Euphorbia Chameleon Or Change Is Our Name

november-14-2008-macro-052-2It is time to sing the praises of a perennial we ignore most of the time. But when the fallen leaves are becoming compost and the flowers are mere memories, Euphorbia dulcis ‘Chameleon’ grabs us by the collar and gets right in our faces with leaves illuminated by the lower light of late fall. In the photo above you can see the array of colors on a single plant, interspersed with the green of Japanese climbing fern and in the upper right the honeyed strands of fading muhly grass. Textural hellebore leaves complete the tableau.november-18-2008-013-2A low mounding form of bronzy purple foliage turning to shades of pinks in cold temperatures makes for excitement in the doldrums of grays and tans. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, this a good purple accent plant for cold winter climes.november-17-2008-035-2Self seeding true to form is a desirable trait. The babies arise in the gravel paths and in the beds on the slope with equal ease. The claims are that deer avoid the milky sap exuded from the stems when cut. We do not have any deer in the garden here, but rabbits are said to be repelled as well. No pest damage has been noted in the eight years of growing this little lovely. In late spring the flowers are yellow with green bracts, a nice contrast to the maroon foliage.november-14-2008-macro-050-2Now is the time the changing leaf color, from whence this cultivar gets its name, attracts our notice. It is not a uniform transformation.november-14-2008-macro-051-2This is one plant in the photo above. The close up of the lighter section is the shot before.november-18-2008-008The original two plants, well it was really one but we divided it for symmetry and frugality, were planted on either side of the pond under the two Japanese maples. Seeding occurred and now there are many progeny lining the forty foot long wall behind the main house in addition to many in the pathways and slope beds. They pop up randomly in the entire property.november-14-2008-macro-047This is a good drought tolerant evergreen with color interest and small stature. When moved they will sulk and pout for a time, but get over it and put out fresh new leaves before long. This fellow is one of the brightest ones. Not until the photo was loaded on the computer did we notice a visitor at the end of the leaf. What is it?november-14-2008-macro-047-2So very tiny, it may be one of the flying ant type things that hatched last week as the camera was being test driven on new settings. It seems to be feeding on some bit of green goo. We will imagine that this is some melted by the frost leaf slime rather than something more distasteful, won’t we?

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27 Responses to Euphorbia Chameleon Or Change Is Our Name

  1. tina says:

    Change is the word for sure. A very pretty plant. The hellebores too! You have an awesome weekend!

    Hi Tina, thanks, it deserves more attention than it gets around here. Hope you have fun this weekend with your new bed, I am jealous of fresh unplanted soil!

  2. Gail says:

    Frances, I am glad you a reshowcasing this plant! I love it and thought it was fantastic in your garden…and hopefully in mine. It did just as you said…sulked its head off and then seemed to perk up! Let’s see if I got it in the ground soon enough for it to settle in! The color variations in your plantings are spectacular! So are the photos! Have a wonderful weekend! Gail

    Hi Gail, thanks, I had hoped yours survived. Sometimes I move them and think they are dead, but in the spring they rebound. I have moved them in the dead of winter, my favorite moving time anyway with no losses. The worse time to move them is in the drought of summer’s heat. Same to you!

  3. Gail says:

    ps I wonder if the tiny little ant like creature is a native bee? I might have to venture down the internet rabbit hole of research to find out! Gail

    Hi Gail, I have better photos of the hatching day I will send to help your search.

  4. Frances,
    Yes, euphorbia is a great deer-PROOF plant. I have one (probably 3 years old), but it hasn’t seeded out. I can’t remember the name of mine.

    Hi Cameron, when I bought this euphorbia in the buying mania to fill the garden with plants, there were several other purchased that died, I don’t even know the names. There is also a wild one that was here that is a big pest, taking over and seeding in every bed. I have learned to rip it out, it has no qualities I am looking for, just green floppy leaves and way too aggresive. But probably deer proof as well.

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I haven’t been able to get a Euphorbia to grow in my garden yet. It may be becasue I plant them out front in the sun then I don’t get out there to water them. Hmmmm After seeing yours it makes me want to try again.

    Hi Lisa, like I told Cameron, this one has been quite tought while others have died. Do give it a try, these will grow literally anywhere, sun or shade, wet or dry.

  6. Brenda Kula says:

    Isn’t it funny how you don’t notice these little visiting insects until you upload on the computer and, presto! They appear! I’ve had that happen many times, Frances. I have to say I am more than fascinated by your muhly grass. I’ve discussed this with my gardening neighbor, Walli, and we want to know if it will grow in East Texas. We are quite taken with the wispy pink grass, but haven’t seen it around our neck of the piney woods.

    Hi Brenda, there are many surprises when those photos get uploaded I agree. The muhly should definitely grow in your area. Finding it may be more difficult. I saw it offered at Wayside online. I saw it this year at a Lowe’s in the area offered as pink deer grass, no one was buying as the plants looked awful and were not in bloom. One straggly plant does not make the same impact as the mass that I have by the driveway, lots of dividing to get that many plants and time for them to grow large enough. This was their year.

  7. Racquel says:

    I just added this plant to my garden this fall Frances. So far I am loving the beautiful color in the foliage. Yours is outstanding, I will have alot to look forward to next season.

    Hi Racquel, thanks and good choice to add to your garden. This has been a real winner here. It offers that red color during late fall and especially as the new foliage emerges in early spring, very vivid. It was a couple of years before I noticed all the babies, but now they are everwhere due to lax clean up on my part. I hope that works with some of the other perennials that have been cut down in previous falls but are now left standing too.

  8. Phillip says:

    Oh France, I love euphorbias too. The colors are wonderful. I was trying to find your e-mail address so I could ask you some questions about using WordPress. Could you e-mail me? Thanks!

    Hi Phillip, sure, it is in the mail, email that is, now. The euphorbias do have a lot to offer, this cultivar in particular.

  9. easygardener says:

    Plants that colour like your Euphorbia are real stars, especially if they can seed true. Given the nastiness of the milky sap I wonder if Euphorbias are eaten by anything!

    Hi Easy, thanks for stopping by. The first couple of years we lived here I noticed how the slope was kind of boring except where the red leaves of this plant were and set about spreading it from divisions. Having the babies in the gravel, so easy to pull and get the whole root, to plant around was a bonus. I didn’t really know about the sap, but am happy for something not edible to rabbits, our big eaters here.

  10. Dave says:

    If deer avoid it then I should add some to the garden! The foliage looks really good.

    Hi Dave, it is a pretty little accent plant and might help with your deer problem. They aren’t eating the rosemary are they? That could be a protective hedge around things and so easily started from cuttings too, right up your alley!

  11. skeeter says:

    What a neat chameleon! Reminds me of our little anole lizards that change from brown to green and back depending on what color surface they are on…

    Hi Skeeter, thanks, those anoles are so cute too. Pam of Digging often shows great photos of hers too.

  12. gittan says:

    I just love plants that changes there colour in fall. This one I have to check, maby it’s something I can use in my garden as well? Anyway it’s beautiful!n The third picture was lovely… Have a nice weekend / gittan
    By the way, this time it’s translated =/ Sorry I did forget last time when I was a bit in a hurry.

    Hi Gittan, thank you for translating, I do want to know what you are saying with your lovely photos. This time they were especially magical. I would think that this euphorbia would grow in your area, if you can find it. It is small in size and offers color interest not seen in many other plants. You too have a nice weekend.

  13. Marnie says:

    Hi Frances, it is pretty. I haven’t grown any but they are worth considering.

    Hi Marnie, thanks for visiting and good luck with that hypertufa birdbath! The little euphorbias are a treat because of the color, they really add pizzazz.

  14. Rose says:

    I always learn something new when reading blogs, especially the names of flora or fauna that I wasn’t familiar with, like “flying ant type thing” or green goo” 🙂

    Seriously, Frances as soon I finish writing this comment, I am going back to my blog to add this euphorbia to my plant wish list. What a beauty! The pinks and reds must really stand out at this time of year.

    I love today’s header photo–what a gorgeous sky!

    Hi Rose, my are we feisty today, I like it! I did think that ant type thing was more intellectual than the ant type thingey that I originally went with in draft form. Didn’t want to dumb it down.

    The euphorbia is a great addition to any garden, the color all the time is great, but particularly in fall and early spring. The new growth then is the perfect blend with the yellow daffodils. Thanks for the kind words about the header. It was one of the prettier ones lately and might get to stay there for a while. I had been changing it with each new post.


  15. I went from reading your blog today to a gardening website. You always inspire me! I have a list of plants you’ve mentioned over time, but I was wondering if you might add a search box to your site. I have mentioned “try ox eye daisies” but I’d like to reread what you said about them, among others.

    Hi Jill, thanks, HA you are assuming that I have a clue about computers! A search box would be great, but alas, I have no idea how to even make a box! Ox eye daisies are wonderful, evergreen, seed all over, bloom off and on all year, possibly invasive so watch out for them though. One thing I have been thinking about adding is a plant page of all the plants that I grow here and something about them. It would take a really long time but could be a good project. I used to write down in lists the stuff but lost track and now have so much it would be a huge undertaking. I have over 75 daylily cultivars alone! Maybe someday. That is the most likely way to look up plants. Or maybe I could create tags by plant type, it does show posts by category. The trouble is the time involved. I have to keep looking forward to the next post and taking photos. I should work on the old ones with the categories, that would be doable. Thanks for the idea.

  16. Lola says:

    Great pics. I find the Japanese Climbing Fern is a bit invasive here in my garden. It is growing in my boxwood hedge even. I’m continually Pulling it out. I didn’t plant it–birds helped there. Although it is pretty & delicate looking.

    Hi Lola, thanks. That fern is beginning to spread to places where it shouldn’t here too. I will have to start pulling it out. I think I brought it with some of the plants from Houston where it was everywhere in our back yard. It is pretty though.

  17. Kim says:

    Lovely plant, and the color really gets your attention. Another plant to add to the list. 🙂

    Hi Kim, thanks. This is a good one to add.

  18. Barbarapc says:

    Alas, the only Euphorbias I’ll be looking at in the month to come will be in the form of Poinsettas. Chameleon is borderline hardy for us. But I persist because of its great leaf colour. And those euphorbias with the shreaking chartreuse bracts – I’m always willing to try at least one to see if it will be happy in my garden. Frances – you could sell your ice/frost around the world – just a stunning photo.

    Hi Barbara, you are so sweet, thanks for those kind words. No selling of anything here, just on the blog for all to enjoy. I wish you luck with the euphorbias, maybe you have a more protected spot under some shrubbery where they could survive and get going. I do think the seedlings are much tougher than potted larger plants.

  19. This is a plant I wonder about… 🙂 I like the colorful stages. It’s on a list, but I’m afraid my list gets a little lengthy. Thanks for posting about it, though!

    Hi Shady, thanks. This is a plant worth thinking about, not for what is does during the growing season, but for what it adds in the winter landscape when little else is showing off.

  20. Kathleen says:

    Fabulous photo with the ice (can it be??) on the foliage Frances. Really spectacular. I have zero Euphorbias in my garden, nor have I ever grown any. I think I would like them in fall, just as you are showcasing, but during the other months, there are so many other choices that always catch my eye instead. You are so smart to consider all seasons instead of just two or three like me! If I keep returning to your blog, maybe you’ll influence me for the better. 🙂

    Hi Kathleen, thanks so much. It is indeed ice, we have been in a fist of cold here for several days now. Brrr. These euphorbias have a lot to offer with the dark red leaf color. In spring they are spectacular too. Anything with a red leaf is worth growing.

  21. Lythrum says:

    I love those colors. I’ve been trying to do more plantings with an eye to their colors in the fall. Nice pictures, even with the green goo. 🙂

    Hi Lythrum, thanks. Adding red, gold and blue evergreen foliage has been a project here for several years. Whenever a plant is spotted that meets those criteria we gave it a go. Glad you weren’t put off by the goo. 🙂

  22. Steve says:

    Frances, Euphorbia is one of those plants I almost always have used in gardens I designed and installed. I have a mad love affair with them and their unbelievable color. Another attraction for me has always been their different – no – their Primitive look. They are an arresting sight and more involving the more you stare at one. They also grow fast and renew themselves gorgeously every year. Great and under rated plant, yes.

    Hi Steven, thanks for the endorsement of the euphorbias. The one shown is the only one used extensively here. I have a new one given by Christopher of Outside Clyde that might be E. griffithii with red orange stalks and taller that shows lots of promise. With your recommendation, more will have to be tried as well. Thanks.

  23. Anne says:

    Hi Frances! I’m glad that you featured this great plant… there are so many beautiful varieties but often overlooked. The ones with the burgundy foliage, combined with chartreuse flowers, are incredible!

    Hi Anne, thanks. I looked through the files but could not find a photo of the flowers for this one, next spring I will be sure and shoot it while in bloom. Sl glad you agree it is a wonderful addition to any garden.

  24. franniesorin says:


    I love your photos of the euphorbia. One of my favorites is Euphorbia wulfenii but it is not hardy in our USDA Zone 6. One that works well for us is E. dulcis ‘Chameleon’. Mine has spread like crazy over the years and is a real workhorse in the garden. Fran

    Hi Fran, thanks so much. I will look for the E. wulfenii, if you like it it must be a good one. The chameleons do spread, but not in a problematic way. Workhorses are always good! 🙂

  25. Philip says:

    Hi Frances!
    This post and the last post are not only filled with interesting things in the garden, but I am in love with the color essay…the header of the colorful clouds, and then the different variations of color in your photography…The euphorbia here, and in the earlier post with the little bit of salvia like the sky, then more triumphant notes with the chard and the cardinal and other plants. Like variations on a theme in music.
    All so delicious, fun and inspiring.
    Here I am craving colorful flowers this time of year, and you show there is color all around us!

    Hi Philip, I am always delighted to see your comments, thanks so much. Our colorful flowers are sleeping right now so the foliage has to step up. We have studied the garden for years looking and trying to figure out what colors would spice it up, sort of like cooking! The metaphor of music was thrilling, such a gratifying response, thanks for that.

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