Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
When planning our landscapes, it is best to include a rich array of plants with different shapes or growth habits. The euphorbias come in many pleasing silhouettes. While some are tender, others are hardy in cold climates. Here are details on some of the various shapes.
These are tender plants. This growth habit is displayed by the candelabra tree. This species is native to tropical Africa. It has a thick stem that can resemble a tree trunk. At the top are multiple stems that resemble branches. It can reach over 30 feet in height. There are spines along the edges of the stems.
The shrubby euphorbias have a rounded shape with lots of stems arising from the base. The Hercules club euphorbia is one of the shrubby ones. Native to the Canary Islands, this tender species is also called African cereus. The angled stems can be 35 feet or more tall. This is adorned with dark spines along the edges of the stems. This species has yellow blossoms.
The crown of thorns is also shrubby. A very leafy species, it is noted for its lovely red blossoms. This species is commonly grown as a houseplant.
These have spreading stems that arise from the base of the plant. One of the best known examples is the Medusa’s head. This very striking plant is native to South Africa. The common name aptly describes the serpentine arrangement of the many stems that resemble a many-headed hydra. The swollen, knobby ends of the stems add to the head-like appearance. The stems are gray-green.
Quite a few of the euphorbias are crested. The crested forms are naturally occurring. As part of the Latin name these will typically include the word ‘cristata,’ which means crested.
Some of the hardy perennials exhibit a mounding or clumping growth habit. There is also a tender species called the cushion euphorbia. Native to South Africa, it is less than a foot in height. It has many stems arranged in clusters. The stems feature many ribs. Unlike some euphorbias, this tends to be pretty leafy.
Creeping or Trailing Euphorbias
Among the creeping euphorbias is the myrtle spurge. With a prostrate growth habit, it is also called broad leaved spurge. This perennial is hardy to zone four. The fleshy stems spread easily. This begins blooming in early spring.