The Dos and Don’ts of Pruning Euphorbia

Fine Gardening – Issue 191
Photo: Jonathan Buckley/

Euphorbia growth is either caulescent (having stems above ground all year) or acaulescent (having only seasonal stems above ground). A third group of spurges, less common, stays woody year-round. These designations ultimately influence how a spurge is pruned back. It is very important not to cut back the stems of caulescent types in autumn; if you do, they will not flower the next spring. The acaulescent types go dormant in autumn, so the whole of the plant can be cut back to the ground. All types can be deadheaded after flowering (photo above) if neatness is a factor.

Group 1: Caulescent

Silver spurge
E. rigida. Photo: Joshua McCullough

In early spring, prune only dead stems from winter. Plants in this group include:

  • E. ‘Galaxy Glow’
  • E. robbiae and cvs.
  • E. rigida and cvs.
  • E. characias and cvs.
  • E. × martinii and cvs.

Group 2: Acaulescent

Flowering spurge
E. corollata. Photo: Bill Johnson

In late fall, cut back the entire plant to the crown. Plants in this group include:

  • E. marginata and cvs.
  • E. palustris and cvs.
  • E. epithymoides and cvs.
  • E. corollata and cvs.

Group 3: Woody year-round

Caribbean copper plant
E. cotinifolia. Photo: Michelle Gervais

Trim any season just to shape. Plants in this group include:

  • E. cotinifolia
  • E. tirucallii ‘Rosea’

Return to collection

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