Caper spurge – info, planting, care and tips

Caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris)
Caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris)

The caper spurge is known primarily as a vole fright. Here is what else is in the shrub and also planting and care tips.

Profile of caper spurge:

Scientific name: Euphorbia lathyris

Plant family: spurge family (Euphorbiaceae)

Other names: paper spurge, gopher spurge, gopher plant, mole plant

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring

Flowering period: July to August

Location: sunny

Soil quality: stony to gravelly, nutrient rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, planters, flower garden, japanese garden, Mediterranean garden, natural garden, rock garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of caper spurge

Plant order, origin and occurrence of caper spurge

The caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) is not known for nothing under the name vgopher spurge or gopher plant : It has been proven to have a deterrent effect on small rodents and naturally keeps them at a distance in the garden. Originally native to Asia, the perennial is now very widespread and can be found mainly in the Mediterranean region. In Europe, it is almost considered to be at home and as an idiosyncratic structure plant it sets accents in many gardens. But be careful: Like all members of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), all parts of the caper spurge are poisonous, and you should definitely protect yourself from the milky sap.

Characteristics of caper spurge


The evergreen perennial grows herbaceous and forms numerous cluster. The upright, strong stems are noticeably leafy and reach heights of 60 to 100 centimeters (24 to 40 in). The paper spurge reaches between 50 and 60 centimeters (20 and 24 in) in width.


The most striking thing about the caper spurge are their decussate blue-green leaves. They stand horizontally from the stems in a unique way. The leaf shape is linear to lanceolate.


The umbel-shaped flowers of the caper spurge are kept in an inconspicuous, pale yellow-green tone. The flowering period lasts from July to August.


After the flowering period, large numbers of spherical capsule fruits form.

Caper spurge – cultivation and care


Gopher spurge only thrives in full sun, sheltered locations. Ideally, it stands in front of a heat-storing house wall or near a dry stone wall. It also develops very well between stones.


A well-drained and loose substrate is essential for caper spurge in both the perennial bed and in the pot. A good water drainage is mandatory, especially with potted plants. The soil itself can be mineral, fresh and rich in humus and nutrients.


The caper spurge is only partially frost hardy. It is therefore best to plant the perennial in spring, so it has time to grow well by winter. The recommended planting distance is 50 (20 in) centimeters.


Although it is biennially, the paper spurge is self-sustaining by sowing itself in suitable locations, but without grow rampant. If this is not desired, the flowers must be cut in good time.


Paper spurge is propagated by sowing in spring. For this it is best to harvest the seeds after they have ripened.

Diseases and pests

The ligneous roots of the paper spurge react quickly to stagnant moisture with root rot: The perennial can then usually no longer be saved. In the bed, the young plants in particular often have problems with snails. Otherwise, powdery mildew, aphids or thrips occur occasionally.


Caper spurge is hardy down to -20 °C / -5 °F. Planted specimens should be protected with a layer of brushwood or some leaves in winter. Container plants overwinter in the house.

Use in the garden

Since it naturally drives away voles, caper spurge is traditionally used in kitchen gardens or in natural gardens. Due to its distinctive growth, the perennial also fits well in modern gardens. Designers often place them in Mediterranean or Asian gardens: There it forms an interesting, green eye-catcher in the bedding center, which ensures strict structures and opens the view upwards.


  1. Was it my imagination,or do the seed pods explode scattering the seeds? Had 1 growing in the middle of the garden 2 years ago and didn’t know what it was(not a big gardener and thought it might be a lilly at first ). Sure I heard it pop a few times and now have loads growing within 3mtrs or so of original plant.

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