February 25, 2014

Plant of the Month: Cushion Spurge

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I've been meaning to feature this one as "plant of the month" for a while, but the time never seemed right.

With this week's return of the polar vortex, I'm yearning for bright, warm colors, so here they are.

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Euphorbia polychroma (synonym, E. epithymoides), commonly called Cushion Spurge, adds a bit of reliable, bright spring color to my garden. Depending on the weather, it commonly begins blooming here in April or May, and the blooms last for a few weeks. Like its relative, Poinsettia (E. pulcherrima), Cushion Spurge forms bracts that are actually showier than its inconspicuous flowers.

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The perennial forms a mound, with a height and spread of about 12-24 inches.

This plant has been a stalwart in my garden since we moved here more than 14 years ago. I take it for granted, but I was surprised to learn from the Missouri Botanical Garden and other sources that it prefers full sun and dry soil!

Well ... my garden is shady and the soil is moist (except during drought), and this Euphorbia is very happy here.

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As you can see, its chartreuse color is a good companion to burgundy and magenta garden accents. A showy plant, it also:

  • Thrives in zones 4 to 8;
  • Repels rabbits and deer;
  • Tolerates poor soils and drought; and
  • Requires low maintenance.

One notable characteristic is that its stems exude a toxic, milky sap when cut. I've never cut my plant, it hasn't spread beyond its original location, and it's perfect where it was planted by the previous owners.

For me, today, the memory and image of Cushion Spurge add a little sunshine to another brutally cold winter day.

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41 comments:

  1. I have never seen this plant before. You all right it's really similar with pointsetia or my Euphorbia. Does the plant have other flower colors? They look so beautiful. Thanks for sharing

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    1. I believe its color is always this bright yellow/chartreuse. But there are other Euphorbias of different colors, like yours. It's a unique plant--from a distance and close-up.

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  2. Oh, do these look familiar! And yes, we are getting yet another blast of cold air this week with a tad more snow. March is coming and for us in Minnesota, that doesn't mean much, other than ICE! So thank you for this look into the future, one that I know will get here and we will all rejoice! I so love the chartreuse. Thank you kindly for coming over to visit! Keep warm and DREAM! Anita

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    1. Do you have them in your garden? I know--I wonder when this brutal cold will be done for the season. Whenever we get temps above 20F now it's cause for celebration! ;-) Dreaming, dreaming...

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  3. This would have been a good add to my garden back in Majorca, looks pretty and sunny, I hope it does help you thru the end of the winter. Thanks

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    1. Yes, I think it's native in that part of the world. I have some non-native perennials in my garden, and I don't have the heart to pull them out--especially the ones that aren't invasive and are reliable from year to year. Memories of Cushion Spurge are warming my day. :)

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  4. I like that yellow . . . bringing us snow laden polar plunged vortex residents a bit cheer. I have seen this plant here in Michigan . . . I too live where it is shady, more moist, but I am going to try and find a corner where Cushion Spurge might thrive . . .

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    1. It's definitely a cheery plant, and a unique shade of yellow. Sometimes it's hard to photograph because it's so bright. I just have one patch of it, but it seems to like its spot. Stay warm, Lynne!

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  5. I put this in several years ago and look forward to its acid-yellow blooms in the spring. It is a color I am really drawn to. I am also fond of Euphorbia helioscopia, but you will not find it for sale anywhere, it is listed as a noxious annual weed, but I love its color too. More green than yellow.

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    1. I know what you mean--there's something about chartreuse and other greenish yellow shades of plants. I'll have to research E. helioscopia, just out of curiousity. Hope you're staying warm in Virginia, Les?! Your spring is just around the corner!

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  6. This Euphorbia does bring sunshine to the garden. It doesn't seed around with me but it is quite easy from cuttings as long as you are careful not to get the sap on your skin.
    Oh no not another polar vortex, it seems endless for you this year.

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    1. That's good to know, Chloris. I don't have any experience with it other than enjoying it in the spot it's been in all these years. Yep, another blast of cold air this week. More time for garden planning, I guess. ;-)

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  7. This is a beautiful plant, and I have always loved their reliability, and colors. Brutal cold here for the last few days...spring doesn't want to visit.

    Jen

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    1. I know there are several popular varieties of Euphorbias. I enjoy their succulent and semisucculent foliage and bracts. I'm not expecting much of a spring this year. With all the ice we have, it's going to be a long time before it's all melted. But just breaking out of the brutal weather would be nice. Maybe this will be the last of it...

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  8. Looking at this plant, I get a tune in my head: "Here comes the sun!"

    What cheery photos for a cold February day. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for that thought, Aaron! I agree, it does bring thoughts of bright, warm sunshine. Hope you're not getting too much cold with this most recent blast from the north.

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  9. Being a 'colors' person, I'm really struck by the chartreuse with the oxblood vase behind it. Stunning. My family lives in Ventura, CA where they have pointsettias that grow twenty feet tall. The first time I saw that, I was pretty taken aback. I can sure see the resemblance of this euphorbia to the pointsettia--same family did you say?

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    1. I know, I really notice unique color combinations, too--especially in the garden (and in nature). Wow, I had no idea Poinsettias would get that big! That would be shocking to see the first time. Poinsettias and Cushion Spurge are in the same family and the same genus. Interesting plants, aren't they?

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  10. This is a volunteer in my garden, and an eager one, at that. It gets leggy about now, so I cut it back to the ground. It springs right back to do its cheerful, sunny thing.

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    1. Mine sometimes gets a little leggy, too. But it's surrounded by ground covers, so they kind of blend in and keep it upright. Good to know it springs back so easily. Thanks, Ricki.

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  11. Oh Beth, I feel for you, I hope you get some warm weather soon!
    I love Euphorbias, this is a new one for me, what a zingy colour! I might have bypassed this one for its requirements, but when it thrives in shade in your garden it would probably like my shady garden too. I think it would look lovely next to my Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea' – so I have put it on my wish list. Thanks for the tip!

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    1. Thanks, Helene. Apparently, it's our turn to have nasty weather--just one of those things. In May through October, we'll really appreciate the "good stuff." :)

      I'll have to check into the species you mention. Yes, I think Cushion Spurge would be very happy in your garden!

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  12. That's a cool looking critter on the blooms, too!

    Thanks for your nice comment on my last post. While I was shocked at the news of our daughter's, I am now looking forward to meeting her little girl.

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    1. I know--I'm embarrassed to say I'm not sure what it is. At first, I thought it was a grasshopper, but maybe it's cricket--maybe a juvenile? Congrats, Sue. You will have so much fun and you have the perfect garden for grandchildren to explore. :)

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  13. I don't know what it is, either, but it looks like it belongs there. ;o)

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    1. I'll have to do a little more sleuthing. ;-)

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  14. You always leave the nicest comments Beth! Thank you for your recent ones. I've missed you too and while I haven't been blogging that much, I have been thinking of you every time I look at the weather map. It seems like your winter has really been a cold, snowy one. I know you're ready for spring!
    Your blog today looks anything like winter tho which is a beautiful change. Stay warm!

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    1. Thank you, Kathleen! I think I'll spend a little time over at your blog today--your lovely images always help chase away the winter blahs. Yes, the Upper Midwest has really been hit hard this year. But the most difficult month was January because I barely got out of the house. We're trending in a better direction now, even if we're getting more snow. :)

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  15. A plant I enjoy when the bracts color, always has the sunny look of bright days. One thing really nice is how they are a dependable plant.

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    1. Yes, definitely a dependable plant, Donna. I know it's not a native, but for me anyway, it's not invasive. Just keeps popping up in the same spot every year to brighten the spring days.

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  16. I have never been a big fan of spurge, it's a little too subtle for me.

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    1. Hey Jason: I'm not sure if you're serious or joking. ;-) The bright color isn't subtle, but I guess you could say the flowers are. But with that said, of course, all gardens and gardeners have preferences.

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  17. Its a lovely plant, I enjoy iut hugely too. Fingers crossed that vortex goes quickly and stays away, your weather sounds horrendous.

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    1. Yes, Janet, the polar blast has exited! We're due for a bit of cold air again early next week, but we're trending in the right direction now. Yay! It has been an awful winter, but it makes any progress toward spring much appreciated!

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  18. I love this plant, and all its relatives. I have Euphorbia robbiae in my garden, not this particular variety, but it has simliar cool looking bracts that I just adore. Mine is a spreader, unlike yours. I'm surprised that yours has done well in a moist spot - I thought moisture was the death knell for spurge. Apparently not!

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    1. Oh, I like that Euphorbia you mention! The contrast of the darker lower foliage with the bright chartreuse bracts and flowers is lovely. I should say that the spot my Euphorbia is in isn't exactly wet, but it's regular rich, healthy loam soil. In the springtime it's very moist, and during the summer it's drier, but still one of the moister areas in my garden, overall. This particular plant seems to like it!

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  19. I really like the beauty of this plant. It may be something I will add to the garden. The bracts add so much interest.

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    1. I could see growing it in a pot, too, maybe with some other semisucculent plants to create unique foliage combinations. I might have to try it that way, too. ;-)

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  20. We have Euphorbia mauretanica - and I share your love for that sparkling lime-green.

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    1. It's a fantastic color--quite bright, but earns its place in the garden, doesn't it?

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  21. I love the bright colors of this plant Beth. I cannot recall if this is in my garden...sad I don't even know everything I have growing anymore...time soon to get cracking and take inventory.

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