Plant of the Month – October, 2007

Euphorbia hybrid ‘Helena:’ Spurge

Looking for something new and a little different to put in your cool-weather container plantings this year? Try euphorbia!

I discovered euphorbia ‘Helena’ a couple of years ago. This variegated form has medium-green leaves edged in cream and, during cold weather, the new growth and backs of the leaves are an orange-red. Euphorbias are ideal for container plantings, and they tend to grow best for us during the winter months.

Euphorbias are not common plants in Texas landscapes. These drought- and heat-tolerant perennials are well-suited to our climate, except that they require exceptional drainage. If planted in soil that becomes waterlogged occasionally, they will perish after the first rain. That’s when I discovered placing them in containers. Pots usually have better drainage and are more likely to dry out during the day. Also, euphorbias are adapted to growing during the cooler seasons of the year and are exceptionally cold-hardy.

So, why not try them for substitutes for kale and cabbage in the winter? Once winter is over, they will bloom in late February or early March with bright chartreuse flower heads. I recommend cutting the plants back after flowering and they will put on a new flush of growth for spring. This perennial will happily survive all summer in a container, as long as you don’t overwater it, and will be ready to look great again next winter.

As another bonus, if you are plagued by rabbits or deer, don’t fear – they hate euphorbias’ milky sap and they won’t touch them. Be careful yourself if pruning this plant so as to not get the sap in your eyes or mouth.

You can see euphorbia ‘Helena’ at the Dallas Arboretum Trial Gardens and around the garden in containers. We are at 8525 Garland Road, overlooking White Rock Lake. For more information, visit

About the author: Jimmy Turner is the Director of Horticulture Research at the Dallas Arboretum. For more plant profiles by Jimmy, subscribe to Neil Sperry’s GARDENS Magazine.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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