Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Euphorbia mellifera is one of the mainstays of the exotic garden here in the UK.  It rapidly forms a  large, rounded shrub with attractive linear foliage with a white central vein and long lasting, late spring heads of honey scented flowers.

Euphorbia mellifera with Cordyline 'Coffee Cream in 2005
Euphorbia mellifera flower heads and foliage

Euphorbia mellifera flower head close up
As a fast growing plant it can get out of hand fairly quickly.  2-3ft / 60-90 cm of growth per year is a fairly conservative estimate.  In the eight years I grew it I cut it down to ground level once myself to keep it in bounds and had it cut down twice by harsh winters - the last time producing such a mess that I removed the remains.  I've now filled in the space with a red Ensete banana and an hydrangea.

Doing a bit of weeding in the garden yesterday I found a couple of seedlings of the euphorbiaNothing unusual in that - I often find seedlings of the various plants I grow.  Hardy geraniums, crocosmia, Freesia laxa, Libertia, Begonia grandis var evansiana, hellebores, even ferns - all pop up regularly amongst the rather more common garden weeds.  Some I pot up, others join the compost heap on the allotment (and, yes, if it likes you, even the treasured and desirable hardy begonia can become a weed).  OK, the euphorbia seedlings are a little unusual in being 20 feet / 6 metres from the site of the parent - entirely due to the exploding seed pods of the plant.  I remember a hot day in 2007 and the garden being peppered with the seeds as they were flung at fair velocity across the plot - probably the origin of the current seedlings.

But it all  leaves me with a problem.  I can, and will, pot up the seedlings.  I'd rather like to grow it in the garden again.  But I now simply don't have the room in the ground.  This plant takes up a lot of space - and doesn't wait around to do it.  So, if I want to keep it and enjoy that lovely honey scent, it will have to go permanently in a pot.  Which probably won't produce the best results.  Still, knowing my taste for tender plants I'm bound to have gaps if when we have more bad winters.  And maybe then it can go back in the ground to produce the next generation of seedlings.


  1. It is a lovely plant, but I'm familiar with the dilemma of plants that I love, but that love me and my conditions a bit too much. Is this a plant that could be kept in bounds by root pruning every few years? (Of course, if you're like me, you make promises to yourself to do that kind of maintenance and somehow never quite get it done.) -Jean

  2. Yes, Jean - it's always the good ones that give the most problems. I can be fairly ruthless - but not with plants I like. So they can take over - as with Crocosmia 'Lucifer'. Root pruning doesn't work with the Euphorbia unfortunately and, although it can be chopped back really hard and will regrow strongly it does weaken the plant. If I do get it in the ground again I might have to treat as a short term resident and remove it when it gets to big - but have a successor seedling coming on to replace it.