4 Fabulous Euphorbias for your dry garden!

Euphorbias, also known as Spurges, are great plants to survive the climate changes we face. If you are looking for hardy and drought-tolerant plants with a stunning architectural form for your low-maintenance dry garden, you have come to the right place.

Among the several types of Euphorbia plants, I have picked the most popular and exquisitely beautiful Euphorbia species for you.

Four types of euphorbia plants

Enjoy the captivating images as I present descriptions of each plant and infographics, allowing you to easily compare the size, hardiness, drought tolerance, and blooming times of these 4 Euphorbias.

But before that, you may also want to grab some free drought-tolerant plant guides

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Varieties of Euphorbias

Euphorbias are a diverse and fascinating genus of plants, with a vast array of species that range from small succulents to large shrubs and even trees. They are loved for their toughness and striking forms.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, Euphorbias are renowned for their ability to thrive in arid and drought-prone regions, making them ideal choices for water-wise gardens or areas with limited rainfall. Their drought tolerance, combined with their hardiness, allows them to withstand challenging climates and environmental changes.

They are known for their adaptability to various soil types, from mildly acidic to mildly alkaline, and their ability to tolerate a wide range of light conditions, from full sun to partial shade.

These beautiful and robust plants can be very diverse:

  • Foliage can vary from blue-grey to blue-green.
  • Flowers can come in shades of yellow, yellow-green and even change to pink and red.
  • Habit can be spreading, mounding or upright
  • Height can range from 20 cm (0.5 ft) to 1m (3.2 ft) or more.

It’s worth noting that any of these Euphorbias produce a milky sap when its stems or leaves are broken. This sap can irritate the skin and cause discomfort, so it’s essential to handle these plants with care and use protective gear.

Euphorbia myrsinites (Myrtle Spurge)

Euphorbia myrsinites is commonly known as Myrtle Spurge, Donkeytail Spurge or Creeping Spurge.

It´s an evergreen, multistemmed herbaceous perennial that forms a dense, sprawling mat. The trailing stems resemble tentacles and are covered with tightly arranged spirals of fleshy, pointed greyish-blue leaves. The tips of the stems are adorned with captivating yellow-green inflorescences.

It’s an excellent option for any style of xeriscape, due to its drought tolerance and ability to thrive in poor soil conditions. When planted among rocks and gravel, it creates a naturalistic display.

Its cascading tentacle-like stems create a stunning effect on containers and retaining walls.

Euphorbia myrsinites
  • Size: 20 cm (0.6 ft) height, 40 to 50 cm (1.3 -to 1.6 ft) width
  • Hardiness: -15º C (5 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun / semi-shade
  • Drought-tolerance: Approx 5 months
  • Origin: Southeastern Europe and Western Asia.

Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Myrtle Spurge.

Euphorbia rigida (Gopher Spurge)

Euphorbia rigida, known as Gopher Spurge, Silver Spurge or Rigid Spurge, is a medium-sized evergreen plant. Its unique architectural cushion form gives it a striking appearance, resembling a living sculpture.

Narrow, pointy blue-green leaves spiral along the stems, which are topped with clusters of spectacular bright yellow flowers that start to bloom in mid-winter. During spring, these flowers gradually change to pink and finally to an intense red.

In the garden, it can be used as an Accent plant, due to its distinctive shape, texture and showy flowers or along borders to create a defined edge.

It looks lovely in any style of xeriscape creating a naturalistic display.

Its architectural form can make a statement when placed in a stylish container.

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Euphorbia rigida
  • Size: 40 to 50 cm (1.3 to 1.6 ft) height, 60 cm (2 ft) width
  • Hardiness: -15º C (5 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun
  • Drought-tolerance: Approx 5 months
  • Origin: Mediterranean Basin (Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey)

Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of the Gopher Spurge.

Euphorbia characias (Mediterranean Spurge)

Euphorbia characias also known as the Mediterranean spurge, is an evergreen multi-stemmed perennial forming a lovely round clump. Its long, pointy blue-green leaves spiral along the stems providing a sense of rhythm. At the tip of the stem, is a spectacular cylindrical inflorescence, composed of yellow-green flowers with a dark red eye that starts to bloom in late winter.

In the garden, it can be used as an Accent plant, due to its distinctive shape, texture and showy flowers or along borders to create a defined edge.

It looks lovely in any style of xeriscape creating a naturalistic display.

Its architectural form can make a statement when placed in a stylish container.

Euphorbia characias
  • Size: 80 cm (2.6 ft) height, 60 to 80 cm (2 to 2.6 ft) width
  • Hardiness: -12º C (10 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun
  • Drought-tolerance: Approx 5 months
  • Origin: Mediterranean Basin (Southwestern and central)

Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Mediterranean Spurge

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii (Mediterranean Spurge)

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii, was previously known as Euphorbia wulfenii, is commonly called Mediterranean spurge. 

It’s an evergreen, multistemmed perennial forming an upright clump. Slender, greyish-blue leaves gracefully spiral along the stems. The stems culminate in a magnificent cylindrical inflorescence adorned with bright yellow-green flowers that start blooming during the late winter months.

In the garden, it can be used as an Accent plant, due to its distinctive shape, texture and showy flowers or along borders to create a defined edge.

It looks lovely in any style of xeriscape creating a naturalistic display.

Its architectural form can make a statement when placed in a stylish container.

Euphorbia characias subs. wulfenii
  • Size: 1 to 1.5 m (3.2 to 5 ft) height, 1.25 (4 ft) width
  • Hardiness: -12º C (10 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun /semi-shade
  • Drought tolerance: Approx 5 months
  • Origin: Mediterranean Basin (Eastern region)

Learn more about this shrub in our detailed description of Mediterranean Spurge (wulfenii).

What do Euphorbias look like?

4 types of Euphorbias compared (chart)

Euphorbia plants such as Myrtle Spurge can have a spreading mat form with stems that look like tentacles. They can also have a dense mounding form like Gopher Spurge or an upright form like the different varieties of Mediterranean Spurge.

The inflorescences are composed of numerous false flowers with striking colourful bracts (that look like the petals). The colour of these bracts can be bright yellow or different shades of yellow-green. These bracts can turn pink and bright red by the end of Spring beginning of Summer.

The leaves are entire and can vary from an oval-pointed shape to a more lanceolate-pointed shape. The colour can vary from blue-grey to blue-green.

In the chart, you may see how the different parts of the selected Euphorbias compare.

Height and Width of Euphorbias

Euphorbias height and width chart

The size of any plant can vary based on many factors, such as soil, weather, watering and so on. However, the height and width of the four selected Euphorbias in this article are on average those shown in the chart. The shortest one, almost hugging the ground at 20 cm (0.6 ft) is Euphorbia myrsinites, and the largest one is Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii that can reach up to 1.5 m (5 ft).

Which Euphorbia is a good ground cover?

The best Euphorba for ground cover is Euphorbia myrsinites (Myrtle spurge). It does not grow very tall, a maximum of 20 cm (0.6 ft) and can spread up to 50 cm (1.6 ft).

Euphorbia bloom times

Euphorbias bloom times chart

Euphorbia plants will bloom very early in the year. From mid-winter to late winter to early spring.

Many factors affect flowering, such as temperature, sunlight availability, and soil fertility, so slight variations may depend on your garden´s environment. But generally, the bloom times for the 4 selected species in this article are shown on the chart.

Euphorbia hardiness compared

Euphorbia cold hardines chart

If you give your Euphorbia the right growing conditions, such as well-drained soil and no fertilization, most Euphorbias will be pretty hardy. They will only suffer in very wet and cold winters.

However, some Euphorbias are naturally more cold-tolerant than others. The hardier types of our four are Myrtle and Gopher Spurges. A little less hardy are the Mediterranean spurges.

Depending on your climate, you may choose the best ones for your garden based on the hardiness chart shown here.

If you select a type that is tender in your region then you may need to plant the Euphorbias in pots so you can move it to a sheltered place in the winter.

Euphorbia Drought-Tolerance

Euphorbia drought tolerance chart

Euphorbias are amazingly tough plants that can survive hot and dry weather for long periods of time and remain evergreen with showy blooms.

All the euphorbias from our collection are extremely drought-tolerant. They can go, on average 5 months without water.

The chart uses the drought-tolerance code defined by Olivier Filippi (https://jardin-sec.com/), which I find very useful and have found to be correct based on my own experience.

Which is the best Euphorbia for your garden?

The most suitable Euphorbia for different environments and different people will vary.

While some conditions you cannot change, such as the aspect and hardiness of the plant, others you can adjust, like soil and watering.

Steps to choose the best euphorbia for your garden

  • Check if the euphorbia is hardy enough for your climate. If not, then you need to select a different one.
  • Check if you have poor, well-drained soil. If not, see if you can adjust it.
  • Check if the size and shape are appropriate for the spot you want to plant in your garden.
  • Check if your climate can support the water needs of the santolina. If not, plan to water in extreme drought and heat.

If you follow these steps, you will find the right plant for your garden.

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