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Wide shot of a euphorbia plant.
Incredibly tough and dry-tolerant, this group of shrubs and perennials looks like it belongs with the succulents. Showy flowers in spring and summer are a highlight, but its coloured foliage means euphorbia is visually interesting year-round.

 

What you need to know about euphorbia

Name: spurge, euphorbia. Euphorbia species and varieties including Euphorbia amigdaloides var, Euphorbia wulfenii, Euphorbia milii and Euphorbia tirucalli.

Height: from low groundcovers to shrubs of around 1m.

Foliage: evergreen.

Climate: cold temperate, warm temperate, arid/semi-arid, sub-tropical and tropical. This plant tends to have good heat tolerance and drought tolerance.

Soil: can thrive even in poor soil, provided the drainage is excellent.

Position: full sun, but will tolerate light shade.

Flowering: early spring and early summer flowers in white, milky white, yellow, and yellow-green colours, depending on variety.

Feeding: usually not required.

Watering: water young plants to get them established. Older plants need very little water

Appearance and characteristics of euphorbia

The euphorbia family ranges from small perennial plants to shrubs. The most commonly grown forms are small to medium evergreen shrubs up to 1m in height. Foliage is generally blue-grey, but some forms are available that are tinged or striped with cream, red and green leaves, and combinations of those colours.

Yellow flowers appear at the tips of the plant in spring and summer, and these are usually sulphur-yellow to lime green. Pink, cream, red and purple are also found. Other varieties include Crown of Thorns, which has vibrant pink flowers, and Diamond Frost, which blooms in white flowers.

All varieties produce a milky white sap when cut or damaged. Wear eye protection, long sleeves and gloves when working near euphorbia, as the sap can cause skin irritation. (Be very careful not to get it in your eyes.) The plants are also poisonous.

Close up shot of a euphorbia plant.

Uses for euphorbia

This plant is famous for its drought tolerance and heat tolerance, and so it’s an ideal plant for hot and dry gardens. Any of the smaller varieties will also perform well in a pot, provided you use a free-draining potting mix, such as a cacti and succulent mix.

How to plant and grow euphorbia

You can plant at any time of the year in a sunny part of the garden. The soil must have good drainage, so if the area is wet, plant it into a raised garden bed.

Caring for euphorbia

Straight after planting, you will need to water the plant every few days until the plant is established. You can then reduce watering to around once a month.

How and when to prune euphorbia

These plants don’t really require pruning. You can remove the dead flower heads, and also any dead or broken branches. Remember to avoid the sap.

Diseases and pests

Euphorbia is rarely worried by pests or diseases. However, it may be susceptible to fungus diseases if grown in humid districts. In these areas, it is important to plant it in full sun, in a spot that receives some breeze.

How to propagate euphorbias

You can make extra plants by taking cuttings in spring and summer—just remember to wear waterproof gloves during this process. Select unflowered growing tips about 15cm long. Cut them and strip off the bottom two-thirds of the leaves, then stir the end in a glass of cold water to wash away the milky sap. (Be sure to use a glass that is not intended for humans or pets to drink from.) Place the cuttings in a pot of damp propagating sand and keep moist, but not wet, for a few months, until the roots have formed.

If you like this, try...

Poinsettia: this Christmas favourite features bright red new leaves against dark green older ones.

Desert rose: red and pink frangipani-like flowers on a short succulent stem.

Coleus: grown for its fabulous variety of foliage colours and patterns.

Start planting today

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.