Saturday, August 17, 2013

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii. An extremely tough and drought tolerant plant for Australian conditions.

Whoever owned my house before I bought it decided to put a garden bed right under the eaves outside my bedroom. This is a bit of a classic mistake as the cover of the eaves provides a rain shadow. Essentially no rain will fall on the portion of the garden bed under the eaves creating desert like conditions. I tried planting plants there and watering them with my trusty watering can but I would inevitably let the area dry out too much and they would die. Then somebody recommended that I try planting Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii there and I haven't looked back. The Euphorbia genus may be more well known as a weed to some (and this particular plant is restricted in W.A and the N.T)  rather than an ornamental plant but that weedy robustness is what makes the charcias species such a great plant. The soil under my eaves where this plant is growing is really sandy and dry. I do still water this plant but only once every couple of weeks and it would only get 10 litres at a time if it is lucky. Despite that lack of water and poor soil it has thrived and I would highly recommend it as a drought hardy perennial plant for people in Melbourne or even up in the central highlands of Victoria. It is said that it needs full sun but mine is planted on a Western aspect so it can deal with part shade. Although it is said to be a perennial it does get quite leggy after a few years but I have found that it self seeds quite well so there is always some new plants on the rise. Euphorbia characias is native to the Mediterranean and its milky latex sap has been used as an ancient traditional plant medicine to treat skin issues such as warts, skin cancers and tumors. The latex sap however is to be treated with caution. If you get it in your eyes it can cause significant damage. Do not ingest any part of this plant as it is toxic. There are several different cultivars that are in nurseries so if you are in the market for a low maintenance, drought tolerant plant (and don't live in W.A or N.T) then give it a go.

A close up (and slightly out of focus) shot of the flowers.

Euphorbia characias in full bloom during winter.

I find the foliage of Euphorbia characias more interesting than its flowers. The 'Black Pearl' cultivar has foliage the same shape as the one pictured below but with dark and almost black leaves. 

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