Euphorbia myrsinites, commonly known as Myrtle Spurge or Donkey Tail, is an interesting succulent perennial native to rocky and grassy places of southeastern Europe and Asia Minor. Depending on where you live it is a wonderful garden plant or a horrible pest. In England it has been given the Royal Horticulture Society's Award of Garden Merit, but is considered a noxious weed in several western states and should not be planted in those areas. In the moister eastern United States where it is less likely to be invasive, it can be a good addition to some gardens. It is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 9. Myrtle Spurge propagates best from seeds, but it will also grow from softwood cuttings.
Propagation by Seed
Start Myrtle Spurge seeds in somewhat large containers so they have room to spread and produce a developed root system by planting time. Keep the containers indoors or in a cold frame during the germination process, if starting them in a frost-prone climate.
Fill 4-inch (10 cm) containers with drainage holes with a mixture of 5 parts seed-starting compost and 1 part coarse sand or perlite. Leave the top 0.5 inch (1.2 cm) of each pot empty. Add water until the growing mixture feels moist in the top 3 inches (7.5 cm). Scatter 4 or 5 Myrtle Spurge seeds onto the soil. Gently press them onto the surface to anchor them. Cover the seeds with a 0.25 inch (0.6 cm) thick layer of soil. Mist the soil to settle it.
Arrange the containers on a propagation mat near a source of bright, indirect sunlight, such as near a lightly shaded south-facing window. Set the propagation mat temperature to 85 °F (30 °C) during the day and 70 °F (21 °C) at night. Maintain a light, constant level of moisture in the mixture. Avoid letting the compost dry out completely, but don't overwater because the seeds may rot.
Watch for germination in roughly 3 to 4 weeks. Thin the Myrtle Spurge seedlings to one per container. Keep the strongest seedling and remove the weaker. Reduce watering by half after the seedlings emerge to prevent fungal infections. Grow the Myrtle Spurge plants outdoors under light shade until late summer, and then acclimate them to direct sun. Transplant them into a permanent bed in fall.
Propagation by Cuttings
Propagate Myrtle Spurge from cuttings in late spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. Prepare a rooting container before gathering the cutting.
Fill a 4-inch (10 cm) container with drainage holes with a mixture of half coarse sand and half perlite. Add water until the mixture feels moderately moist throughout. Let the excess water drain for 10 to 15 minutes. Gather a cutting, 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12.5 cm) long, from the tip of a non-blooming stem. Sever the cutting 0.25 inch (0.6 cm) below a set of leaves, using a utility knife. Remove all the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting. Stick the cutting in a glass of water for 10 minutes to staunch the flow of its milky sap. Remove the cutting from the water and immediately pot it. Press the base of the cutting into the sand mixture until the bottom half is buried. Set the potted Myrtle Spurge cutting in a bright, sheltered area outdoors where the temperature is 75 °F (24 °C) during the day. Mist the cutting daily. Moisten the sand mixture when it dries out in the top 1 inch (2.5 cm).
Check for roots in 4 to 6 weeks by lightly pulling on the base of the cutting. Discontinue misting the cutting after it roots. Move the container to a partly sunny area. Provide 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water each week for the rest of summer. Acclimate the Myrtle Spurge to direct sun in late summer or early fall. Transplant it into a permanent bed or planter in fall.
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