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Euphorbia characias (zones 8 to 11). Add architectural structure and stimulating color to your garden with E. characias. Reaching a height upward of 4 feet, the upright dome of E. characias is one of the largest. Dense, chalky blue foliage brightens the garden year-round, and a vivid crown of chartreuse flowers tops the plant come spring. Grown in full sun, the shrub holds it color well through the season, only needing to be trimmed back once the stalks yellow. E. characias pairs neon colors with cooler hues for a truly modern design juxtaposition.
Euphorbia characias 'Tasmanian Tiger' (zones 7 to 9). Lighten up the landscape with this flaxen Euphorbia cultivar. Hardy to freezing temperatures, Tasmanian Tiger grows to 3 feet tall and wide. White-edged flower bracts top white-edged leaves in spring, making this smaller cousin a great color complement to the straight species.
Euphorbia myrsinites (zones 5 to 8). Choose this low-lying species when in need of a ground cover. Petite blue-gray leaves densely spiral around stiffly arching stems. Citrine-colored flowers tip stems in early spring. Trailing stems cascade beautifully over rock gardens, as shown here, and the vivid color combination pairs beautifully with succulents or other similarly hued plants.
Euphorbia 'Blackbird' (zones 6 to 10). In tune with the name, the dusty dark foliage of Blackbird reaches a deep black when planted in full sun. Red and yellow-green flowers top the shrub in spring, picking up and highlighting accent colors of surrounding plants and garden features. This low-maintenance, high-impact shrub grows to 3 feet tall and is the perfect segue into bold garden color for gardeners who typically prefer neutral landscapes.
Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae (zones 5 to 7). One of the most shade tolerant of Euphorbias, E. amygdaloides robbiae is a great planting solution for under your shady canopy trees. Dark green leathery leaves grow on reddish stems to about 1 foot tall. Spreading vigorously by rhizomes, this species may need to be monitored for invasiveness. Early summer brings bold yellow flowers, and winter heightens the red coloring on the underside of the leaves and stems.
Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' (zones 5 to 9). Are these colors for real? Slim variegated leaves cascade down the length of the 3-foot stems in a rainbow of colors — dark green to yellow to red. During the cooler months of spring and fall, the leaves become especially ornamental, blushing even more vibrant shades of pink. Spring also brings the flowers — a cluster of chartreuse cyathiums with only the slightest glimpse of red. And while this particular plant flowers in spring and summer, its prismatic foliage is evergreen.
How to use it. Shown here en masse with low-water plants Senecio, Agave, Anigozanthos and other ornamental grasses, Euphorbia shows texture and coloring that volumizes the design and adds a fuller and softer texture to the plant palette.
Kelly often combines Euphorbias with companion plants such as succulents, Bulbine, Leucadendron and other low-water-need plants. This makes irrigation and other landscape maintenance much more efficient and responsible.
More great design plants:
Red-Leafed Mukdenia | Blue Chalk Sticks | Hens-and-Chicks | Redtwig Dogwood | Toyon
Great design trees:
Bald Cypress | Chinese Witch Hazel | Japanese Maple | Manzanita | Persian Ironwood
Smoke Tree | Texas Mountain Laurel | Tree Aloe
Great design flowers:
Catmint | Golden Creeping Jenny | Pacific Coast Iris | Plumbago | Red Kangaroo Paw
Sally Holmes Rose | Slipper Plant | Snake Flower
Great design grasses:
Black Mondo Grass | Cape Rush | Feather Reed Grass | New Zealand Wind Grass