Plant This: Go fer it with Gopher Plant, or Euphorbia rigida

A few years ago, I’d never come across gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) in local nurseries. But now it’s everywhere. And with good reason.

Euphorbia rigida‘s pretty blue-green foliage is topped in spring with chartreuse bracts and yellow flowers. After the hottest summer on record and one of the coldest winters on record in Austin, gopher plant takes it all in stride and is one of the earliest blooming plants in my spring garden.

To keep the foliage compact and upright, trim it back by half after it blooms. Euphorbias ooze a milky, irritating sap when cut, so wear gloves and, if you’re really cautious, eye protection when trimming it.

Gopher plant prefers sun, but it’s growing well in partial shade (with afternoon sun) in my garden. Hailing from the Mediterranean, it likes good drainage. It’s also deer-resistant. What more could you want? Go fer it!

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

All material © 2006-2010 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

27 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    I hadn’t seen this plant until last year and now I am wishing I had some too. The colors of stem and flower go so well together and early blooming is a bonus. Especially this year.

  2. Carol says:

    I love the chartreuse in Euphorbia… this is slightly more elegant that the one I have! I will have to find it! ;>)

  3. Cyndy says:

    Rigida isn’t hardy here, but we love polychroma in Connecticut – the chartreuse is a knockout in spring.

  4. I really like that plant and that chartreuse is so pretty. I might have to go fer that one. :D
    I’m going to go check out your new Roundtable Blog.

  5. I love the colour of these. We have a variety of these here in Ireland that grow in the wild, I remember being fascinated with them when i was young seeing the milky substance oozing out when you snapped them.

  6. Another plant from your garden to add to my list. I bet deer don’t eat it either.

    It is said to be deer-resistant, Kathleen. I see them growing in my neighborhood where deer forage, and I’m planning to use it out front myself. —Pam

  7. Sigh. Your photo makes me long for the gopher plant I installed in my new garden that didn’t make it through its hellish first summer. Seeing that chartreuse, this early, makes me think I need to try again.

  8. Sadly this one hasn’t made much of an appearance in the Portland nurseries yet. I might have to resort to mail order…which just seems so ridiculous I should be able to find it here!

    That’s how I feel about your ‘Blackbird’ and other euphorbias, Loree. We need to do a seed exchange, eh? —Pam

  9. Sheila says:

    I love this plant too! The color is so beautiful and you couldn’t ask for an easier plant to maintain.

  10. All of these type of Euphorbias are among my favorites plants. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Love yours.~~Dee

  11. Very attractive plant. My big questions is how it might do repelling gophers, and if it’s sold that way where you are. We have a different euphorbia, E. lathyrus, that’s sold as gopher spurge. It’s supposed to repel the little beasts, though people report differently about how well it works. It’s not nearly as attractive as your species.

    I’ve never heard anything about gophers here in Austin, James. I don’t know if we even have them here, so, no, it’s not marketed as a gopher repellent. I was wondering how it got its name… —Pam

  12. Jayne says:

    That’s a really attractive plant. I’ll need to do some work on my drainage (which I need to do anyway) before I invite it into my garden.

  13. Curtis says:

    My grandfather used to have the gopher spurge (E. lathyrus) around his vegetable garden in Southern California. It was not a particularly attractive plant, but it did make a pretty good wall of foliage about 4′ tall. This Gopher plant is a much better looking plant. I can see it surrounding a vegetable garden.

  14. TexasDeb says:

    This one is going on the “add to my beds” list immediately if not sooner. Deer resistant, tolerates part shade, resists freezing/drying out AND blooms? What a wonder – thanks for the recommendation. (Is is easy to propagate do you think?)

    It’s said to seed out easily, TexasDeb. So far I’ve gotten one new plant from seed and would love to get others. —Pam

  15. nancy says:

    Anything that is still looking good after the past year is going on my “must Buy” list….I’m trying to be patient and am seeing a few signs of spring but there are several plants I expected to see a little something from already..I’ll give them a few more weeks until I give up completely and replace them…What a hard year this has been…

  16. Randy says:

    Pam, I’m looking forward to seeing some wide shots of your garden this spring and summer. I can’t wait to see how things are doing. It’s fun to watch a new garden grow and change. :-)

  17. This is one of my favorite plants in the garden. Thank you for featuring it….hopefully many will decide to try it in their gardens.

  18. teresa says:

    I have this but know it as spurge. I like your name better. It’s more fun!

  19. Jen Butel says:

    Just beautiful. Now that we have cleared out the casualties, there is room in the garden for some new additions. I am definitely adding this to the list!

  20. Gail says:

    Pam, Do you have to berm this plant or is it in one of the raised beds? I would love to get a few euphorbia~They are quite good looking plants. Gail

    Hi, Gail. No, it’ll grow just fine in well-draining garden soil in the ground. I have it all around my garden. —Pam

  21. I’ve been wanting to go fer it fer awhile. I keep forgetting while I’m out plant shopping. I have other euphorbias I love.

    I want to thank you for the cards I won at your blogaversary. I’m proud to own Pam Penick photography originals. I’m going to frame some of them–they are that good. I have one sitting on my desk where I work daily. Thank you so much. I was just working on the post about them. Should be up by tomorrow. I am proud to have won something so classy and from Digging.

    I’m so glad you like them, Anna! Thanks for the kind words. :-) —Pam

  22. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Pam, I like that plant! I’d been wondering if any of the Euphorbias would work here in Texas. I haven’t seen that one at any Houston area nurseries. Another reason to make a trip to Austin!

  23. Diana says:

    Lovely photos, Pam. I put one of these in my newest bed – outside the back fence — with the agaves and grasses and it’s in glorious bloom right now. It’s not big and full like yours, and I was glad to read your advice to cut it back so it will become fuller.

  24. Germi says:

    There is a Euphorbia for EVERY garden! I love rigida, too, Pam! It is glorious – I love that we are singing the praises of this wonderful plant at the same time. There isn’t a Euphorbia I wouldn’t plant … if I see it in a nursery, I buy it and try it!
    You have such great taste…

  25. Laurie says:

    I just bought a few of these gopher plants today. I know the flowers will die soon but what does the plant look like through the late Spring and summer. Do I need to cut it back far or can I still enjoy the leaves through the summer. I am confused as to what this plant will look like in the summer. I have heard it is quite ugly in the summer but it seems like the leaves would be quite interesting and provide a neat texture for a summer garden–any comments?

    Laurie, if you don’t cut it back after blooming it will sprawl over the summer, which doesn’t look bad to my eye. But next spring, when it’s time for it to bloom, you’ll be itching to cut it back a bit and won’t be able to without losing the flowers. So I suggest cutting it back by one-half to one-third after blooming is done to keep it compact. The foliage will rebound quickly, and it should look good all summer and fall. —Pam

  26. Elaysa says:

    Commenting late, but we went shopping for some plants today and my husband really only came along to keep me company, but when he saw this Gopher plant really really wanted to get one because “it looks awesome!” So he picked one out and it’s now standing proud in our front yard. He really likes odd plants the most :) Glad to read your tips on trimming them back a little once the bloom is over, I’ll certainly do that.

  27. Kathy says:

    Can one propagate gopher plant with a cutting?

    Kathy, I have no experience with this myself, but this plant does self-sow, and it seems like it would be divisible. If you do try to take cuttings, protect yourself from the milky sap, which can be irritating to skin and dangerous if you get it in your eyes. —Pam