The myrtle spurge botanically Euphorbia myrsinites (yoo-FOR-bee-uh myrsinites) is an herbaceous evergreen perennial which hails from southeastern Europe and Asia minor.
It is a member of the succulent Euphorbia genus part of the family Euphorbiaceae.
It is believed that its genus name honors of the king of Mauritania’s physician, Euphorbus.
The specific epithet, myrsinites, refers to the fact that this plant is very similar to the genus known as Myrsine.
Common names include:
- Myrtle spurge
- Donkey tail spurge
- Myrtle Euphorbia
- Creeping spurge
- Blue spurge
- Broad-leaved glaucous-spurge
Euphorbia Myrsinites (Myrtle Spurge) Care
Size and Growth
This fast-growing plant (aka invasive species) will quickly spread to individual height and width of about 12″ foot.
Individual stems emerge from a woody base and trail along the ground.
The stems with bluish-green leaves rise at the tip. The plants reproduce rapidly and can cover large areas quickly.
Flowering and Fragrance
Myrtle spurge produces rather unremarkable greenish flowers early in the spring which become rather showy yellow bracts later on.
Typical bloom time stretches from early spring through late spring.
The plant’s succulent-like leaves grow in close spirals along the stems. Leaves are fleshy, blue-green and oval.
Although the plant is considered to be an evergreen, the foliage does tend to die back in areas that have very cold winters.
This is especially true when the plant is exposed to high winds.
Light and Temperature
This plant does best when planted in full sun. It is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9.
Watering and Feeding
This weedy, drought tolerant plant grows with rampant abandon with very little water.
It will probably do fine with natural rainfall as its only irrigation.
In very wet areas, it will fail to thrive.
If you do water it, water deeply and allow the soil to dry thoroughly before watering again. No fertilizer is necessary.
Soil and Transplanting
Myrtle spurge prefers sharply draining, dry soil and full sun.
It is extremely tolerant of poor soils, and it will do very well in sandy, gravelly soil.
Soil pH is not a consideration because this plant can thrive in neutral, alkaline or acidic soil.
Grooming and Maintenance
Donkey tail spurge is rampantly self-seeding so you will need to remove flowers instantly to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the plant.
Take care to protect your skin and eyes from contact with the plants white, milky sap.
How To Propagate Euphorbia Myrsinites
You cannot but help to propagate Myrtle Euphorbia. Donkey tail spurge self seeds in an alarmingly enthusiastic manner.
However, cuttings root easily in late spring and early summer when the plant is actively growing.
Euphorbia Myrsinites Pest or Diseases
The plant grows like a weed, and probably because of its toxic sap, it resists pests and diseases.
Is Myrtle Spurge Toxic?
The white milky sap of the plant can be a very serious irritant and can cause severe gastric distress if ingested.
Wear gloves and eye protection when handling this plant. Wash up immediately afterward to prevent painful blistering and rash.
Is Donkey Tail Spurge invasive?
Because of its aggressive self-seeding tendencies, several jurisdictions have banned the planting of Myrtle spurge and have labeled it as a noxious weed.
It is especially problematic as a groundcover in hot, dry areas that have very poor soil.
In areas with significant rainfall and rich moist soil, the plant does not spread rapidly, but should still be kept under control.
Rg=hese rugged plants are highly adaptable.
Before you plant Euphorbia myrsinites, check with your local agricultural extension to find out if there are restrictions against it.
You may not plant this Donkey tail spurge in Colorado or Oregon.
Uses For Euphorbia Myrsinites
Myrtle euphorbia will thrive in most sunny areas and does very well in hot dry areas that have poor soil.
It can look very fetching sprawling along a rock wall or added to a rock garden, but you must take care not to let it take over.
Don’t plant it in areas that have a lot of foot traffic because accidental contact with the plant could cause injury.
In a desert setting, grow from seed in containers to control the spread of the plant.
It can look very attractive when mixed in with other colorful container plants such as Veronica Georgia blue.
The contrast of yellow and blue flowers is eye-catching.
If you have areas of shallow, rocky soil and have problems with drought or poor air quality, Euphorbia Myrtle can be a good addition.
It is also very resistant to deer and rabbits.
Just remember that no matter where you plant it, you must keep it under control.
Deadhead flowers regularly and remove seedlings as soon as they sprout to prevent unwanted spread.