Hillsides of Flowering Spurge

As gardeners we are often encouraged to grow native plants in our gardens, but we hesitate. Here in Illinois this might mean inviting the silphiums into our gardens (striking in appearance–even beautiful–their 14-feet deep roots make me uneasy) or goldenrods (species goldenrods tend to be tireless self-seeders) or the blue stem grasses (also impressive self-seeders). One  prairie native I do suggest trying is called Prairie Spurge or Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata). I first saw it carpeting the gravely hillsides of the Almon Underwood Prairie Nature Preserve, near Kaneville, Illinois. Bordering on a working gravel pit, this tiny scrap of prairie is being rehabilitated. The hillsides were covered with a sea of this beautiful flower that rippled silently in the wind, and it was breathtaking. However lovely, the sight gave me pause. If Flowering Spurge covered whole hillsides in nature, what would it do in my garden? I had heard good things about it, though, so I later planted it in my garden. Ten years later, I can say it’s been an absolute gem, and that I like better than its nearest garden competition, perennial baby’s breath. The flowers of Flowering Spurge are larger and a brighter white than those of baby’s breath, and the whole plant is clean and lacy looking. I can only guess that you would need to live in a gravel pit to give it the soil it apparently craves–dry, loose, gravely soil with perfect drainage–to have a problem. Typical garden soil and moisture keep it in check. I have seen it in one other garden, and it is well-behaved there, as well.

So, if you would like to try an Illinois prairie native, Flowering Spurge would be a good plant to start with.  Seeds can be obtained from http://www.prairiemoon.com. They also will send plants in the Spring and Fall, but there is a minimum order for this.

4 thoughts on “Hillsides of Flowering Spurge

  1. Fran, is this the same Euphorbia sold in garden centers as a “premium” annual (like 5 bucks a pot)? I had no idea it was a native! I love Euphorbia. Prairie Moon is a wonderful place, too – very helpful and their plants are super healthy. It was about the only regional place I could find that carried Amelanchier stolonifera – running serviceberry. I will have to try Euphorbia from seed.

    1. The premium annual is Euphorbia marginata, called Snow-in-the-Mountain. So these plants are related (same genus), but not the same. I will have to try Prairie Moon–looks like they have everything! I used to work at Natural Gardens here in St. Charles, but it looks like they are no longer in the retail business. They used to have prairie natives, and that’s where I got my Flowering Spurge.

  2. Yes, I was sorry to see that Natural Gardens was bought by Midwest Groundcovers. MWC says they will keep the Natural Gardens’ “brand”, which focuses on natives, for the time being. Well, maybe so. I just get a bad feeling when I pick up a whiff of something that smells like a corporate takeover. Had enough of those – 2 – in my professional life to last a lifetime. They’re usually not pretty.

    Anyway . . . do try Prairie Moon. Great people!

    1. Natural Gardens didn’t look open the last time I drove by. I guess MWC running it would be better than nothing, because the assortment of native Natural Gardens sold was unique.

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