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Euphorbia characias ‘Portuguese Velvet’

Euphorbia characias 'Portuguese Velvet'

Euphorbia characias 'Portuguese Velvet'

There is a burst of fresh growth in the garden at this time of year, with a haze of bright greens, yellows and limes coming to the fore.

Euphorbia characias 'Portuguese Velvet' has large heads of bright lime green flowers which last for several months through the spring season, complementing its hairy, velvety foliage.

This Euphorbia grows well at Hyde Hall and can be seen at its best on the Dry Garden where its slightly lax habit allows it to grow around the large rocks. It can cope extremely well in dry conditions, enjoying a sunny spot in free draining soil.

Vital statistics

Common name
Spurge ‘Portuguese Velvet’
Height & spread
60cm tall and wide
Herbaceous perennial
Well-drained, light soil
Full sun
Frost hardy, may need some additional winter protection


Euphorbia is a varied genus of about 2,000 species of annuals, biennials, herbaceous perennials, shrubs, trees and succulents with an equally varied distribution in temperate, subtropical and tropical regions.

It is adapted to a wide range of habitats, which has led to a great deal of variation in both size and growth habit.

Plants have milky sap (an irritant) and small flowers held within cupped, often colourful bracts.

Euphorbia is classically supposed to have been named for Euphorbus, physician to the King of Mauritania.

Euphorbia characias 'Portuguese Velvet'

Euphorbia characias is a clump-forming perennial with greyish leaves, normally growing to a height of about 1.5m. It is grown for its large inflorescences of greenish-yellow flowers which terminate the stems in mid-summer.

In subsp. characias, the gland at the centre of each flower is a contrasting dark purple but in subsp. wulfenii, it is yellow. A large number of cultivars of varying coloration and habit have been derived from both subspecies.

'Portuguese Velvet' is a compact evergreen perennial to 60cm tall, with narrow grey-green leaves and cylindrical clusters of dark-eyed, bright greenish-yellow flowers from early spring to early summer. It was awarded the AGM in 1998.


  • Grow in well-drained, light soil in full sun
  • Cut out the flowered shoots, if seed is not required, to ground level in late summer or autumn
  • Euphorbias are relatively untroubled by pests and diseases but may be affected by a rust
  • All parts are highly toxic by ingestion; sap may irritate skin and eyes


  • Take cuttings early in the season when growth of the stem is taking place
  • Use young basal shoots and do not remove too many leaves as this will weaken the cutting and make handling difficult without getting the irritant latex on your hands
  • Dip cut surfaces in charcoal or lukewarm water to prevent bleeding


The RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee awarded Euphorbia characias 'Portuguese Velvet' an Award of Garden Merit and described it as:

'Distinct; makes excellent dense full clump, not leggy, with very good foliage; flower colour indifferent but good black eye.'

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