Common Name: Mediterranean spurge
Botanical Name: Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii
Form: upright with rounded canopy
Plant Type: herbaceous perennial, evergreen where winter’s aren’t harsh
Mature Size: 2 - 3ft x 1.5 – 2’
Origin: Southern Europe
Hardiness Zone: 6 to 9 (winter protection in Zone 6)
Foliage: narrow, linear grass shaped with a blue-green hue up to 5” long that spiral around the stems like a bottlebrush
Flowers: chartreuse (greenish-yellow), lack petals but have yellow bracts
Stems: succulent stems that bleed a white milky sap that is a toxic irritant
Exposure: full sun best
Soil: prefers a drier well-drained soil, dislike heavy clay and wet soils
Uses: rock gardens, water wise gardens, mixed borders, seaside gardens, deer and rabbit resistant, Mediterranean, deer & rabbit resistant, attracts butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Propagation: herbaceous cuttings
Pruning: Remove flowers at their base after flowering to allow space for new stems,
Problems: Wear gloves when handling as their milky sap irritates skin and is also toxic. Pest resistant.
The Mediterranean spurge looks good year round but steals the show when its stems are topped with domed with huge flowers clusters in early spring. Their blossoms are rather unusual as they are composed of waxy yellow bracts instead of delicate colourful petals. It is a bold and bodacious plant with plume-like blue-green foliage that spirals around the stems so they resemble bottle brushes.
This plant originates from the Mediterranean where it’s hot and dry with gritty soil that drains freely. It’s also salt tolerant so it is perfect for seaside gardens, however, it does not like clay soils, soggy soils and shade, which promotes roots rot and its ultimate demise.
It’s surprisingly quite hardy to minus 15°C (5°F) and is suitable from Zones 6 to 9, however, it’s recommended to protect them in Zone 6 over the winter. If winters are not severe, it will stay green and not die back. If it does, it will regrow from the roots in spring.
If it’s too cold to grow outside, this plant is so versatile it can be grown as a houseplant as well as overwintered indoors. Just bring it outside in the summer so it can soak up summer’s sunshine.
Because it is drought tolerant use in water-wise gardens and rockeries. Plant among other sun-loving perennials, use as a specimen in early spring gardens and place in mix borders to fill in between shrubs. A valuable early flowering plant for bees, which love its nectar and pollen. Also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies but deters deer and rabbits.
Wear gloves and be careful when handling any Euphorbia, including poinsettias, as their stems exude a toxic milky sap that often irritates skin and eyes. It is also toxic when eaten. Don’t forget to clean any pruning equipment and wash your gloves.
Propagate With Cuttings
Euphorbias, including the Mediterranean spurge, are easy to propagate from cuttings. The best time is in early spring before flowers emerge. Wearing gloves, make cuttings that includes 4 to 8 sets of leaves. Cut the cutting off the stem just under a leaf or node. Remove the lower leaves and the growing tip of the plant. Rinse the sap from the cut ends with cool water and allow to dry. This allows the cut tissues to form a callous in preparation for the formation of roots. Place the cuttings in a clean pot full of fresh, clean potting soil that is 20 to 50% sand. Good drainage is essential to prevent rotting. Water gently and place in a bright location out of direct sun. Place it on a heating mat if you have one as bottom heat will stimulate root growth. Place in full sun when new growth emerges. Don’t repot or plant outside until roots fill the pot