name, Euphorbia, was bestowed by Linnaeus in honor of Euphorbos, the physician to King Juba II of Numidia.

The common name of ‘Spurge’ is derived from Middle English/Old French ‘espurge’ (‘to purge’) since it was used as a powerful purgative/laxative.

This is a truly huge genus, with over 2,ooo species of plants! They’re found all over the world.

Growing and Cultivation of Euphorbia

euphorbia bonfire
Euphorbia ‘Bonfire’

Euphorbias have a wide range of growing conditions – HostasDirect focuses on the more common garden ones, specifically polychroma varieties.

These plants prefer full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soils.

Euphorbia can be divided in fall or early spring, and benefits by being cut back hard in summer, after spring flowering, to keep a neat mound.

Be careful handling this plant!  The milky sap is poisonous and a skin irritant, so gloves are required.


Common Pests and Diseases

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'
Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’

Euphorbia can be susceptible to a variety of insects; spidermites, mealybugs, aphids, and nematodes can be problems.  Commercial insecticides are available to prevent and treat these.  These plants can also sometimes develop fungal and bacterial diseases.  A careful diagnosis and treatment plan can be important if symptoms (unusual leaf shapes/colors, leaf twisting or curling) are seen.

Euphorbia is both deer and rabbit-resistant; they prefer not to eat it due to its poisonous, irritating sap.

Interesting Facts and Uses

This such a large genus, it is frequently split into 3 parts for discussions – the garden Euphorbias, the tropical or indoor Euphorbias, and/or the ‘succulent’ Euphorbias, which were once thought to be related to cacti.

Some very famous varieties you may keep indoors include ‘Crown of Thorns’ and Poinsettia!

Much like Poinsettia (and other Euphorbias) the garden Euphorbia’s ‘flowers’ are actually modified leaves called ‘bracts’ that grown/turn bright colors and surround the very modest, yellow cup-shaped true flowers within.

Euphorbia flowers can be cut for arrangements, as long as you’re careful handling them!

E. polychroma ‘Major’ has won the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Many varieties attract pollinators like bees and butterflies!

Garden Design Tips

euphorbia polychroma garden
Euphorbia polychroma in a garden setting

This neat, mound-shaped plant with electric yellow flowers makes a good contrast for darker-leaved sun-loving perennials like Peony.

Euphorbia can be useful in border edges, mass plantings, and rock gardens.

The leaves of this plant frequently turn a rainbow of fall colors – red, purple, and orange are common, so areas that go dull in fall can benefit from Euphorbia’s showy color change!

Purchasing Euphorbia

To purchase varieties of this plant, please visit our Sun Companion Plants Page.