Is this euphorbia?

socksApril 10, 2013

This plant has been so pretty this spring. I think it's euphorbia, right? At some point should I prune off the long, blooming growth so the new short ones at the bottom come up? Not sure how to take care of this.

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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

Yes, that looks like Euphorbia Characias. Mine reseed every year. I just let them die back on their own after flowering and then cut what's dead.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 5:24PM
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Thank you, Centralcali. What do you mean they reseed? Mine seems to have some short sprouts at the bottom, which I assume will grow tall when I take off the blooming stems. Or does it drop seeds and they sprout?

My friend admired the plant and I wanted to get her one at the nursery. I couldn't find one like mine, but I did find one called Tiny Tim (or was it Tom?). Then there was a tall one with different flowers but they called it "spurge," so I guess that's another name for euphorbia. I'll check at another nursery as I'd like to get one like mine.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 10:28PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

The flowers bloom, set seed, then as the flowering portion dries, the seeds mature and drop to the ground. Tada! they reseed.

And "spurge" is a generic name for euphorbias as a group but not a specific one.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 12:24AM
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Thanks, Jean. Maybe I can harvest a couple of plants if mine reseeds. "Spurge" sounds so weed-ish.;

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 10:27AM
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As others have correctly pointed out, this is indeed euphorbia; the most commonly found is e. characias wulfenii. It is one of the most forgiving, adaptable plants on the planet, beautiful in bloom and out, and the lime green flowers (actually they're the bracts) are to die for.
Socks, since you are asking whether it reseeds, I have to assume this is your first first experience with euphorbia. Reseeding is so easy and so frequent that some consider it a problem. Those little blue-green sprouts seem to pop up everywhere. I'm always amazed at how far afield they manage to travel.
Do keep some of these volunteers. Although euphorbia is perennial, eventually your mother plant will get woody and less attractive--probably within 5-8 years or so. Some folks have had luck rejuvenating the original by splitting it at the base--I never have. Once it gets woody, it's never quite as beautiful. My MO is to thank the original for years of faithful service, then SP it in favor of one of my younger specimens.


PS: And just like its relative, your Christmas poinsettia, your e. characias wulfenii is poisonous.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 4:14PM
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Wonderful info, Kay! Thanks for the PS--I'll check that out on the internet to see how toxic it is, what parts, etc. My son wanted the plant, and he has 2 little ones, so maybe it's not a good choice for him.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 4:29PM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

Sorry, I just came back to read the replies. The others answered your question, but yes, after the bloom, it will set seeds and they will sprout in your garden.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 2:56PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Not really "poisonous." Instead, the milky sap can blister skin of sensitive persons. So the wise guideline to follow when working with the plant is to use protective clothing, including gloves.

Most important of all -- don't get sap in your eyes.
This can easily occur if you absentmindedly wipe your sweating brow.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 11:49PM
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Sorry to disagree, Jean001a, but euphorbia is indeed poisonous if ingested. Check out this overview description from England's Royal Horticultural Society:

Here is a link that might be useful: Royal Horticultural Society on Euphorbia characias wulfenii

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 12:25AM
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CA Kate

socks: how old is your son? If he's old enough to understand "danger" then this might be a good lesson for him on handling plants. Many plants have, what could be, poisonous properties if ingested, and some even if it gets on ones skin. Now might be a good time to teach good gardening practices, only one of which is: "... know what you grow."

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 3:08PM
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He's 2--grandson actually. I imagine his yard has other "dangerous" plants in it. Many plants we commonly have in our yards have some sort of toxic aspect to them. I did look it up, and it's not as bad as some (like oleander).

Oddly, I remember as an 8-year old I used to taste things in the yard, particularly the growing tips of ferns and one specific weed which tasted bad (don't know the name). I taught elem. science a number of years and always warned children that even tho' we eat things that grow like lettuce, tomatoes, not ALL plants are safe to eat. We cannot just go outside and start nibbling.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 7:07PM
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rosiew(8 GA)

Was so happy to find this - hopefully some of you who responded will be able to help me. My Euphorbia characias Wolfenii plants have barely survived this year. We've had a huge amount of rain. A couple just rotted, the others look unhappy. The good news is that I'm seeing seedlings and want to know what to do next. Are the seedlings planted individually or in groups? And when could I transplant?

When I cut back the crumby looking growth, I was so careful. Used my Felcos to hold each (dripping) stalk and bagged them one at a time. Then washed my clipper blades and my hands several times.

Will appreciate any tips you can offer.
Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 4:26PM
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Euphorbia is one of the largest genus of plants on the planet and includes both hardy, tropical (and/or semi-) as well as succulent/cactus species. To uniformly consider them all as toxic or with the same degree of toxicity is one of those persistent gardening myths.

Hardy euphorbs - like the characias referred to in this post - are not very toxic if fact, you would need to eat a bushel full of the stuff to cause much harm. As with all things potentially toxic, dosage is everything! The latex or sap is caustic however, and could burn or blister your mouth or any mucus membranes it came into contact with long before any other harm would come to you. I would have NO concerns about growing this plant with small kids or pets as long as they were not inclined to rip things out of the garden. And even contact dermatitis is restricted to those who are sensitive to this effect - I grew multiple species of euphorbs for many years and never once had them raise a rash or any sort of skin irritation.

Rosie, these Mediterranean species want very good drainage - excessively wet soils at any time of year will cause issue. That is no doubt why yours are looking unhappy. Since these get to be pretty hefty plants, I would recommend planting the seedlings individually, giving them plenty of room to fill in (average size for wulfenii is 4-5' by 4-5'). And you could transplant them now if you tend to stay on the drier side over winter. Otherwise I might wait until spring......or whenever your drier season is in GA :-)

Just wear garden gloves when you cut these plants back and don't wipe your face - you'll be fine. No need to make a bigger production out of them than necessary :-) They could sure gum up my pruner blades but other than that, no worries!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 5:47PM
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I found the tag for this plant: euphorbia wulfenii shorty

I've been so happy with it, love the leaf color, and when it bloomed last year, the
flowers were almost neon. The tag says "yellow," but I would say more lime green.

I've had quite a few volunteers pop up this summer, more than I can use! I'm wondering if they are easy to transplant.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 8:20PM
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