Euphorbia belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family of plants. The members are sometimes referred to as spurges, but since there are plenty of varieties, they are known by other names too. These plants are perennial, annual and deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen varieties and hence, most of their species are cultivated across the globe. Euphorbia is commonly found in tropical and subtropical parts of Africa and America.
These are trees, woody shrubs, bushes, ground-covering and also flowering plants. Roots are tuberous and fleshy with most species being succulent. They are also thorny and unarmed. Leaves differ as per the species. Some of them are alternate, opposite and in whirls (in deciduous varieties). Leaves of some varieties are short-lived and are smaller in size. Fruits of have two or three compartments and have a typical explosive dehiscence. These plants have four-angled seeds that are mostly oval and sometimes spherical. Some species bear caruncles, a fleshy structure of seeds.
White or yellow milky sap of euphorbia species, also called latex, is found to be poisonous. This sap basically acts as a deterrent to herbivores. It also acts as a wound healer for plants. Toxicity of this sap differs from one species to the other and the terpen easter composition in the sap determines its toxicity for humans. Commonly, skin irritation, eyes, nose and mouth irritation, and painful inflammation are common symptoms of rash and allergies. Some studies say that several types of terpen ester are carcinogenic. If the sap comes in contact with the skin, one should wash that part carefully with water or milk.
Succulent species like Euphorbia Pekinensis is a traditional Chinese medicine. Several varieties are also used as food plants. The most common usage of euphorbia plants is in flower gardens. These plants are suitable for all types of gardens. They include snow on the mountain (Euphorbia marginata), Robb's Euphorbia, evergreen Spurge, Euphorbia Diamond Frost, Euphorbia Crown of Thorns, Elkhorn, Euphorbia martinii Redwing (hybrid), Euphorbia Blackbird, Euphorbia Rudolph, Euphorbia Helena's Blush, Euphorbia Glacier Blue, Mrs. Robb's bonnet, Euphorbia myrsinites, Euphorbia amygdaloides or wood spurge, etc.
Each different species demand slightly different gardening approach. However, planting them in a complete to partly-sunny area and in a well-drained soil will bring good results. Euphorbia shrubs are required to be planted in a shady area and away from strong windy areas. Annual species should be sown in spring, while you can sow perennial seeds during early spring. You need to conduct regular pruning once the flowering season is over. Make sure that you prune by wearing required clothing and gardening gloves. Some common plant diseases that you should be aware of include, gray mold, aphids and mealybugs. It is recommended to use fertilizers beforehand.