Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mediterranean spurge

The other day I was at a friend’s house and I was admiring the Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii) in their front yard. It was in full bloom and it stole the show from all the other plants in its vicinity.

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It turns out that their plant is a seedling courtesy of the plant in their neighbor’s yard:

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That plant, in turn, is a volunteer from seed that came from further down the street.

That should answer the question whether Mediterranean spurge self-sows. I’m not sure I’d call it invasive (quite a few people do), but it certainly gets around.


Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii is hardy to zone 7 and can grow 5 ft tall and 4 ft wide. It prefers full sun and isn’t particular about soil as long as there is good drainage. It its native habitat (Greece and Turkey) it grows on rocky hillsides. In cultivation, I think it looks best as a solitary specimen.

6 comments:

  1. We wouldn't be without Mediterranean spurge in our garden, a lovely plant! It self sows but not invasively so, easy enough to remove the seedlings the may pop out somewhere else. The shrub itself needs replacing every so often and regular pruning is essential to keep it looking neat.

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    1. I have high hopes for my tree euphorbia (Euphorbia lambii). I think it will look like a Mediterranean spurge with a trunk.

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  2. Really striking!

    I really hate when plant descriptions say "isn't fussy about soil type..." but then add "...as long as there is good drainage". Doesn't that mean that it *is* fussy about soil, as it won't like water-retaining clay soils? Or will it tolerate clay soil in a raised bed, in a mound, or at the top of a slope?

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    1. It believe that "[it] isn’t particular about soil as long as there is good drainage" is an accurate description. It does grow in clay--I see it everywhere in town--if the planting area is just slightly above grade. What it can't take is being water-logged for any length of time. But I guess that's true for most Mediterranean natives. I'd say it wants the same growing conditions as lavender (we have lavender growing in clay, too).

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  3. As a gardener with clay soil, less than stallar drainage and several Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii I can say I've never had an issue with it pouting about the soil. Also since I cut back the blooms once they start to look ratty I have very little issue with them seeding around. It's those that leave the blooms on and never cut them back that have a problem. Just yesterday I walked by a yard that must have had 30 seedlings, and 15-20 more in the neighbors yard. Free plants! Or a little weeding...

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    1. Loree, good to know that it even grows in situations with less than ideal drainage. I've also found spurges like Euphorbia characias, amygdaloides and martinii to be easy and undemanding. I think they offer a lot of visual bang for the buck.

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