February 19, 2020

Euphorbia Polychroma for Early Spring Vibrance

Perennials that bloom in April are in short supply for my Zone 6 garden.  Spokane winters are long, and few perennials can start growing and get ready to bloom until May or later.  So I was especially excited to discover Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) a few years ago. 

This spurge is a lovely accompaniment to tulips like the ones above:  Palmyra, Negrita, Margarita, Black Hero, Orange Princess and Menton.  And unlike many tulips, cushion spurge will regrow and rebloom every year without replanting.

Shown here with Orange Princess tulips, cushion spurge is hardy in zones 4 to 8 and grows 1 to 1.5 feet tall and wide.  It prefers full sun and well-drained soil.  I grew my plants from seed, but I've seen them for sale at nurseries.

Like many euphorbias, this plant has milky sap that can be irritating to skin and eyes.  It also reseeds like crazy if you don't deadhead.  I wear gloves to cut the plant back by half as the blooms finish.  This helps the plant stay full throughout summer as well as preventing reseeding.

Cushion spurge works well with many colors.  It's shown here with pink creeping phlox and Royal Raindrops crabapple trees in bloom.

The nice thing about spring-blooming perennials is that cool temperatures allow the blooms to last a long time.  In spurge's case, the color actually comes from bracts instead of petals.

In this photo the spurge has outlasted the tulips and is still blooming when Purple Sensation and Early Emperor alliums have opened.

I really love the color combo of spurge's acid green with the purple alliums and maroon smoke bush foliage.

In fall the leaves turn red and last through light frosts before turning brown when the temperatures really drop.  Then it's time to cut back to the ground and wait for next spring.

Here's one more shot of this sturdy, useful, lovely plant.  In my walk around the garden this morning, I noticed the first stems emerging from some of my cushion spurges.  Spring is coming!   


  1. Is this a variety that doesn't try to take over the garden? Some spurges are rather thuggish.

    1. Janet, I'm sure it could reseed like nuts if you don't deadhead, but it's been perfectly well-behaved for me since I cut back before seeds can scatter. Maybe it's not a good choice for someone who struggles to keep up with deadheading, though.


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