Euphorbia rigida, known by its common names upright myrtle spurge, gopher purge plant, myrtle spurge plant, or euphorbia gopher plant, is a flowering plant in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae).
It was previously placed in the Euphorbia genus. The plant was discovered by Carl Linnaeus and described by him in 1753 as Euphorbia rigida, before being moved to its current genus by Albrecht Friedrich Ehrhart in 1819.
The upright myrtle spurge is a plant species in the Spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). It has been introduced to Europe and the eastern United States from tropical Africa and has become established as an invasive weed there. It is also listed as an invasive species in parts of Australia where it was previously not reported to occur naturally.
Origin and distribution
Euphorbia rigida, also known as upright myrtle spurge, is a member of Euphorbiaceae. It was introduced to North America from Eurasia and is found in moist areas of woods and clearings east of the Great Plains across southern Canada to Ontario, south to Texas, and Florida.
Euphorbia rigida has been widely planted as an ornamental throughout North America and Europe. The plant can become naturalized along fencerows, roadsides, pastures, and other disturbed sites.
Euphorbia rigida is considered a noxious weed in many states due to its ability to spread rapidly by both seed production and vegetative reproduction through root suckers that form at or near ground level.
In addition, it can quickly shade out native vegetation resulting in reduced forage for livestock and wildlife.
I’ve been told by many people that gopher purge plants are excellent at getting rid of gophers if you know how to use them properly.
Euphorbia rigida propagation
Euphorbia rigida is easy to grow from seed. The gopher plant is one of many euphorbias that are easy to start from seed. Soak seeds overnight in water and then sow them immediately onto a well-drained medium such as perlite or vermiculite at 70 degrees F.
Germination should occur within 1–3 weeks, and seedlings should be ready for transplanting after about 4 months when they have developed a second set of true leaves. Plants can also be propagated by division in spring or fall. In both cases, you’ll need to keep new plants warm until established; cool temperatures will cause them to lose their roots.
To propagate by division, dig up an adult plant and cut it into sections with a sharp knife. Each section should contain at least one growing tip. Replant sections on top of moist soil and water thoroughly. Roots should develop in 2–4 weeks.
Gopher purge plants have very toxic sap that is said to kill gophers within minutes if they ingest it while feeding on these plants; however, there are some precautions you should take before using these plants around your property.
Euphorbia rigida care information
This African native, Euphorbia rigida or Myrtlespurge, is a really easy-to-grow ornamental groundcover. It’s not hardy and is only intended for use in zones 9 and 10. It should be planted in areas that do not freeze including rock gardens, flower beds, shrub borders, and retaining walls. This upright euphorbia requires full sun exposure to prevent it from burning.
The Euphorbia Gopher Plant prefers full sunlight or near-full sunlight, with protection from strong afternoon sun in summer. It can take some shade, particularly as it ages and becomes woodier. It can grow in low light and bright light. I would suggest a few hours of direct sunlight each day.
If you do not provide at least 6 hours of sun a day, be sure to supplement with artificial lighting. The Euphorbia Gopher Plant also prefers an area that does not receive excessive cold or hot temperatures throughout most of its growing season.
When planting upright myrtle spurge, it’s important to give it well-draining soil. Being a succulent plant, gopher plant thrives in sandy soil with excellent drainage. Soil that contains peat moss will usually work well for euphorbia plants. A good ratio is 2 parts potting mix to 1 part sand or perlite.
If you don’t have any perlite on hand, you can also use pumice or gravel instead. Be sure to choose a container that has at least one hole in its bottom so excess water can drain out.
Containers should be at least 10 inches deep; if your container is too shallow, it could cause root rot and kill your plant. Container size isn’t overly important when growing uprights—it just needs to be big enough so there’s room for roots to grow and branches to hang down without touching anything else.
Make sure you let your container of growing medium dry out before re-watering—so that you don’t have excess water sitting in your potting mix. This can encourage root rot and other fungal problems.
It is not necessary to water your Euphorbia rigida plant every day as it is a succulent plant. However, you should check if it needs watering by feeling for soil moisture. If you are concerned about proper watering practices or just forget to water one day, feel free to place your pot in a larger container of water and let it absorb.
Then, make sure that you do not overwater your Euphorbia gopher plant. The best way to know when it needs watering is to check its leaves. If they start curling up, then it’s time to water your plant.
Plants growing in poor soil need fertilizer to keep them healthy. To fertilize a potted plant, mix one teaspoon of 10-10-10 fertilizer with a quart of water and then pour it into your pot.
You can fertilize your plants any time you see fit, just be careful not to overdo it, as too much fertilizer can burn your plants. If you’re fertilizing outdoor plants, consider using compost instead; most garden centers sell bags of compost that are specially formulated for specific types of plants.
Euphorbia rigida is a tropical plant, so it does best in warm, humid climates that average 60 degrees F. Euphorbias are relatively drought-tolerant once established, but growing them in soil that’s too dry can lead to root rot. To keep up with their water needs, you might want to install a drip irrigation system. The soil should be well-drained but moist at all times.
This little beauty isn’t a huge fan of humidity. If you live in an area that gets humid during certain times of the year, consider planting your upright myrtle spurge on a slope, so water can run off it.
Also, never overwater your euphorbia, unlike some other plants which enjoy being watered regularly, euphorbias require less frequent watering, once a week is a plenty. Be careful not to let them dry out completely either though!
The ideal humidity range is between 30-50%. If you’re not sure what your humidity level is, use a hygrometer to check. You can also tell by how much your plant sheds its leaves – if it’s shedding a lot, chances are it needs more water. If it’s not shedding at all, then you might be over-watering it.
Upright myrtle spurge needs to be pruned by hand. Deadwood and branches should be removed, leaving short stubs about an inch long. These are almost invisible from a distance and will not detract from your shrub’s appearance.
Make sure there is at least 3 feet between shrubs; more space allows for better air circulation, which makes for healthier plants. Prune in early spring before new growth begins.
The woody stems of upright myrtle spurge can become brittle during winter months, so wait until after a few days of above-freezing temperatures before you trim back your shrubs.
When to repot
If you have upright myrtle spurge, it’s a good idea to repot at least once per year. At that time, water and fertilize it, then put your plant in its new pot. You should also consider repotting if your plant has outgrown its current container or if it looks unhealthy for any reason.
Keep in mind that every species of Euphorbia is different, so some may not need repotted as often as others; always follow specific care instructions when deciding whether or not to move a particular plant into a larger container.
In colder climates, Euphorbia rigida should be left outside in a sheltered spot to overwinter. During dormancy, plants should be kept cool and dry with plenty of air movement to help protect against fungal attacks.
Any plant material that shows signs of decay or disease during dormancy should be immediately removed to avoid fungal infection within new growth which may result in premature defoliation and loss of vigor upon emergence.
Plants can be brought back into growth by gradually acclimatizing them to warmer temperatures by bringing them inside for an hour or two each day over a period of several weeks.
They can then be placed back outdoors again once all risk of frost has passed and temperatures are consistently above 10 degrees Celsius.
Euphorbia rigida flower & fragrance
The flowers of Euphorbia rigida are yellow, occurring in short racemes, and are visited by many pollinating insects, such as honeybees and digger bees. The plants also have a strong sweet fragrance similar to roses. This is accompanied by a red sap that will cause skin irritation if it comes into contact with humans or animals.
It has historically been used to make poisonous arrows but has now become popular as an ornamental plant.
Euphorbia rigida, or upright myrtle spurge, is a perennial weed that grows from 12 to 24 inches tall.
It is a relatively fast-growing upright myrtle spurge species. In ideal growing conditions, plants can grow 1 to 2 feet in height each year. For example, one of its varieties, Euphorbia rigida f. densiflora, is known for its rapid growth rates when planted in full sun and sandy soil with adequate moisture; however, it can experience significant damage if subjected to cold weather or over-irrigation during the winter months.
Euphorbia rigida toxicity
Euphorbia rigida, or upright myrtle spurge, is a poisonous plant that appears as a shrub or small tree and originates from South Africa. The plant contains toxic sap that causes skin irritation in humans when it comes into contact with any part of the body. When handling upright myrtle spurge, always wear gloves and use long sleeves to cover arms.
USDA hardiness zones
Euphorbia rigida thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9. It can survive colder temperatures, but it will likely lose its leaves and stop growing until warmer weather returns.
In these regions, you can grow Euphorbia rigida as a houseplant or container plant outside during warm months and bring it inside for winter. Alternatively, you can choose to keep your Euphorbia rigida outdoors year-round and protect it from cold temperatures with a winter mulch or other protection method.
Pests and diseases
Aphids and root rot are common pests that affect upright myrtle spurge plants. If you notice your plant looking unhealthy, it could be a result of these common ailments.
To prevent root rot, ensure good drainage for your potting mix by mixing in sand or perlite. To keep aphids away from your upright myrtle spurge, keep an eye out for white cottony masses on its stems and leaves; in most cases, a good blast of water will remove them easily.
Since its introduction to North America in 1852, Euphorbia rigida has spread from coast to coast. We now find it growing wild throughout Europe and North America, including California, where it’s considered an invasive species.
If you come across a plant with yellowish stems and white flowers that resembles a shrub or small tree and grows rapidly up to 6 feet in height, you’ve spotted Euphorbia rigida.