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Help with variegated euphorbias, please

Euphorbia characias 'Kestrel' (G023156): a dramatic variegated form. Image © All rights reserved.
Hello everyone, I need your help. I’m working on an article about variegated forms of the Mediterranean spurge, Euphorbia characias, as well as variegated varieties of the related Euphorbia amygdaloides and the hybrid between the two, Euphorbia x martini.

They can look very dramatic, but many gardeners have trouble keeping them for more than a year or two. So I’d appreciate it if you share your experiences. Which variegated varieties have you grown? Did they thrive or sulk? What conditions produced plants that grew well from year to year? Open ground, or containers? Which varieties did well, and which failed?

The varieties I have in mind include: ‘Ascot Rainbow’, ‘Burrow Silver’ (aka ‘Benger’s Silver’, ‘Silver Sunbeam’, ‘Honiton Lace’), ‘Emmer Green’, ‘Frosted Flame’, ‘Glacier Blue’, Helena's Blush ('Inneuphhel'), ‘Kestrel’ (above, click to enlarge), ‘Silver Shadow’, Silver Swan ('Wilcott'), ‘Tasmanian Tiger', ‘Vanilla Swirl’ and ‘Variegata’.

Please add your thoughts in the comment box below or, if you’d prefer, email me your thoughts.

Many thanks, in advance, for your help. The piece will be published in the RHS magazine The Plantsman in December. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s available.


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Only any good in containers, I think. Never had 'Burrow Silver' get through a Irish winter out in the garden.

Kathy Wilder

Hi, Graham - don't know a thing about euphorbias, except for a few house and patio plants that we have, but I wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoy your blog, and I was thrilled to see your latest book on this page. Just ordered it! I have nothing but shade, and it's a challenge sometimes...I can't wait to read it!


Ascot Rainbow planted in amended clay soil - grew vigorously the first season, but after the bloom and prune back, half of it is reverting to green. It has SOME of the colour of Ascot Rainbow, so I'm wondering if temperature change will kick it back to the proper variegation.

Graham Rice

Glad to hear you enjoy the blog, Kathy, thank you. New book coming later in the year...

And Ruth, thanks, I'll be interested to hear if your 'Ascot Rainbow' regains its colour as temperatures drop or if it stays green... Sounds ominous, though, doesn't it.


'Silver Swan' has been the strongest of the variegated characias kinds and is going on its third year here (zone 10, frost-free So. Calif.) 'Tasmanian Tiger' was a very weak grower that didn't last a season. Open ground, sun, fairly dry. 'Ascot Rainbow' has been a strong grower too, in similar conditions. Looking forward to your article!

Graham Rice

Thanks, Denise. I'm surprised that 'Tasmanian Tiger' did not do well for you in your climate. But one of the lessons of all this is that different people have success with different varieties.

Graham Rice

Thank you so much to those who added their thoughts here, and also to the many who emailed me to share their thoughts, advice and experiences of growing these variegated euphorbias. I'll be finishing my piece in the next few days, when it's published I'll let you know. Thanks again, I appreciate so many people taking the time to help.

Graham Spencer

hi Graham
I look after Ascot Rainbow and Glacier Blue in Europe.
Reversion in Ascot Rainbow is rare. If it is cut back too hard, then it can occur as a reaction to the stress of being cut back, although my experience is that all-yellow is more common in this instance than all-green. In general, it doesn't need to be cut back - simply remove flower stems once they are spent.
Glacier Blue shares a trait that is common to all characias varieties that I have seen - if you cut it back too early, you kill the plant. Whereas with martinii you can cut the plant back and get new growth afterwards, with characias you must wait for the new shoots to start to grow before you cut it back.
Both varieties are protected by EU Plant Variety Rights.

Graham Spencer

As an aside, I saw Helena's Blush growing in a nursery in the Netherlands - 30,000 plants with more than 40% reversion. The grower there described it as a "disaster" amongst other less polite terms!

Graham Rice

Thanks Graham, that's really interesting. No one else who's commented here, or by email, has made that distinction between E. characias and E. x martini.

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