By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigida) is an import from the Mediterranean and southwest Asia. Its Latin name tells us a bit about its heritage. King Juba II of Numidia, later Mauritania, named the plant after his Greek physician, Euphorbus. Centuries later, Carl Linnaeus, assigned the name Euphorbia to the entire genus of spurge plants. Rigida refers to the upright stems of this plant.
It is an attractive, blue-green plant with narrow, sharp leaves. It produces clusters of yellow flower bracts at the end of each branch in spring. As the season progresses the blooms turn a greenish-tan. This plant is an easy accent to xeric landscapes and are easy to grow. In its native area it is thought of as a weed. If you are interested in a native alternative for our area, Chocolate Daisy and Engelman Daisy may be your choices. For color try golden poppy or brown-eyed Susan. The birds and pollinators will thank you for these.
After the blooms are spent, the main stems die and new ones appear from the center of the plant. The old stems must be completely pruned out.
This plant grows 2’ tall and 3’ wide and requires full sun to partial shade. All soils work for this plant as long as it is well drained. Given these conditions it is a moderate to fast grower and is hardy to zero degrees. Gopher plants are one of the plants growing at the Ector County Annex on 8th Street and all survived the winter freeze.
It tolerates drought conditions but will require supplemental watering during our hot months of July and August. Be careful not to overwater.
The plants reseed themselves.
Wear gloves when pruning and touching any broken stems. This plant produces a white sap that can be toxic if ingested. Wash your hands after pruning.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.