Fat plants

Euphorbia - Euphorbia

Euphorbia - Euphorbia

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General characteristics

In the Euphorbia genus a large number of plants are enclosed which vary from the herbaceous type to the larger woody ones. The characteristic that unites all, is the flower that is always unisexual. From these plants gum, rubber, tapioca and castor oil are extracted (which, however, is made with seeds). The varieties of Euphorbia are divided into fat and not fat. One of the most beautiful not fat is Euphorbia Pulcherrima (Christmas star).
Euphorbia is one of the largest genera, it contains over 1700 species of plants, originating from all over the world. Almost all these plants have the characteristic that if cut or engraved they emit a white substance, very stinging and poisonous. There are varieties that are very similar to cacti, but unlike them they do not have areoles, the euphorbias have thorns on humped bones.
Many varieties also have real leaves, which give the plant a more tree-like bearing than a succulent one. The blooms of these plants are very beautiful, but often the effect is not due to the flowers, but rather to the bracts (transformed leaves, usually changes the pigmentation). When the plant is adult it produces fruits that contain many seeds, when they are mature they start shooting by throwing the seeds away from the mother plant.

Euphorbia caput-medasae

Native to the countries of southern Africa, it is one of the most common, very similar to the cactus, with short and very branched stems. Growth of the head with semi-creeping branches. In the warmer months it has a yellow bloom.

Euphorbia obesa

Native to South Africa, it is a very particular plant, with globose stems that turn into cylindrical, gray-green color; they are composed of 8 not very raised ribs, which are joined by rows of thorns vertically. The blooms, which usually develop on the apex, are very decorative. This plant is very delicate as it suffers a lot from water stagnation.


The euphorbias are interesting, succulent plants, which find many uses, in the garden or even in pots: excellent in the borders, but also as ground cover, especially on dry soils. Their peculiar characteristics are represented by the beauty of the stems and leaves and the abundant production of flowers. They are also very resistant to the point that some are among the most feared weeds.
The genus includes more than 2000 species (it is absolutely one of the largest). In their spontaneous state they are found on all continents except Antarctica. In some environments they appear as thorny and fat plants, without leaves.
For horticultural purposes they can be classified into two groups: bright rustic perennials and evergreen perennials.

Type of plant Annual, biennial or perennial, succulent, flowery
Foliage persistent or transitory
Flowering From April to July
Height From 10 cm to more than 2 meters
Maintenance Low
Soil moisture Dry, well-drained
Rusticitа From medium to high
Exposure Sun-shade
Soil poor

How to grow euphorbia

The euphorbias in nature prefer poor soils, in some cases dry, in others fresh or even wet: it is important to guarantee a similar environment also in the garden. We only avoid those that are too rich and nitrogenous fertilizers because they stimulate the growth of jets that are too long and fragile and will not be able to withstand the weight of the inflorescences.
The genre is really wide and the needs are different. We can say that the euphorbias originating from the Mediterranean basin want a sunny exposure, but others grow well even in partial shade or even in complete shade.
Almost all euphorbies commonly sold as garden plants can easily withstand temperatures around -15 ° C, but it is good to check before buying, reading the label or asking the retailer.

When and how to plant euphorbia

The best time for this operation is undoubtedly the autumn: the plants will have the whole winter to explore the soil with the roots and when the good weather arrives they will be ready to grow and flourish.
However it is possible to do this work even in early spring, when the frosts are definitely over.
The seedlings are usually sold in small jars: we dig holes a little larger than earth and inseriamocele bread, then compacting the soil well. If this appears to be too clay-like, mix it with a little sand. For distances we take into consideration the definitive width indicated on the tag and divide it in half.
When we handle the euphorbias we always wear gloves and glasses, as the latex coming out of the stems is highly irritating.
In pot
There are many small euphorbias that are perfectly suited to pot cultivation. We create a thick draining layer with gravel on the bottom, insert the seedling and block it with the soil. The ideal compote is a mixture of universal soil and coarse river sand.
For this type of cultivation the ideal exposure is almost always the partial shade.

Euphorbia cultivation

They are not particularly demanding plants.
- We avoid the occurrence of weeds by applying a thick mulching layer to the base. We avoid instead weeding that area because we risk ruining the fragile superficial roots.
- We avoid all types of fertilization
- We irrigate, for most species, only when the soil is completely dry. In winter it is possible to interrupt the administration.
- The rhizomatous root varieties, under the right conditions, are often very invasive. It is important to dedicate oneself frequently to the cutting and grubbing of the new roots. Alternatively, at the time of planting, barriers can be prepared, at least 30 cm deep.
- Varieties that spread easily are also to be monitored: we eliminate the withered flowers before the seeds are able to mature.

Euphorbia pruning

Pruning in euphorbies is not strictly necessary. In vigorous species it is however good to intervene in autumn by shortening them to contain their expansion.
The lively varieties, once completely withered, must however all be cut about 5 cm from the ground. Evergreens are cut immediately after flowering to allow new growth, which will bring the flowers the following year.
During the vegetative period, exhausted flowers must always be removed in time to avoid self-dissemination.

How to multiply Euphorbia

The euphorbias are quite simple to multiply: you can proceed by seed, division or cutting.
Plants similar to the mother will be obtained: proceed in autumn by extracting the roots and dividing them into sections with the help of a pitchfork
Sowing takes place in mid-autumn: in this way the seedlings will already be developed at the time of spring planting. However, we keep in mind that we will easily find plants born spontaneously and that it will only be necessary to move them where they prefer.
The ideal moment is after the end of flowering: branches are cut and immersed in cold water (in order to stop the latex spill). Then let them dry in a ventilated and shaded environment for at least 2 weeks.
In this period the callus will form: we insert the stems in a mixture of soil and sand (or agriperlite). We steam slightly, but often, with water and keep at a temperature of about 28 ° C for at least 15 days. The roots will appear soon enough and we will be able to transfer them to the final substrate at the end of autumn.

Euphorbia: VARIETY



Euphorbia dendroides It has linear to elliptical leaves. The branches are bare at the bottom and rich in leaves at the top. The flowers are yellow and very numerous, in spring. Up to 2 meters
Euphorbia palustris Stiff pale green stems, elliptical or lanceolate leaves, flowers gathered in umbels, yellow Up to 1 m
Euphorbia characias Stems not thick, tomentose, glaucous. The leaves are arranged in a spiral, evergreen (also variegated)
Yellow or black flowers of varying sizes.
Up to 1.2 m
Euphorbia myrsinites Oblong leaves,. very large green inflorescences About 10 cm, ground cover
Euphorbia polychroma Bright green inflorescences, from May to August Up to 60 cm, bushy habit.
Euphorbia 'Martinii " Evergreen, it blooms on the jets of the previous year in yellow, orange or red From 40 to 60 cm, bushy

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