The Highest Rated Euphorbia

I was weeding this morning, the refuse pile being 95% grass weeds and 5% euphorbias. There’s two species of the latter I’m particularly concerned about, and that I’d eradicate entirely from the garden if I could. One is a species with very fine foliage – the foliage of a delicate annual, rather than a robust perennial – and domes of even finer frothy lime flowers, which I deliberately introduced from a friends garden and then immediately regretted. The other has been round the traps for decades, and mostly known in Australia (and probably incorrectly so) as E. hyberna.

The euphorbia we’ve always known as E. hyberna, but probably isn’t

I was frequently weeding around the brilliant and irreplaceable Euphorbia rigida, necessitating sleeves of odd socks (with which our washing machine is extraordinarily generous) with the toes cut out, protecting me from the welts that develop when my forearms are lightly punctured – actually barely even tickled – by the pointed tips of the leaves (read more about E. rigida here).

Euphorbia rigida in October

But as I was doing so, I was contemplating which euphorbia I rate the highest as an individual plant. It occurred to me that this wasn’t the same as the euphorbia I could least live without, or the one that makes the greatest contribution to the garden. The plant most fitting this latter category is Euphorbia characias subs. wulfenii. Yes, it’s a little more enthusiastic in progeny-production than I’d like, but it’s so foundational to the spring buoyancy here that I’d never want to be without it (read more about it here).

Euphorbia characias subspecies. wulfenii, as it appears now, in late October

But as for the highest rated, my vote would currently go to Euphorbia ‘Craigieburn’. Oh that there were more plants that shine, in multiple ways, as this plant does! Good – predictably and consistently good – purple-red leaves that glow ruby when backlit, are spangled over with ruby-hearted flowers of gold for a very long season over spring. There’s absolutely no downtime. It just wants dead-heading when its done flowering, by which time new foliage just swallows up any blunt, cut stems (read more about it here).

Euphorbia ‘Craigieburn’, albeit with foliage hidden

I’d love to know which euphorbias you rate the highest as an individual, and if different, those you would least want to be without in your planting.

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  1. I share your regret in having prevailed on a friend to give me some Euphorbia cyparissias, which I’m sure is the highly invasive winter dormant rogue you described. Have now discovered it is on the Victorian a weed alert list.
    Attractive foliage and dramatic ground cover in flower, but absolutely rampant spreader.
    Totally agree on your two highest rated selections, which I grow in abundance.

  2. I so enjoy reading your blogs thank you.
    In my garden I also enjoy euphorbia wulfenii and after reading your love of E. rigida now that is In my garden.
    Another Euphorbia that I have discovered is E. cyparissias ‘Fens Ruby”. A dedicated soft forest of pinnate leaves and pretty flowers. A mixture of lime green and pinks at different times. Then dies off in winter and disappears until spring.
    Spreads like a ground cover and is only roughly up to 20cm h.

  3. Fireglow/Dixter – gloriously fills our front garden at Veddw and makes me rejoice that I no longer leave it to go to Chelsea!

  4. I too have regretted planting E. cyparissias. Here in Virginia its listed as an invasive, for very good reason. At first I thought it might make a nice green cover in the beds, but it is choking out everything else. I’m constantly working to dig it out and may have to resort to the dreaded weed killer.
    Love E. characias wulfenii. Although individually the plants are short-lived, it seeds around enough that I’m never without it.

  5. I love Euphorbias for their fresh zing of colour in the garden. Any opinions on Euphorbia Robbiae which we saw at Sissinghurst? In your opinion how does Euphorbia Robbiae compare to Euphorbia Characaias subsp wulfenii?

  6. My favourite is Euphorbia lambii. We call it the tree euphorbia and it really does look like a small tree. I love hearing the seeds explode off the tree in late Spring/early Summer (like this morning when it was 31degrees by 9am.) I’ve noticed through my travels with the Mediterranean Garden Society that other countries call Euphorbia dendroides a tree euphorbia but it is a bush in my garden, nothing like a tree but has the nice red stems in summer when it is dormant. More dry gardening please Michael!

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