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Xeriscape Gardens

Euphorbia Myrsinites (Myrtle Spurge) Care Guide


8 min read

Euphorbia myrsinites is known for its spirals of blue-green leaves and gorgeous chartreuse or bright yellow bracts that are surrounded by bright yellow bracts, which grow on sprawling stems. The flowers of this plant bloom mostly in early spring. This plant is native to Asia Minor and Southeastern Europe.

Two common names of this plant are Myrtle Spurge and Donkey Tail. Euphorbia myrsinites is a perennial succulent species belonging to the plant family Euphorbiaceae. Their genus is both perennial and annual succulent. It received the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

This broad-leaved glaucous-spurge is recognized as an invasive species or a noxious weed, so it’s banned in some US states. So, be careful when you grow and handle your sprawling myrsinites – but realize it’s a great xeriscaping plant!

Quick Care Guide

Close-up of Euphorbia myrsinites
The spiral growth of this plant is mesmerizing. Source: eriwst
Common Name(s): Donkey tail spurge, myrtle spurge, blue spurge, creeping spurge
Scientific NameEuphorbia myrsinites
Family:Euphorbiaceae
Zone:5-9
Height & Spread:6-12″ tall and wide
LightFull sun
SoilNormal, sandy soil
Water:Low
Pests & Diseases:Aphids, mealybugs

All About Euphorbia Myrsinites

In the UK, Euphorbia myrsinites has been granted the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Garden Merit. You can plant these succulent plants in your rock gardens or in terracotta pots or containers. You can also plant them along your driveway as they offer an impressive, sprawling ground cover.

The plant is native to southeastern Europe and Asia minor. Italy, the Balkans, Crimea, and Turkey are all home to this plant. Its leaves are light, gray-green, and are arranged spirally on trailing stems. In spring, non showy greenish flowers bud and bloom as small sulfur yellow flowers from the center of the spiraling leaves. People plant these for the showy yellow bracts, specifically.

Even though it received the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Garden Merit, you should be careful when cultivating this plant, as it’s classed as an invasive plant and noxious weed in Oregon, Washington, Utah, and California. If you live in these regions, we at Epic Gardening recommend you plant in containers and promptly remove spent flowers. Monitor the growth of this plant, and ensure it doesn’t cross the bounds of garden beds. Otherwise they can be a danger to the ecosystem.

Like other Euphorbia species, creeping spurge secretes a latex sap that can irritate skin. This sap is also toxic if ingested, and may cause blindness if contact is made with the eyes. Therefore it is really important to wear protective gear (eye gear, gloves, long-sleeved pants and shirts) when handling Euphorbia myrsinites.

Myrtle Spurge Care

Large donkey tail spurge plant growing in the garden
Don’t let Euphorbia myrsinites get out of control in your garden. Source: FarOutFlora

Aside from its toxicity, myrtle spurge is pretty easy to take care of, as long as it’s kept in control. Let’s discuss the basics now.

Light & Temperature

This plant thrives to the fullest when planted under full sun. It can grow in USDA hardiness zones from 5 to 9. While it’s best grown outdoors, if you live in an area where the plant is an invasive noxious weed, or in a colder climate, you can grow it indoors in a sunny south-facing window.

One of the reasons this plant is such an invasive noxious weed has to do with its ability to withstand temperatures that are very high (in the triple digits) or even very low (down to -20°F). There is no need to protect an established plant from climate extremes, but it does best in warm winter climates.

Water & Humidity

This succulent plant is drought tolerant. It needs minimal watering. Make sure that you don’t over-water your myrsinites as it will kill your plant. Water only when the soil is dry up to the length of your entire finger, or in times of severe drought. Do not wet the leaves of the plant during watering, and water slow and low in the morning when possible.

Soil

Your plant will easily grow in dry and hot areas that have poor soil. In fact, it prefers to grow in well-draining sandy or gravelly soil and is very tolerant of dry soil. Even a pre-formulated cactus soil is too nutritious. If you’re working with that, add some coarse gravel or sand to give the mix even more drainage and sparser nutritive elements.

Fertilizer

This plant is technically an invasive noxious weed species and rarely needs fertilizers to thrive. In fact, it would be best to avoid fertilizing at all. Not only can it make this invasive plant more invasive, it can cause the plant to suffer from rots.

Repotting Euphorbia Myrsinites

Repot your plant when it starts growing out of its existing container, find another container with adequate drainage holes that’s slightly larger than the one you’re working with. Remove the plant and soil from the pot, and add some coarse potting mix to the new container – enough to keep your plant at the level it was planted in the other pot. Then fill it in, and water lightly. Put it in full sun as it establishes new roots.

Myrtle Spurge Propagation

Since donkey tail spurges are invasive plant species, the plants spread primarily via their seeds. However, you can also propagate it via cuttings that will root easily in late spring and early summer during the growing season.

Remember to wear gloves, eye-protection, and long sleeves to protect yourself from the saponin within the plant. Take a good sized cutting, remove the bottom 2/3 of the leaves, and dip the tip in rooting hormone. Then place the cutting in coarse potting mix and wait. In 4 to 6 weeks your cutting should be rooted.

Pruning Your Euphorbia

Euphorbia myrsinites pruning becomes a necessity if you want to counter their invasive nature. After blooming, in the spring and summer seasons, you can trim back your plant’s sprawling stems severely. At the very least, prune away spent flowers before they have a chance to release their seeds.

This will prevent your plant from rapidly spreading and flowering consistently. When a blooming stem of your myrsinites euphorbia starts to turn yellow, simply clip it off at the base with clean pruning shears.

Troubleshooting Euphorbia Myrsinites

Here are a few problems that you might face when growing your euphorbia spurge.

Growing Problems

Your plant might spread and take over your entire garden if you don’t prune it in time. So, make sure that you prune the “noxious weed” right after it blooms to prevent it from self-propagating at a rapid pace. Also, make sure that you don’t over-water it as soggy soil will kill your plant and create conditions where root rot can thrive.

Pests

This plant is susceptible to pests such as aphids and mealybugs. You can blast either with a strong stream of water from a hose. For mealybugs, start by wiping them off the plant with a rubbing alcohol treated cloth. Then spray your plant with neem oil spray. As for aphids, make sure that your succulent is planted in well-drained soil. Allow your soil to dry between two rounds of watering.

Diseases

Your plant can suffer from bacterial and fungal rots when grown in moist conditions, so make sure to plant it in medium dry, well-drained soil. Root rot is a disease that is common with this plant in situations where the soil is too rich, you’ve fertilized, or the plant isn’t in a full sun location and the soil doesn’t dry between waterings.

To treat root rot, remove any damaged or diseased parts of your spurge. Then check the base of the plant. If it’s brown and mushy, you may need to get rid of it completely. If not, stop watering, or plant it in fresh, dry media. This may help remedy the issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When should I prune my Euphorbia plants?

A: You need to prune your plant when you see that your blooming stems are starting to turn yellow.

Q: Where do Donkey Tail plants grow?

A: Native to Eurasia, these plants will grow almost anywhere that conditions are right, hence why they are considered invasive by many states.

Q: Are Myrtle spurge plants poisonous?

A: All parts of this plant are considered to be poisonous. Its milky white sap is poisonous if ingested – it can cause severe gastric pain. Also, make sure to wear protective gloves and eye-wear when handling this plant to prevent skin rashes.

Q: Is myrtle spurge invasive?

A: Yes. This plant is considered a noxious weed, and highly invasive. If you live in Oregon, Washington, Utah, or California please plant it in a container and keep it away from areas where it will thrive.

Q: How do I get rid of myrtle spurge?

A: If you have already planted Euphorbia myrsinites, control its spread through deadheading as soon as the showy yellow bracts bloom, as the plants spread primarily through those. You can also dig up the plants and move them into pots. Remember to always wear protective gear when working with these plants. Monitor the area where you removed them for several years to prevent remaining plant matter from growing new plants.

Q: What does myrtle spurge look like?

A: It’s a sprawling evergreen succulent that has a shrub-like growth habit and yellow flower bracts.

Q: Where does myrtle spurge grow?

A: It’s native to areas of the Mediterranean in southern Europe and Eurasia, but will grow in dry beds almost anywhere.

Q: What happens if you touch spurge?

A: It can cause minor skin irritation and blistering.

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