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Euphorbia (Euphorbia spp.) is a very large genus of plants with more than 2,000 species. About 1,200 of them are succulents, some with bizarre shapes and wide, fleshy leaves and others that look remarkably like cacti, complete with spines.
Among the the non-succulent deciduous Euphorbia plants are shrubs, annuals and perennials like milkweed and the popular holiday plant, poinsettia. Most of the succulent euphorbias are not frost-tolerant. There are a few evergreen species, like creeping... Euphorbia antisphilitica (wood spurge), Euphorbia polychroma (cushion spurge) and Euphorbia myrsinites (donkey-tail spurge) that will survive down to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5, but most species fall into zones 6 through 9, with a few hardy only in zones 10 and 11. Most Euphorbias bloom in spring or summer and go dormant in winter.
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Growing and Caring for Euphorbia
Euphorbias are very easy to care for. They require a little pampering to become established, but once they are, they are self-sufficient. In fact, more die from too much care and watering than from neglect.
- Propagating: Euphorbias can be grown from seed, but they can be difficult to germinate (or even find). This plant is usually propagated by cuttings.
- The growing medium: Rooting hormone is recommended with euphorbias.
- Soil: Euphorbias need well-draining soil and prefer full sun; they can... tolerate partial shade. They are not particular about soil pH, but they cannot tolerant wet soil.
- Water: Unlike most succulents, euphorbia does not handle long periods of drought well. It might need weekly watering during the summer. Water whenever the soil is dry several inches below the surface. Water deeply, but don't let the plants sit in wet soil, which can cause root rot.
- Feeding: Add some organic matter or fertilizer to the planting hole. If you are growing them in containers or your soil is poor, feed with a half-strength fertilizer monthly.
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Pests and Problems
Euphorbia plants tend to grow problem free, but there are a few pests and diseases to be alert for.
- Mealy bugs and spider mites are the most common pests. Catching them early is your best chance for controlling them.
- Root rot occasionally occurs, but it is only a problem when plants are allowed to sit in wet soil.
- Powdery mildew: Although Euphorbias like humidity, they also need good air circulation or they will be susceptible to mildews. Try correcting the cultural conditions before you resort to... fungicide, which can harm Euphorbia leaves.
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- Euphorbia grandialata -- Start out upright and spread into a bush. Thorny. Coral red bracts in summer. Grows to 6 feet high by 8 feet wide.
- Euphorbia lactea -- Fan-like scalloped branches and black spines. Grows to tree size (16 ft.)
- Euphorbia milii ('Crown of Thorns') -- Thorny, bushy plant that loves warm, wet weather. Bracts in shades of red, yellow, orange and white will open throughout the year. Grows to 6 feet high by 5 feet wide.
- Euphorbia obesa ('Basketball Euphorbia')... -- Round and plump, with reddish stripes. Can handle some shade. It gets more columnar with age; grows to 8 inches high by 5 inches wide.
- Euphorbia symmetrica -- A subspecies of Euphorbia obesa, it remains small and round.