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Genus Euphorbia (Spurge, Milkweed)

Euphorbia Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner
yew-FOR-bee-ah Common Name: Spurge, Milkweed
This genus is extremely varied in its plant forms and habitats, ranging from large, succulent trees and tiny, compact succulents to herbaceous perennials and semi- or evergreen, herbaceous shrubs. Their unique flower structure consists of conspicuous leaf bracts of yellow, red, purple, brown, or green, with tiny, male and female floral parts in contrasting colors. Many species are notable for these peculiar flowers, as well as their handsome foliage and their remarkable form.
Noteworthy characteristics: The herbaceous species are well suited to a rock garden, mixed border, or to naturalizing. The succulents are well suited to a dry tropical garden and warm or temperate greenhouse. Their milky sap may cause irritation to skin, and severe discomfort if ingested
Care: Depends upon the species.
Propagation: Sow seed of annuals in situ, seed of tender succulents when ripe, and seed of hardy perennials when ripe or in spring. Divide perennials in early spring.
Problems: Nematodes, spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, fungal and bacterial diseases.

Species, varieties and cultivars for genus Euphorbia

Euphorbia 'Black Bird' Euphorbia 'Black Bird'
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

With velvety foliage that darkens to near black in full sun, 'Black Bird' euphorbia looks good in perennial borders and is especially striking in containers. Flowers open above bright, lime green bracts on red stems that form a compact vase shape. -Pat McKernan, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120

Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This hybrid produces masses of pure white bracts above finely textured, apple green foliage. It adds stunning texture and color to a border in partial shade.

no image available Euphorbia 'Helena’s Blush™'
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This hybrid has petite green-and-cream variegated foliage with a hint of pink on the undersides. It produces chartreuse and apple green bicolored bracts on airy stems.

Euphorbia 'Jade Dragon' Euphorbia 'Jade Dragon'
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This plant makes a riveting focal point in the border, with golden bracts with red centers that open just above the burgundy-tinted, dark green leaves in spring to summer.

Euphorbia amygdaloides Euphorbia amygdaloides
(Wood spurge)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Wood spurge is a soft, hairy, evergreen perennial with red-tinged stems and matte dark green leaves with red tones underneath. In mid-spring to early summer, it produces 8-inch-tall, greenish-yellow bracts.

no image available Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Rubra’
(Wood spurge)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This cultivar has a compact, bushy habit to 20 inches tall and purple-red flushed leaves, especially on new growth and in winter. It produces yellow bracts in mid-spring and early summer.

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae
(Mrs. Robb's bonnet)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This variety has dark, glossy evergreen leaves arranged in tight rosettes, and it produces yellow-green bracts in mid-spring and early summer.

Euphorbia antisyphilitica Euphorbia antisyphilitica
(Candelilla)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Candelilla forms an upright clump of slender, waxy gray-green stems. Inconspicuous leaves appear on new growth but quickly drop with the first dry spell. Tiny flowers of cream and rosy pink periodically hug the upper portion of the stems throughout the warm season, particularly in response to rain. Candelilla is perfect for narrow planting strips because its stems grow straight up in tight bundles.

no image available Euphorbia characias
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This upright, evergreen shrub has stunning texture and form. Its gray-green leaves and woolly, purple-tinged stems form billowy, 4-foot long branches. From early spring to early summer, it produces giant cylindrical bract clusters in yellow-green with purple-black nectar glands, and creates a specimen that looks otherworldly.

Euphorbia cotinifolia Euphorbia cotinifolia
(Tropical smoke bush, Caribbean copper plant)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

With its woody stems and oval-shaped leaves, this perennial looks a lot like a tree. Like other members of the euphorbia family, it has milky sap and tiny flowers. Most of the appeal comes from the leaf color. dark burgundy on older leaves, a brighter red on new foliage. The foliage generally dies back in winter. -Jeff Moore, Regional Picks: Southwest, Fine Gardening issue #120

no image available Euphorbia dulcis
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This species produces erects stems of bronzy green leaves and greenish yellow bracts in early summer. In autumn, its leaves turn shades of red, orange, and gold.

Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon' Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon'
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This notable species produces erect stems of bronzy burgundy leaves and purple-green bracts in early summer. It looks exceptional when placed near contrasting plants. The foliage may be cut back after flowering to produce fresh growth.

Euphorbia griffithii Euphorbia griffithii
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This species has red stems and dark green leaves, which emerge in spring with a reddish tinge. In early summer, it bears conspicuous bracts of orange-red or red. 

Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow'
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

'Fireglow' bears conspicuous bracts in vivid orange-fuchsia in early summer. It has red stems and dark green leaves, which emerge in spring with a reddish tinge.  

Euphorbia inneuphdia

Euphorbia inneuphdia


(Diamond Frost® euphorbia)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Diamond Frost euphorbia is an absolute workhorse in the garden, blooming almost the entire planting season and with no deadheading needed. Don't let its delicate appearance fool you - it's exceptionally resistant to both heat and frost.

no image available Euphorbia myrsinites
(Myrtle spurge)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Long-lasting, terminal clusters of lime green bracts and flowers punctuate the meandering 'arms' of this ground-hugging species. The chalky seafoam foliage looks great spilling over a stone wall in a rock garden or at the edge of any bed.

Euphorbia palustris Euphorbia palustris
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This robust perennial forms a large shrub that adds a nice textural element to the back of the border. In early spring it produces 6-inch-wide, vivid yellow bracts.

Euphorbia polychroma Euphorbia polychroma
(Cushion spurge)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Electric yellow bracts bloom on a low cushion in April and persist, but gently fade as the stems elongate to form a 16-inch mound by midsummer. The leaves produce shades of red, orange, and purple in autumn.

no image available Euphorbia rigida
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This species is similar to E. myrsinites, but its habit is first erect before spreading, and its steely blue leaves are more narrow and pointed. It also bears terminal yellow bracts from early spring to summer.

no image available Euphorbia tirucalli
(Pencil tree, Finger tree)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This unusual looking plant has many succulent, pencil-like branches. The leaves are small and short-lived, and the flowers are insignificant. Euphorbia tirucalli can grow to almost 30 feet in the wild, but it can be used as a smaller specimen or container plant in the garden. It is hardy only in Zone 11.