Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii

large Mediterranean spurge

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

This handsome perennial is among a palette of Mediterranean plants well-adapted to the coastal Pacific Northwest climate, which receives much rain in winter and has extended dry spells in summer and fall. It is a dramatic plant that grows from a central crown. In early March and April great club-like inflorescences emerge from the crown. These carry a dome of small flowers set off by chartreuse bracts. The overall effect is eye-catching and lasts well into June. At about the same time, new shoots emerge holding narrow, grey-green leaves. The whole plant reaches three feet tall and wide, so it makes a perfect focal point for a bed with well-drained soil and full sun. It combines well with perennials like blue oat grass, giant needle grass, maiden grass, bear's breeches, stinking hellebore and digger's speedwell. Plant it with such shrubs as smoke bush, purpleleaf barberry, Ceanothus 'Victoria', Rosa glauca and bay laurel. This statuesque plant is a striking addition to any garden. CAUTION: Be careful when working with all euphorbias, as some people can develop severe skin reactions to the white sap.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: perennial

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 4 ft. 0 in. (1.22 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 4 ft. 0 in. (1.22 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 to 10

Flower Color: yellow

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun

Water Requirements: drought tolerant when established

Wildlife Associations: bees

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: red, bronze, purple

Great Color Partners: chartreuse, blue, dark green

Culture Notes
Grow this euphorbia in full sun to part shade in well-drained soil. It is drought tolerant once established. Shoots emerge one year, bloom the next and then die. The trick to keeping plants looking good is to remove the flowering shoots at their bases once they no longer look attractive. Since the new shoots have already emerged by this time, take care not to damage them. These shoots remain all winter, making the plant evergreen and attractive in all but the worst winters.