Height 60-90cm (2-3ft)
Planting distance 30-45cm (12-18in)
Sun or partial shade
Hardy and half-hardy annual
Annual euphorbias are usually grown in borders for their elegant foliage. They do have– in summer – but these pale into insignificance beside the petal-like bracts in scarlet-red or cream shades, according to species.
The plants form neat bushes 60-90cm (2-3ft) high. They have the advantage of tolerating partial shade as well as sun, and will grow in any ordinary garden soil. Indeed, the foliage colours are more intense when the plants are grown in poor soil.
Euphorbia heterophylla, com-monly known as fire-on-the-mountain or annual poinsettia, is a neat, bushy, half-hardy annual, with dark green oval or lance-shaped leaves. At the end of each shoot a 10cm (4in) wide whorl of red bracts appears from mid summer to early autumn, accompanied by small crimson-orange flowers. Euphorbia lathyris, otherwise known as caper spurge, is an attractive green-leaved species -the long thin leaves being arranged symmetrically on up-right stems. In early to mid summer small yellow flowers appear in leafy heads. The plants reach 90cm (3ft) high.
Euphorbia marginata, snow-on-the-mountain, has bright green oval leaves which become edged and veined with white as the plant matures. Insignificant white flowers appear in early autumn. ‘Summer Icicle’, heavily varie-gated, is 45cm (18in) tall.
Sow the seeds in a sunny site in early to. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin to 30cm (1ft) apart.
Alternatively give them a head start, and sow under glass at a temperature of 16°C (61°F) in early spring. Harden off before planting out in late spring.
Pests and diseases