Euphorbia wulfenii gets a haircut

Euphorbia wulfenii in spring

When they are good, they are very, very good…

wulfenii at its worst

But when they are bad, they are horrid! I am something of a timid pruner, but when Euphorbia wulfenii reached the above state, I had nothing to lose. I cut it back hard, with the expectation that I was performing stage one of a removal project. Guess what? It bounced right back, looking bigger and better than ever this spring.

pile of E wulfenii prunings

So this year, when the blooming stalks began to discolor, I went right after it. The pile of debris with the wheelbarrow behind it for scale, is what was removed from the plant.

the core of E wulfenii after haircut

Each blooming stalk was cut back as close as I could get to the core of the plant, where a tangle of old wood can be seen.

E wulfenii trying to adjust

And here’s the wulf…reeling a bit and trying to adjust to his new look. I have confidence that he will snap out of it and start strutting his stuff in no time.

Fiskars and Lysol

At a Joy Creek pruning seminar, Mike emphasized the importance of keeping blades clean between cuts. The milky sap of Euphorbias leaves no doubt. In fact, I had to let a heavy spray of Lysol soak in for several minutes. then wipe and repeat three or more times. Finally, before putting them away, I gave them a good going over with an SOS pad and a spritz of WD-40. I have handled these plants before with no ill effects, but this time…despite long sleeves and gloves, I found myself with Popeye-proportioned forearms. Three days later, the itching and burning are epic still, but the swelling has subsided. I don’t know if it was the timing of the project, the scale of the operation or what, but I will never again scoff at cautionary tales. Next time (and yes, of course there will be a next time…I’m a gardener) heavy duty gloves and shirt fabric will come into play…Oh, and be sure to resist wiping your brow while engaged in this activity. I am not a pretty sight just now.

12 Responses to “Euphorbia wulfenii gets a haircut”

  1. linda Says:

    I must have become desensitized , pruning so many , I get sap all over…no burning or itching…famous last words !

  2. Jane / MulchMaid Says:

    I had no idea…thanks for the cautionary tale, Ricki, but sorry you’re suffering!

  3. Heather Says:

    I’m so sorry :( I’m super sensitive to that stuff too.

  4. Loree /danger garden Says:

    Once, just once, I had a stem snap back and barely miss my eye, I felt very lucky that day. That sap turns me red and bumpy+itchy, not good. I’m glad you’re on the mend.

  5. ricki Says:

    All~Thanks for the words of sympathy. Beware: this is the first time it has bothered me at all, so past history is not necessarily a guarantee.

  6. Grace Says:

    Wow. I’ve never had any issues with the milky sap either but I will take your caution to heart. Interesting. I’m sure Wolfie will reward you for the haircut.

  7. ricki Says:

    Grace~ounce of prevention, and all that

  8. James Says:

    Ouch, sorry to hear about the adverse reaction to the sap. I wonder if your reaction was like many folks’ experience with poison oak/ivy/sumac, where their body seems immune at first, and then suddenly the person becomes hyper-sensitized–forever. I hope future pruning efforts don’t have the same ending for you. The plant seems pretty responsive to what you did for it the last time around, though, and I’m sure it’ll pull through nicely this time.

  9. ricki Says:

    James~Lesson learned: I will be less cavalier in future efforts. Thanks for the sympathy.

  10. Wendy Says:

    oh my god – your eyebrows!!! (trying not to laugh – I’m sure it’s really horrible!!!). I didn’t know that about euphorbias. Good to know!

  11. ricki Says:

    Wendy~A good laugh at my expense will not be begrudged you.

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