Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia Polychroma)

Plant: Table of Contents

The Beautiful Allure of Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia Polychroma)

The world of horticulture is filled with a diverse array of plant species, from towering trees to delicate flowers. Among these, the cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) stands out as a remarkable perennial plant known for its vibrant foliage and easy maintenance. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the fascinating world of cushion spurge plants, from their cultural significance to their cultivation and care. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a novice enthusiast, this article will provide valuable insights into maximizing the beauty and resilience of cushion spurge in your garden.

What is cushion spurge?

Cushion spurge, scientifically known as Euphorbia polychroma, is a species of flowering plant in the family Euphorbiaceae. Native to Europe, cushion spurge is characterized by its compact, cushion-like growth habit and striking display of bright yellow-green flowers. This perennial plant is renowned for its stunning foliage, which transforms throughout the seasons, offering year-round interest in the garden.

Key Takeaways – Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia Polychroma)

  • Scientific Name: Euphorbia polychroma
  • Common Name: Cushion Spurge
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Foliage: Yellow-green, mat-forming
  • Flower Color: Bright yellow
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Watering: Low to moderate
  • Soil Type: Well-draining, moderately fertile
  • Maintenance: Low
  • Uses: Borders, rock gardens, mass plantings, containers
  • Hardiness: Zones 4-8

Cultivation and Care

The allure of cushion spurge extends far beyond its visual appeal; it is also celebrated for its ease of cultivation and low-maintenance requirements. Whether used as a ground cover, border plant, or accent in a container garden, cushion spurge thrives under the right conditions. Understanding its cultivation and care guidelines is essential for fostering healthy and vibrant growth.


Cushion spurge is a versatile plant that finds various applications in gardening and landscaping. Here are some common uses of this captivating species:

  • Borders: The compact and mounding nature of cushion spurge makes it an excellent choice for defining borders and edging in garden beds.
  • Rock Gardens: Its low-growing habit and colorful foliage add visual interest and texture to rock gardens, creating a striking contrast against the surrounding stones.
  • Mass Plantings: When planted en masse, cushion spurge creates a stunning display of color, making it an ideal choice for ground cover in larger areas.
  • Containers: The vibrant foliage and resilient nature of cushion spurge make it well-suited for container gardening, where it can serve as a focal point or complement other plants.


Cushion spurge demonstrates good drought tolerance once established, making it well-suited for water-wise landscapes. It is important not to overwater this plant, as it is susceptible to root rot in excessively moist soil. During the establishment phase, regular watering is recommended to encourage strong root development. Once established, cushion spurge typically thrives with occasional watering during dry spells.


In terms of sun exposure, cushion spurge performs admirably in full sun to partial shade. It is important to note that its foliage color may vary based on the amount of sunlight it receives. In full sun, the yellow-green leaves intensify in color, while in partial shade, they may appear slightly greener. This versatility allows cushion spurge to adapt to different light conditions, making it a valuable addition to gardens with varying sun exposure.


When it comes to fertilization, cushion spurge has modest requirements. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied in spring as new growth emerges can help sustain its vigor and promote flowering. It is important to avoid excessive fertilization, as this can lead to overly lush foliage at the expense of flower production.


Cushion spurge thrives in well-draining, moderately fertile soil. It is adaptable to various soil types, including loamy, sandy, and rocky soils. However, it is crucial to ensure that the soil does not become waterlogged, as consistent moisture can compromise the plant’s health. Amending heavy clay soils with organic matter can improve drainage and create an optimal growing environment for cushion spurge.


One of the appealing aspects of cushion spurge is its minimal pruning requirements. In late winter or early spring, the previous year’s growth can be trimmed back to a few inches above the ground to stimulate new growth and maintain a neat appearance. It is important to exercise caution when handling this plant, as its milky sap can be irritating to the skin and eyes. Wearing gloves and long sleeves is recommended when pruning or handling cushion spurge.


Cushion spurge can be propagated through division or seeds. Dividing mature clumps in early spring allows for the creation of new plants while also rejuvenating older ones. When propagating from seeds, it is important to note that cushion spurge is dioecious, meaning that individual plants are either male or female. For seed propagation, collecting seeds from female plants and sowing them in well-draining soil in early spring can yield new plants with genetic diversity.

Container Popularity

The compact growth habit and vibrant foliage of cushion spurge make it a popular choice for container gardening. Whether used as a standalone specimen or combined with other plants to create visually captivating arrangements, cushion spurge adds a delightful touch to containers on patios, balconies, and other outdoor living spaces. Its adaptability to different light conditions further enhances its suitability for container cultivation.

Common Diseases

While cushion spurge is generally resistant to pests and diseases, it may occasionally encounter issues that can compromise its health and appearance. Understanding common diseases and their management is essential for maintaining the vitality of this resilient plant.

Disease Diagnosis

Several common diseases can affect cushion spurge, including:

  • Powdery Mildew: This fungal disease manifests as a white powdery coating on the foliage, leading to reduced vigor and unsightly appearance. Good air circulation and adequate spacing between plants can help prevent powdery mildew. If detected, applying a fungicidal spray approved for ornamental plants can aid in controlling the spread of the disease.

  • Crown Gall: Caused by the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens, crown gall results in the formation of galls or swollen growths on the stems and roots of affected plants. Preventing injury to the plant and using rootstocks resistant to crown gall can mitigate the risk of this disease. Infected plants should be promptly removed to prevent the spread of the bacterium.

  • Euphorbia Lactea Virus (ELV): This viral disease affects various Euphorbia species, including cushion spurge, leading to yellowing and distortion of the leaves. As there are no specific treatments for viral infections, prevention through sourcing disease-free plants and controlling the vectors that transmit the virus is crucial.

Common Pests

Cushion spurge is relatively resistant to pest infestations, but it may occasionally fall prey to certain insects. Vigilance and prompt intervention are key to mitigating pest damage and protecting the health of the plant.

Botanist’s Tips

Tip 1: Enhancing Soil Drainage

Improving soil drainage by incorporating organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure can contribute to the overall health and vigor of cushion spurge plants, especially in heavy clay soils.

Tip 2: Managing Reseeding

As cushion spurge can self-seed and naturalize in favorable conditions, monitoring its spread and intervening as needed can prevent excessive reseeding and maintain the desired plant density in the garden.

Tip 3: Protective Gear

Given the potential irritant properties of cushion spurge’s sap, wearing protective gear such as gloves and safety glasses when handling the plant is advisable to minimize skin and eye irritation.

Fun Facts

  • The genus name Euphorbia is derived from Euphorbus, the Greek physician to King Juba II of Numidia, who is credited with discovering the medicinal properties of plants in this group.
  • Cushion spurge is renowned for its eye-catching floral bracts, which surround the true flowers and contribute to its ornamental value.
  • In folklore, many Euphorbia species, including cushion spurge, were associated with protection and warding off evil spirits due to the perceived potency of their milky sap.

Links to External Resources

For further information and resources on cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma), consider exploring the following links:

  1. Euphorbia Polychroma: A Colorful Perennial for the Landscape
  2. Cushion Spurge: The Luminous, Easy-Care Perennial
  3. Cushion Spurge – Euphorbia Polychroma

In conclusion, the allure of cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) transcends its vibrant foliage and striking blooms; it embodies resilience, adaptability, and enduring beauty. Whether adorning a rock garden with its vibrant hues or serving as a low-maintenance border plant, cushion spurge enriches the landscape with its captivating presence. By embracing the cultivation and care principles outlined in this guide, gardeners can unlock the full potential of cushion spurge and create stunning displays that endure throughout the seasons.

As a plant scientist, I am constantly intrigued by the remarkable diversity and resilience of plant species, and cushion spurge is undoubtedly a shining example of nature’s creativity and beauty. If you have any further questions or insights to share about cushion spurge or any other plant species, feel free to reach out. Happy gardening!

Picture of Peter Taylors

Peter Taylors

Expert botanist who loves plants. His expertise spans taxonomy, plant ecology, and ethnobotany. An advocate for plant conservation, he mentors and educates future botanists, leaving a lasting impact on the field.