Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Native Baby's-Breath

euphorbia-corollata-ceratostigma-plumbaginoides-073012-640

 

Native baby's-breath is easy and enduring—with weeks of white flowers so dainty they make the half-inch blooms of hardy plumbago look positively beefy.

 

Tiny leaves just below the flowers are edged in white, but full-size foliage is a solid bluish green.

 

euphorbia-corollata-cropped-073012-640

 

The five white "petals" are actually colorful bracts—this is a relative of the brilliant-bracted poinsettia, remember.  Their blue-green base is a perky nod to the coloring of the foliage, and also highlights the plant's true flowers: the tiny yellow doo-dads in the middle, surrounding a single projecting pistil.  (Euphorbia flowers may be small, but they are surprisingly complex: See the discussion of Cyathia here.)

 

euphorbia-corollata-flowers-detail-073012-640

 

The flower clusters of native baby's-breath are as airy as they are large.  The main stem divides into five, before lengthening farther to the branched clusters of flowers.

 

euphorbia-corollata-flowering-stems-073012-640

 

 

 

Here's how to grow this unusually easy and long-season perennial:

 

Latin name

Euphorbia corollata

Common name

Flowering spurge, native baby's-breath

Family

Euphorbiaceae, the spurge family.

What kind of plant is it

Deciduous perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 4 to 9.

Habit

Multi-stemmed and clumping, with slender stems that weave through neighboring plants.

Rate of growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

A clump two to three feet tall and wide.

Texture

Delicate, as the common name "native baby's-breath" suggests.

Grown for

its flowers: Small and delicate, with five white petal-like bracts surrounding the tiny true flowers.  The flowers of native baby's-breath are held in airy sprays that, indeed, have a casual resemblance to those of true baby's breath, the unrelated Gypsophila paniculata

 

its lengthy season of bloom: June right into August.

 

its self-reliance.  E. corollata thrives without supplemental watering in normal to dry soil. 

 

its imperviousness to browsers:  As is typical for euphorbs, if snapped or even nicked, the stems and foliage of E. corollata secrete a sticky white latex-like sap that is completely unpalatable to herbivores.

 

its edible seeds, which are popular with both gamebirds and songbirds.

 

its modest amount of self-seeding.  For a plant that seems to resent  transplanting, and yet is a welcome filler in almost any situation, its ability to self-seed (a bit) is welcome.  No doubt, the seeds' appeal to birds is the reason that the plant can pop up far from the mother clump.  My colony is young; I look forward to some tasteful self-seeding in my own gardens.

Flowering season

Summer: June into August.

Color combinations

The blue-green foliage and tiny white flowers go with everything.

Partner plants

There are two options in provide neighbors that welcome this spurge's lolling habit.  With narrow foliage and flower clusters of definitive airiness, even sun-loving neighbors that are low and dense shouldn't mind some Euphorbia stems that sprawl out atop them.  If those moundy plants also send up vertical spikes of flowers, so much the better.  What about Heuchera villosa, high on my own wish-list?  Its large and substantial mounds of green foliage are excellent support as well as textural contrast.  And about the time the Euphorbia flowers are past their peak, the spikes of Heuchera blooms take over.  

 

My Euphorbia grows up through hardy plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides.  It loves the same sun and good drainage, and its loose and fluffy growth tolerates a bit of shade, so doesn't mind the spurge stems that have joined the party.

 

Plants that are taller but open provide easy access for wandering Euphorbia stems, and help keep the spurge's surprisingly large clusters of flowers all the more elevated.  What about the self-supporting forms of purple-leaved dahlias?  They thrive in sunny and well-drained soil, too, as long as it's rich, not lean.  Don't plant closer than a foot to the Euphorbia clump, so as not to disturb the spurge's roots, and also to give the dahlia clump time to put on some bulk before it becomes garlanded with spurge stems.        

Where to use it in your garden

Euphorbia corollata is an under-used filler, and almost any gardener with a sunny and well-drained location to experiment with should give it a try.

Culture

Full sun or part shade, in any soil as long as it's well-drained all year.  Growth will probably be lower and sturdier in dry soils that are in full sun.

How to handle it: The Basics

Euphorbia corollata is high on the list of perennials you can plant and then leave alone so it can do its thing.  It's hardy enough that you can plant it in Fall or Spring.  The species has a reputation for disliking transplanting—one reason it isn't more widely available at nurseries, where there might be several rounds of transplanting to grow a plant from seed to ready-for-sale.  So handle the root-ball gently, and plant where you expect to enjoy it for years to come. 

 

Euphorbia species and cultivars, including E. corollata, are very comfortable in well-drained and even dry soils.  If you plant in Spring, water once or twice to help the plant establish, but then leave them alone.  If you plant in Fall, you shouldn't have to water, ever. 

 

After frost, cut the stems flush to the ground.  It's OK to wait to do this until early Spring, but be careful not to nip emerging new growth in the process. 

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

Euphorbia corollata thrives in almost any soil that's well-drained, but growth in moister and richer soils will be of maximal height and luxuriance—and will lean or even flop.  Given the sticky sap that oozes from any cut surface, no matter how small, pinching the clump to encourage more compact growth would be a messy operation.  Some people are allergic to the sap, too—another reason not to plan on pinching. 

 

The allergy is tedious but not serious.  Test if you're susceptible by applying a dot of the sap to your finger-tip with a Q-tip.  Dab it in lightly to ensure contact, and monitor for a few minutes to see if itching or redness develops.  Wash off as soon as you're confident that symptoms are (or aren't) occuring: the sap is sticky, and it's a mess on your skin regardless if you're allergic to it or not.

 

Instead, site where the stems can interact productively with the neighbors.  See "Partner plants," above.

Any (other) quirks or special cases?

None.

Downsides

The sticky sap is messy, so try to site in habitat and near neighboring plants that will combine to minimize the need for pinching.   The possibility of allergy to the sap is another caution.

Variants

Euphorbia corollata has not yet favored us with any cultivars. 

 

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By seed. 

Native habitat

Euphorbia corollata is native to the entire Central and Eastern United States, from the Gulf Coast of Texas to northern Minnesota, and every Atlantic seaboard state from Georgia to New York.     

 
 
FacebookTwitterRSS Feed

Stay in touch!

 

Sign up for twice-monthly eNews, plus notification of new posts:

 

* indicates required