How to Plant and Grow Spurge

2,000 species of this perennial offer an array of choices.

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Spurge (Euphorbia) is one of the most diverse and largest classes of plants, with over 2,000 species in the family. Showy modified leaves (called bracts) provide visual interest. Most are green, but other colors are available, too. This tough and vigorous grower quickly fills a garden space.

The milky-white sap produced by spurge plants is toxic to humans and animals, so plant it away from areas frequented by children and pets. Wear gloves when you handle spurge and avoid getting the sap in your eyes; it can cause vision problems, even blindness.

Spurge Overview

Genus Name Euphorbia
Common Name Spurge
Plant Type Annual, Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 3 feet
Flower Color Green, Orange, Pink, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold, Purple/Burgundy
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Spurge

Because there are so many species, growing conditions vary, but in general, spurge does best in full sun because it brings out the colors of the plants. It grows in just about any environment and is considered a weed in many areas. Planting it in a container is a good way to enjoy the plant in your garden without worrying about its tendency to be invasive.

Most spurge plants spread by underground rhizomes, creating dense mats of foliage. This makes it a great option for a groundcover or a filler between taller plants. It can also make it a bully because it chokes out smaller plants. When gardeners plant spurge in a bed or border, they need to be vigilant and pull up runners early before they take over.

Invasive Plant

Many spurge species are invasive. Some are even banned by different states. Although spurge plants are available online, check with your state before adding them to your garden.

How and When to Plant Spurge

Plant spurge in fall to allow plenty of time for root development. You can also plant it in spring after the weather warms if you water it frequently during the first year. These desert plants thrive in well-draining beds that receive full sun. They need at least six hours of sun daily. Don't over-enrich the soil; spurges tend to prefer only moderate fertility. Set spurge plants at the same level in the soil as they were in the pots and space them 1 to 3 feet apart; they will spread.

Spurge Care Tips


It is usually best to plant spurge in full sun, which ensures colored varieties will be their best and brightest. Part sun is typically tolerated, too, but you may miss out on some flowers, and the foliage color may be more muted.

Soil and Water

Spurge performs best in well-drained soil, but the plants tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions. Some types are like succulents and can be treated like cacti. These types are drought-tolerant; err on the side of more dry than wet with these because they can rot, leaving you with a pile of mush.

Temperature and Humidity

Most spurges enjoy the heat and prefer daytime temperatures in the 80s. They do best in areas with low to average humidity.


Spurge requires almost no fertilizer for normal growth and performance, even in poor soils. If the lower leaves of the plant turn yellow, this indicates a nutrient deficiency. In that case, fertilize with a balanced liquid fertilizer at half strength every several months.


Pruning spurge consists mainly of removing any damaged stems in early spring, although cutting some stems at the base after blooming encourages new growth. Wear gloves when pruning the plants to avoid contact with the toxic sap.

How to Propagate Spurge

Spurges can be propagated from root cuttings or divisions of the mother plant. Cuttings from some—but not all—spurges can be rooted in water. Because the invasive plants spread so vigorously, most gardeners spend more time suppressing new spurge plants than increasing their supply.

Types of Spurge

Spurge is one of the few plants known for its standout green flowers that complement all other flowers in a garden. The foliage colors of spurge are diverse, with blue, green, burgundy, and variegated options.

'Blue Haze' Spurge

'Blue Haze' spurge
Helen Norman

Euphorbia 'Blue Haze' produces eye-catching chartreuse flowers in late spring to early summer on blue-green foliage that grows 18 inches tall. 'Blue Haze' thrives in Zones 7-9.

'Bonfire' Spurge

Euphorbia 'Bonfire' spurge
Marty Baldwin

Euphorbia 'Bonfire' shows off rich maroon foliage from spring to fall. In spring, it also bears clusters of chartreuse flowers. It grows 1 foot tall and wide. 'Bonfire' is hardy in Zones 5-9.

Cushion Spurge

yellow Cushion spurge
Andy Lyons

Euphorbia polychroma develops shades of chartreuse, yellow, burgundy, red, and orange through the seasons. In fall, the foliage turns brilliant red, maroon, and orange. It grows 12 to 20 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 3-10.

Cypress Spurge

Euphorbia Cypress spurge
Edward Gohlich

Euphorbia cyparissias grows upright, resembling a tiny spruce or cypress tree, but the plant spreads to form a bushy groundcover. It produces chartreuse bracts, which age to red. Cypress spurge thrives in Zones 4-8.

Excalibur Spurge

Euphorbia Excalibur spurge
Helen Norman

Euphorbia 'Froeup' is sometimes called Excalibur. Growing 2 to 3 feet tall, the plant's foliage emerges with a red tint, matures to deep green, and takes on yellow tones in fall. Excalibur is hardy in Zones 5-8.

'Glacier Blue' Spurge

'Glacier Blue' spurge
Denny Schrock

Euphorbia characias 'Glacier Blue' grows 2 feet tall and wide and is prized for its white-edge, gray-green foliage. The flowers, which appear in spring, are cream with green centers. 'Glacier Blue' thrives in Zones 7-10.

Griffith's Spurge

Euphorbia Griffith's spurge
Stephen Cridland

Euphorbia griffithii has green foliage with a purplish-red tinge; it turns orange-red in fall. It produces small yellow flowers surrounded by showy orange-red bracts on plants up to 3 feet tall. Griffith's spurge is hardy in Zones 4-9.

Helena's Blush Spurge

'Helena's Blush spurge
Justin Hancock

Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Inneuphhel' Helena's Blush bears green foliage edged in white and pink and chartreuse-variegated bracts. It grows 20 inches tall and is often grown as an annual in Zones 6-9.

Hybrid Spurge

Euphorbia Hybrid spurge
Stephen Cridland

Euphorbia x martinii is a shrubby plant 3 feet tall with reddish-purple leaves. It bears chartreuse bracts (petals) with small red flowers and is hardy in Zones 7-10.

'Lacey' Cushion Spurge

'Lacey' cushion spurge
Matthew Benson

Euphorbia polychroma 'Lacey' is a selection with creamy-white edges on its leaves. 'Lacey' cushion spurge thrives in Zones 3-10.

Spurge Companion Plants


Jay Wilde

Phlox are one of those bounteous summer flowers any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn't be without. There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of colors. They add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as groundcovers at the front of the border and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. These native gems have been hybridized extensively to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need ample moist soil for the best overall health.


Purple penstemon (Penstemon barbatus cultivar)
Jay Wilde

This North American native plant has a home in nearly every garden with flowers that hummingbirds love. Long blooming with brilliantly colored, tubular flowers, penstemons—ironically—have been a staple in European gardens for decades. There are many different penstemon types. The leaves are lance-shaped or oval, sometimes purple-red as in 'Husker Red'. Some Western species need outstanding drainage to dry conditions and won't thrive during wet weather. However, many thrive in a wide variety of conditions. Just be sure to provide excellent drainage. Mulch in areas where a type is marginally hardy.

New Zealand Flax

flax in a container
Jeff McNamara 

Bring a note of the tropics to your garden with the bold, colorful, strappy leaves of New Zealand flax. They are excellent as container plants that can be overwintered with protection, but in warm areas, they're spectacular when planted directly in the ground. Flower panicles may reach 12 feet tall in some selections with red or yellow tubular flowers. Blooms only appear in mild climates, but there they attract many species of birds. If space is limited, check out dwarf forms. While New Zealand flax is a popular perennial in frost-free areas, it's becoming more and more loved in northern regions, where it's treated as an annual.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What types of wildlife eat spurge plants?

    The toxic sap keeps deer and rabbits at a distance. Goats and sheep can eat leafy spurge without experiencing the effects of the sap; they are used as a natural deterrent in areas where the plants are invasive.

  • Does spurge attract beneficial pollinators?

    Spurge plants are critically important for monarch butterflies as they return in early spring. They also attract other butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.

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  1. Spurge. National Capital Poison Center

  2. Leafy Spurge. Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

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