Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii
Common Name: spurge 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Native Range: Southern Europe, Turkey
Zone: 6 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Greenish-yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Air Pollution


Grow in dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Plants perform best in a Mediterranean-type climate, and may show stress in hot and humid summers. They must have sharply-drained soils. They dislike heavy clay. Plants generally have good drought tolerance, but appreciate some moisture in dry summer periods. Wet soils in winter can be fatal. Plants often decline after flowering. Cut flower stems off at the base after bloom to provide room for newly emerging stems. Plants are considered to be evergreen in warm winter areas. Plants are not reliably winter hardy in USDA Zone 6 (St. Louis) where, if attempted, they should be sited in protected locations.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Euphorbia characias is an upright euphorbia that is native to Southern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey. It typically grows on erect, woody-based, green stems to 3-4' tall and to 3' wide. Narrow, linear to obovate, blue-green leaves (to 5" long) are spirally arranged along the stems. Each stem is topped in spring by a thick, bottlebrush-like inflorescense of greenish-yellow flowers. Individual flowers lack petals, but have showy, petal-like, greenish-yellow bracts (cyathium in the genus Euphorbia is defined as a cup-like involucre). Broken stems exude a white milky sap that is a skin irritant and poisonous.

Subsp. wulfenii differs from the species by growing shorter to only 2-3' tall and by having more yellow in the flowers, darker purple on the glands and larger leaves.

Genus name probably honors Euphorbus, physician to the King of Mauretania.


No known serious insect or disease problems. Use gloves when working with this plant because of the toxic plant sap.


Beds and borders.