Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’

Hi, we are thinking of buying 3 lots of the dark and light border plants selection to create a planted section within our patio. Not being very green-fingered I’ve been looking at the plant information and wondered if you could give me some advice? I want to check that the plants are safe for dogs and children? We have a terrier (that will chew most things give half a chance) and the children are old enough at 6 & 7 not to eat the plants but will play nearby. If any of the plants aren’t suitable, could you please suggest alternatives for a sunny south facing patio border. Many thanks 🙂

Not green fingered

2013-04-06

Hello, I am afraid I do not have information re. plants that are toxic to dogs, but please click on the link below to go to the Dogs Trust site for their list of poisonous plants. http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/_resources/resources/factsheets09/factsheetpoisonoussubstances09.pdf With regards to people, both the Iris and the Euphorbia can be harmful if eaten and the Euphorbia has a milky sap, which may irritate the skin. We do stipulate on all the plant cards on our site if they are known to be harmful or toxic – you can find this right at the very bottom of the page under ‘Garden Care’.

2013-04-08

Helen

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ details Dear Sir/Madam, Please could you tell me the size of the Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ plants and if they will flower this year. Thank you for your help. Kind regards Rachel

Rachel Lavender

2010-04-16

Hello Rachel, These are currently around 15cm tall and they should flower this year – although we cannot guarantee this. I hope this helps. Helen Plant Doctor

2010-04-16

Crocus Helpdesk

A new spring border for a windy garden Hi I have just had a hedge taken down and have a new border. It is overshadowed by a large eucalyptus tree and is in dappled shade until the afternoon, then it is in full sun. I am on top of the Chiltern Hills at 500′ elevation and it can be windy. I would like a spring flowering border. I was thinking Hellebores, Pulmonaria and Aquilegias. Any suggestions, please? Nicholas

NickLewis

2009-10-16 2009-10-16

Crocus Helpdesk

What plants would you recommend for my Mediterranean style garden? Our garden is quite well established and has a Mediterranean feel. We have quite a few spaces that need filling and were hoping you could suggest a few things?

Mrs C Taylor

2005-03-31 2005-04-01

Crocus

What can I plant in a Mediterranean style garden? I want give my garden a Mediterranean look but I do not know what to plant. Could you please help? 2005-03-29 2005-03-30

Crocus

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ (Wood spurge ‘Purpurea’)

Botanical name

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’

Other names

Wood spurge ‘Purpurea’, Eurphorbia Purpurea

Genus

Euphorbia Euphorbia

Variety or Cultivar

‘Purpurea’ _ ‘Purpurea’ is a bushy, softly hairy, evergreen perennial with reddish-purple stems bearing ovate to spoon-shaped, maroon to reddish-purple leaves and cymes of bright yellow-green flowers from mid-spring to early summer.

Foliage

Evergreen

Habit

Spreading

Toxicity

All parts of the plant are highly toxic if ingested. The milky sap may cause irritation to skin and eyes.

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Colour

Flower

Yellow-green in Spring

Dark-green, Maroon in All seasons

How to care

Watch out for

Specific pests

Aphids

Specific diseases

Grey mould

General care

Pruning

Cut spent flower shoots to the base in late summer or autumn.

Propagation methods

Division

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Where to grow

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ (Wood spurge ‘Purpurea’) will reach a height of 0.75m and a spread of 0.5m after 2-5 years.

Suggested uses

Architectural, City, Cottage/Informal, Beds and borders, Ground Cover, Low Maintenance, Underplanting, Woodland

Cultivation

Tolerates most soil types and is happy in sun or shade. It can be invasive, spreading by rhizomes and seed.

Soil type

Chalky, Loamy, Sandy

Soil drainage

Moist but well-drained, Well-drained

Soil pH

Acid, Alkaline, Neutral

Light

Partial Shade, Full Shade, Full Sun

Aspect

North, South, East, West

Exposure

Exposed, Sheltered

UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Hardy (H4)

USDA zones

Zone 9, Zone 8, Zone 7, Zone 6

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ (Wood spurge ‘Purpurea’)

Common pest name

grape ground pearl

Scientific pest name

Margarodes vitis

Type

Insect

Current status in UK

Absent

Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

General biosecurity comments

Main pathway; Vitis spp. plants for planting; already prohibited. However; further consideration of other pathways is required.

Defra’s Risk register #2

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ (Wood spurge ‘Purpurea’)

Powdery mildew: cotton; Powdery mildew: eggplant; Powdery mildew: pepper; Powdery mildew: tomato

Leveillula taurica

Fungus

Present (Limited)

Likelihood to spread in UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Believed to be present and no statutory action is being taken. Status needs to be confirmed by survey.

Defra’s Risk register #3

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ (Wood spurge ‘Purpurea’)

cotton mealybug

Phenacoccus solenopsis

Insect

Absent

Watching brief for potential impact on tomato production in the Mediterranean. Other southern European countries likely to be more at risk. Precautionary action will be taken on findings on planting material to protect glasshouse crops and botanical gardens.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here

Suspected outbreak?

Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/

Euphorbia ‘amygdaloides Purpurea’

Is euphorbia amygdaloides purpurea evergreen?

Cobweb

2019-05-23

Yes, this plant retains its foliage throughout the year.

2019-06-20

Helen

Have difficult dry site under and around a tall Yew . I need ground cover and something to flower in Spring ,early Summer before other perennials in front of it grow up. What can you suggest?

Gumboots

2015-10-31 2015-11-02

Helen

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ details Dear Sir/Madam, Please could you tell me the size of the Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ plants and if they will flower this year. Thank you for your help. Kind regards Rachel

Rachel Lavender

2010-04-16

Hello Rachel, These are currently around 15cm tall and they should flower this year – although we cannot guarantee this. I hope this helps. Helen Plant Doctor

2010-04-16

Crocus Helpdesk

What plants would you recommend for my Mediterranean style garden? Our garden is quite well established and has a Mediterranean feel. We have quite a few spaces that need filling and were hoping you could suggest a few things?

Mrs C Taylor

2005-03-31 2005-04-01

Crocus

What can I plant in a Mediterranean style garden? I want give my garden a Mediterranean look but I do not know what to plant. Could you please help? 2005-03-29 2005-03-30

Crocus

My local woodlands are surging into growth as I write this, at the equinox. Enough warmth has filtered through to the forest floor to catalyse the primroses into action, and they are now in good flower (this is Devon, after all). And the squeaky- shiny leaves of the bluebell, our nation’s favourite flower, are a promise of things to come. But one of my favourite woodlanders, the humble wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides), is an altogether more subdued beauty, but worth every effort to search out.

This spurge goes through an extraordinary metamorphosis at this time of year, as the first buds are thinking about breaking on woody boughs overhead. For the whole of winter, the spurge sits as a spindly bush, its dusty and jaded leaves reddened by the winter chill. And then the transformation takes place: the tips of the shoots expand, burgeoning into defiant fists of vibrant chartreuse and golden flowers, each with the remarkable floral structure that is unique to the spurges.

For the botanist, it is not just a beautiful thing in its own right, but also an indicator of other goodies that might be lurking nearby, for it flourishes best where woodland management has taken place, allowing light to reach the woodland floor, and where scuffing the leaf litter provides earthy niches into which a variety of beautiful woodlanders can seed.

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’. Photograph: John Glover/Alamy

It also makes a great garden plant, along with many of its more showy cousins: but first a word of warning. Like all spurges, its broken stems positively gush with a thick latex that looks rather like condensed milk. But sweet it is not, for sap wiped into the eye causes intense pain and temporary blindness until its caustic nature is neutralised by medication. I haven’t met first-hand sufferers of such a fate, but on tours and the like I do warn attendees of this lurking danger. Imagine my surprise when one lady announced that her husband had suffered in much the same way “after getting the juice on his willy”. When I added this anecdote to my repartee, a member of the illustrious International Dendrology Society – quite the smartest horticultural outfit going, Coutts bank customers preferred – confessed that her husband had befallen exactly the same fate. The mind boggles!

Euphorbia x martinii. Photograph: Alamy

But saps and juices aside, don’t be put off growing wood spurge in the garden; just handle it with care. It’s pretty easy to please, doing well in most semi-shaded spots, but this euphorbia does best in a moisture retentive, yet well-drained and relatively fertile soil, though will tolerate poorer and drier conditions. A number of varieties are worth considering. There is a variegated form less than imaginatively called ‘Variegata’ that is both miffy and difficult to obtain, so is probably one to avoid unless you are truly dedicated to the genus. Look instead for the rich red-purple leaved variety ‘Purpurea’, whose glowing golden flowers sit atop burnt red-purple foliage, like gold bling on a sunbed-tanned body: not to everyone’s taste amongst humans, but an absolute winning flower-foliage combination in a spurge. It is a gentle seeder when happy, and fortuitously its youngsters sport the same richly-coloured foliage. Search out, too, some of the hybrids, such as E. x martinii, and its recent selections such ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and ‘Helena’s Blush’, plus the closely related ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Redwing’. These crossings combine shade tolerance and the red foliage of the native plant, with a stronger clump-forming habitat and more flower power, courtesy of the Mediterranean Euphorbia characias.

Alternatively, take yourself off to the local woodland over the coming month, and soak in the displays of wood spurge, primrose, violets and greater stitchwort, and remind yourself just how good our own spring woodlands can be in full flight.

• Andy Byfield is one of the founders of the wild plant charity Plantlife.

Plant Profiles: Euphorbia


Euphorbia
Drawing by Rene Eisenbart

BOTANICAL NAME:
EUPHORBIA

SOUNDS LIKE:
Euphoria

COMMON NAME:
Spurge

Type:
Perennial, blooms late winter through spring 15 inches to 4 feet

BASIC NEEDS:
Full sun (with exceptions), extremely well-drained soil

WORST ENEMY:
Soggy soil; some species resent the approach of 0° F

BEST ADVICE:
Some euphorbias are extremely aggressive (e.g. E. cyparissia, the cypress spurge), choose wisely; also, because euphorbia’s milky sap is toxic, gardeners with sensitive skin should wear gloves; all who handle the plant should take care not to rub their eyes

Perennial

Eureka, euphoria, Euphorbia! If ever there was a genus to celebrate, this one’s it. Euphorbia’s more than just part of the plant family Euphorbiaceae, it’s part of the family of man.

It was known in Julius Caesar’s Rome, it was known to the Oubangu tribes of the Congo, and it shows up annually on the display aisles of your nearest Safeway. What? Ever heard of a poinsettia? It’s Euphorbia pulcherrima! I’m telling you, where there’s life, there’s euphorbia.

Of course, you’d have to be a euphorbiologist to know when you were looking at one, because the genus comes in innumerable sizes and forms. The Romans’ euphorbia was a Mediterranean succulent, and the Oubangus’ was a tall spiny shrub. Travel the tropics of East Africa, and you’ll find tree forms of euphorbia ninety feet high.

Sadly, by comparison, the range of euphorbs that will work in our gardens is miniscule. We’ve only got a few hundred really good ones from which to choose. Don’t panic. I’m limiting myself to just five.

If you’ve ever complained that ground covers for dry shade lacked enthusiasm, meet the wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae. It has rounded, glossy, dark-green leaves that make a tight, spreading fifteen-inch mound, pristine and buoyant through winter. Even in the driest, deepest shade, you can count on cheery panicles of yellow flowers high above the foliage in early spring.

About that same time, in the sunnier part of the garden, E. dulcis ‘Chameleon’ is just waking up, looking as rich as chocolate pudding in contrast to April’s veggie-green. The flavor lasts for months, and can be had again by cutting the plant back in early summer (or right after flowering to keep this notorious self-seeder in check). My guess is you’ve seen – and wanted – this addictive plant, which now tops the charts among purple-leaved perennials. Not half bad for a rogue picked up in a shady French ditch.

The species E. characias comes in two sun-loving subspecies: var. characias and wulfenii (hey, I’m just the messenger). They share a few general characteristics: three- to five-foot arresting architecture with long arching stems, bluish-green leaves, and bold yellow flower heads. Both have many named varieties, each with slightly different attributes, including the more dwarf ‘Humpty Dumpty’, the bluer ‘Jade Dragon’, and the lusciously upholstered ‘Portuguese Velvet’, my favorite ‘phorb for foliage.

Among the several orange-red-flowered species in the family, I’d recommend E. griffithii ‘Dixter’, which never seems to have a dull moment: purple-orange shoots, red stems, bronzed foliage, and burnt apricot-orange flowers. At its best in richer soil, this Christopher Lloyd selection is typically euphorbic and may decide it needs more of the bed. But as is the case with all the plants I mentioned, you can keep ‘Dixter’ in check by yanking out unwanted plants as soon as they emerge.

Okay, so I snuck in more than five. But I’ll bet you can’t grow just one.

  • to the list

    Plant Profiles are excerpted from Plant This! by Ketzel Levine

    Copyright © 2003 National Public Radio, Washington, D.C.

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