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Euphorbia characias ‘Tasmanian Tiger’ (photo courtesy of PlantHaven International, Inc.)
Euphorbia characias ‘Tasmanian Tiger’ (photo courtesy of PlantHaven International, Inc.)

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Zones 4-24, 31
Full Sun
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal
Sap is irritating or poisonous

Euphorbia characias

Perennials, Flowers


Diverse genus of about 2,000 species, ranging from small flowery annuals to sculptural trees. The flower is technically a cyathium, consisting of fused bracts that form a cup around the much-reduced true flowers. Cyathia may appear singly or in clusters. In some cases, as with poinsettia (E. pulcherrima), additional bracts below provide most of the color. The fruit is usually a dry capsule that releases seeds explosively, shooting them up to several feet away. Many euphorbias are succulents; these often mimic cacti in appearance and are as diverse in form and size.

All euphorbias have milky white sap that is irritating on contact or toxic if ingested (degree of irritation or toxicity varies, depending on the species). Before using cut flowers in arrangements, dip stems in boiling water or hold in a flame for a few seconds to prevent sap bleed. All need well-drained soil.

Euphorbia characias ‘Dwarf’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)
Euphorbia characias ‘Dwarf’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)

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Euphorbia characias

Mediterranean native. Upright stems crowded with narrow blue-green leaves form a dome-shaped bush 4 ft. tall and wide. Chartreuse or lime green flowers in dense, round to cylindrical clusters appear in late winter, early spring. Color holds with only slight fading until seeds ripen; then stalks turn yellow and should be cut out at base, since new shoots have already made growth for next year’s flowers. Fairly drought-resistant.

‘Black Pearl’: Large inflorescences; cyathia have darkest red, nearly black nectar glands.

‘Humpty Dumpty’: A short (to 2 1/2 ft. tall), vigorous selection.

‘Portuguese Velvet’: Blue-gray, lightly hairy leaves and large bronzy golden inflorescences.

‘Tasmanian Tiger’: Grows to 3 ft. tall and wide, with leaves and flower bracts edged in white.

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