If you feel like you need a joyful and vibrant dash of yellow in your garden, we have a great plant for you that you won’t have any difficulties keeping alive. Meet Euphorbia cyparissias a.k.a. the Cypress spurge, an herbaceous, low-maintenance, and overall friendly flowering plant!
The spurge family is among the most diverse and largest families of plants encompassing more than 2,000 different species. Spurge plants have attractive modified leaves (known in the gardening world as bracts) that provide visual interest.
Most spurges are green, but there are many varieties that come in other colours. Cypress spurge is a tough and vigorous plant that grows quickly that can fill a garden space quite effectively, which is why it is considered invasive in some regions.
The Cypress spurge is a good-looking member of the spurge family and it has its ways to win the hearts of most flower-loving gardeners. This utterly gorgeous species is a popular ornamental worldwide, but this is not a consequence of its appearance only.
The Cypress spurge plant is, without a doubt, more than meets the eye. It comes along with a relatively low-demanding style, performing just fine with little to no help from its owner.
Are you curious to find out what makes this plant such a great addition to any garden? Keep reading our guide to find out more useful, interesting, and curious facts about Euphorbia cyparissias a.k.a. the Cypress spurge plant!
About Cypress Spurge
- The Cypress spurge plant is native to several regions of Europe. In the 1860s, this superb species was introduced as an ornamental plant to North America as well.
- It occurs naturally in habitats like coastal headlands, dunes, grasslands, and pannes. The plant does well in open areas. In North America, the Cypress spurge plant shows up in the dry, gravelly soils of meadows, pastures, or roadsides.
- In many places around the world, including the United States and, more specifically, Colorado, people consider the Cypress spurge plant a noxious weed. This plant tends to invade the habitat of other native species.
- The Cypress spurge plant makes for a great addition to various landscapes, such as city gardens, cottage gardens, and Mediterranean gardens, but also coastal gardens, slopes, beds, and borders. Many gardeners use this beauty as a ground cover.
- Its vibrant, yellow flowers will look amazing near other attractive species of plants. Some examples of ideal plant companions for Cypress spurge include Phlox, Penstemons, New Zealand Flax, Lamb’s ear, Common milkweed, Persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’, Red Valerian, Sprenger Tulip, Star of Persia, and Tulipa ‘Ballerina’.
- The Cypress spurge plant belongs to the Euphorbia genus, so it can be extremely toxic to both animals and humans alike. Its leaves contain a poisonous milky sap. Euphorbia sap can cause a wide range of digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea when eaten. It can also cause blindness if it gets in people’s eyes and can irritate the skin causing redness, swelling and blisters. For safety purposes, grow this plant in an isolated spot from your curious children, dogs, or cats. Also, make sure you use gloves when planting, pruning, and propagating Cypress spurge.
- Euphorbia plants developed their toxic sap first and foremost as a shield against plant-eating insects and grazing animals. However, the ‘shield’ didn’t work for all living creatures and the so-called Spurge Hawk-moth (Celerio euphorbiae) is immune to this chemical barrier. Interestingly enough, the colourful caterpillars of the Spurge Hawk-moth dine solely on Cypress Spurge plants and even developed a defence mechanism by using the plant’s poison to make themselves inedible to their predators.
- You can easily propagate your Euphorbia cyparissias through cuttings. However, as mentioned above, it is recommended to wear a pair of garden gloves to protect your skin from the dangerous milky sap.
- This flowering plant is a big lover of full sunlight all year round. It generally thrives in dry and well-draining soils, such as rock or sandy ones. When it receives too much attention, the Cypress spurge plant can become pretty invasive. This is a fast-growing plant that spreads quickly and aggressively, and on top of that it also releases chemicals from its roots which can prevent other plants from growing near it. This helps it crowd out native species, so it is best to contain this plant and not to grow it in places where it has already become a problem, such as Ontario and Quebec.
- The Cypress spurge plant is not attractive and hypnotic just for gardening enthusiasts. Its lovely flowers attract various species of beneficial insects and pollinators including ants, native bees, and butterflies.
Cypress Spurge Features: An Overview
- The Cypress spurge plant is a member of the well-known Euphorbiaceae family. Most growers call the species that belong to this large family Euphorbias.
- Cypress spurge is a very showy perennial plant. It usually grows from 8 to 16 inches (20-40 cm) in height. The plant is erect, emerging from rhizomatous roots, and has a branching overall growth habit, spreading rapidly to form a bushy ground cover.
- Its foliage resembles a large bottlebrush. It consists of numerous small, narrow, linear-oblong, greenish leaves that contain a toxic milky sap. Each leaflet measures about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in length.
- The lower leaves of the Cypress spurge plant appear alternately arranged on the stems. The uppermost leaves, on the other hand, show up in a whorled or oppositely arranged style.
- The Cypress spurge plant blooms from spring to early summer. During its blooming period, the species produces umbel-like clusters of tiny, fragrant flowers.
- The blossoms exhibit lime-yellow shades at first but slowly turn into an attractive red-orange to purple as they mature.
- Once the flowering period has come to an end, the Cypress spurge plant produces fruits that explode when reaching maturity. When this happens, the plant can spread seeds at a distance of up to 16 feet (5 m).
- Originally, Cypress spurge was pollinated by insects but the plant became anemophilous over the course of its evolution, which means that it started to pollinate through dispersal by wind. As a result, the perianths (which are useful for insect pollination, but not wind pollination) became smaller and so did the blooms, which were then separated into male and female. The male flowers only had on the stamen, and the female flowers had an ovary with style and stigma. Later, the plant changed again, and it started to be pollinated by insects one more. This caused the solitary flowers to grow in groups and to form a functional hermaphrodite plant and the brilliantly coloured bracts became very attractive to pollinators.
Euphorbia cyparissias (Cypress Spurge) is very similar to its cousin Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia virgata) but the most notable differences are the following: Cypress spurge is generally smaller, has narrower foliage, and its blooms appear earlier than Leafy Spurge. Another thing these two plants have in common is their hardiness and habit to form large colonies and becoming a common weed.
Growing Cypress Spurge
The Cypress spurge plant prefers to grow in a spot where it can experience lots of full sunlight. Therefore, we suggest you keep this plant in the brightest area of your garden. In general, at least six to eight hours of bright and direct light are mandatory for a thriving Cypress spurge plant.
If you cannot provide yours with that much sunlight, do not worry! The plant is pretty flexible and will grow nicely in a bit of shade every now and then.
Temperature-wise, you won’t have anything to worry about with this plant. The Cypress spurge plant can tolerate even the very harsh weather conditions.
Because of this, you can grow your plant outdoors during the winter months without thinking too much about its general well-being. If you want to be sure that your plant handles frost well, you can cover its growing medium with dry leaves or another type of mulch.
The Cypress spurge plant is that type of ornamental companion that does not encounter any pest infestations. The only intruder you might want to look for is the flea beetle. This pest is a popular biological pest control prized for its ability to control the growth and spread of the Cypress spurge plant.
In case you are dealing with this, you can get rid of it by dusting the leaves with plain talcum powder. You can also use white sticky traps to capture the beetles as they jump.
Planting Cypress Spurge
In terms of growing medium, the Cypress spurge plant will grow absolutely fabulous in dry substrates that feature excellent drainage in general. This plant can withstand poor soil types including sandy and rocky ones.
Make sure you do not provide this plant with moist soil that is rich in organic matter or nutrients. These particular conditions will determine it to grow and spread like crazy and even reseed freely. And this is something that you might not want to happen, as this plant is already an invasive species.
The Cypress spurge plant does not require high amounts of fertilizer to perform well, making it even more low-maintenance than it already was. In fact, if you do not want it to develop fast and conquer your garden, you can skip fertilizers for good and the plant will be just fine.
The use of fertilizers on this plant actually has another utility. When it begins to spread as it pleases and takes too much space, some gardeners apply fertilizers to new specimens to kick them out of their garden.
In case you do not have a garden, you can also enjoy the Cypress spurge plant indoors in a pot. Keep in mind that you should opt for a container that has drainage holes at the bottom.
Moreover, since the plant grows pretty fast so you will have to repot it in a larger pot when it outgrows its current one. But if you do not want your plant to get bigger, you can postpone the transplanting for as much as you like.
We recommend you prune your Cypress spurge plant if it gets nasty and overcrowds other species from your garden. Besides your satisfaction, the plant will also benefit from it because pruning allows it to produce fresh, new branches.
And if you do not want it to spread on its own via seeds, you should deadhead the spent flowers right after the blooming period has come to an end.
Watering Cypress Spurge
When it comes to watering, your Cypress spurge will not demand too much attention. In fact, if you over-water this plant you will encounter fungal problems like root rot. To avoid this from happening, it is better to follow a suitable watering routine for this plant’s needs.
The Cypress spurge plant will show its gratitude if you water it weekly in the summer. During the winter months, you can spoil it with water once every two to three weeks or even monthly.
Propagating Cypress Spurge
Although not very common among gardeners due to its independent spreading habit, propagation can easily be achieved and you can make more Cypress spurge plant if you feel like it. This plant responds great to propagation from seeds or division.
Starting your Cypress spurge plants from seeds is a nice option if you do not want your plant to spread as it wishes. Since the fruits of this plant explode and release seeds at big distances, it is best to collect the seeds from the fruits before they are ripe.
After this, you can clean up the seeds from the pulp, dry them, and store them in a cool spot until you want to use them. Once you sow the seeds in moist, fresh soil, you can expect the seedlings to show up in little to no time. It is ok to sow the seeds directly in the ground or in a container, it does not really matter.
To propagate your Cypress spurge through division, you will first have to dig the plant out of its growing medium. After this step, you want to look for lateral root buds and remove them. Once you have the divided parts, you can plant them wherever you like and give them the same care as for the mother specimen.
Even if the Cypress spurge plant has an invasive nature, it is still a good garden plant and an exciting ornamental species to add to your collection. If you like the plants from the Euphorbia genus as much as we do, you’ll surely be curious to see how this plant reacts to the conditions in your garden. The good news is, Cypress spurge is impossible to kill as it’s not picky at all so you will have it around for a long time. Pretty cool, right?
Are you growing Euphorbia cyparissias a.k.a. the Cypress spurge in your garden or is it invasive in your region? Should other gardeners grow it or should they avoid it? Let us know what your opinion about this plant is and share your experience with other gardeners by leaving a comment below!