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By Roger Boddaert
Special to the Village News 

Our Garden Gate

Crown of Thorns blooms year-round


Last updated 5/29/2019 at 1:20pm

The Crown of Thorns, euphorbia milii, is a unique and ever-blooming plant that can brighten any garden setting throughout the year in a wide palette of flower colors.

The unique thorns on the branches give the plant its name, Crown of Thorns, and has been grown and cultivated around the world and the Middle East as an ornamental plant.

This plant is named after Baron Milius who introduced the plant into France in 1821 where it was grown as a hothouse plant in the cold winters, and the potted plants were set outside in the warmth of summer.

The colorful poinsettia plants that are grown for Christmas are related to the euphorbia clan. Both plants emit a juicy white sap that can be an irritant to some folks so make sure to never get this sap in the eyes.

The euphorbia family is large, and some collectors have vast assortments of euphorbias in their gardens. I like to grow them in terra cotta containers on my sunny patio for I enjoy the combination of the brilliant flowers and the color of red clay pots, for it just seems like a harmonious combination with unique architectural forms on each plant.

A friend recently told me that his Crown of Thorns has been in bloom for the past 25 years nonstop every day. So anyone who wants color and an easy plant to grow, give this plant a sunny spot in the garden and call me in 25 years.

The culture for these plants is relatively easy with a few basic requirements like full sunlight out in the garden and, by all means, keep the plants on the dry side and be sure not to over water.

If grown in containers, they’ll want a well-drained soil like a cacti mix. Or a gardener can make their own with a good garden loam, by mixing vermiculite or sponge-rok, even using some washed sand to ensure excellent soil drainage.

Plant hybridizers have specialized in breeding many of this species into some very interesting and unusual color strains from dwarfs to large specimens. Thailand has become a mecca for the developing of new forms and colorful flowers.

A great plants man, Jerry Hunter, who owned Rancho Soledad nursery, dedicated a lifetime to developing new strains, forms and hybrid euphorbias. A favorite of mine with large flowers is Jerry’s Choice, a compact grower.

Euphorbias can also be enjoyed as a house plant in colder climates in a well lit window and makes a striking interior container plant. So find a complimentary jardinière to put the euphorbia within.

The colors range from pinks, reds, apricot, orange, yellow, purple to whites, and there are varied sizes of flower clusters. The flowers are borne on the top of the stocky stems, so they stand out, holding their heads to the sun. Some of these hybrids are two-toned with blushes of multiple colors in the flowers and are quite striking to the eye.

To propagate crown of thorns is no great trick, providing a gardener follows a few simple guidelines. Cuttings can be made from these plants from early spring through the warm summer months

When selective cuttings are taken from a mother plant, allow these stem cuttings to callus. That means they’ll want to allow the cuttings to dry at the base and form thin scabs to ensure they do not rot. After the healing is complete, place the cuttings into a fast draining soil mix. The plant will want to survive and produce small roots at the base. After it has an ample amount of new roots, pot it up from size to size container as it matures.

Euphorbias are not heavy feeders, and I give mine a light liquid feeding in the warm months, with half the strength of what is recommended on the container.

The area is at a new horizon of landscaping these days with the art of xeriscaping. There is such a wide spectrum of plants from around the world to use in our gardens that euphorbia milii fits right into drought tolerant plantings for the future.

So give the Crown of Thorns a place in the garden to honor the grand and revered Notre Dame in Paris as an iconic monument in the world from where the religious crown was saved from the recent fires.

“From those ashes, the pageantry and splendor shall rise again and carry on.”

Roger Boddaert is a Maker of Natural Gardens and the Tree Man of Fallbrook can be reached for landscape designs and tree consultations at (760) 728-4297.


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