Coffee Scented Flowers?

I’m always on the lookout for a plant that is different & will stand out in my garden.  I came across ‘Euphorbia characias wulfenii’ at a greenhouse that sadly, was  going out of business.  I knew it was a Euphorbia of some kind but none of the employees could tell me which variety.  I think the only reason I bought it was that it looked so forlorn & badly in need of a permanent home in the ground.  Knowing that Euphorbias like it on the dry side & can take lots of abuse I found a spot I thought it might like, threw it in a hole with some mulch, wished it the best of luck & promptly forgot about it.

Cofee scented blooms

Euphorbia characias wulfenii

It again grabbed my attention  a few months later when it it really started growing.  It’s habit is to grow very uniformly with no pruning at all.  I appreciated that & made a mental note to pay more attention to it.  I was delighted in late February when it began to bloom.  It’s chartreuse flowers hang at first & then begin to unfurl upwards where when fully open stand atop strong stems that last for months. I have a good view of it from my kitchen window & I was further endeared  when I saw how many bees and other pollinating insects were attracted to it’s nectar filled blooms.

Euphorbia characias wulfenii

Euphorbia’s nectar filled blooms


Euphorbia characias wulfenii

The coffee culprit

Early spring is such a busy time for us here that I don’t spend near the time I’d like to in my garden.  Most mornings I try to sneak in a quick trip through before I head down to the greenhouses.  On one of my walks I smelled brewing coffee & thought that my neighbor must be brewing a pot.  It made me want to go back in the house for a second cup, but decided I’d better get to work. The following morning was the same & I wondered why after being neighbors for almost 20 years was I smelling her morning coffee.  That evening Paul & I were working  separately in different parts of the yard when I began to smell coffee again. Thinking that our neighbor may be border lining on some kind of caffeine addiction I mentioned it to Paul.  He graciously pointed out that because of the size of our properties & where our homes are located that it was highly unlikely that the smell was coming from our neighbor’s house.  He’s always more sensible than I am in these things & suggested we go for a walk & try to track it down.  It didn’t take long following our noses to realize that it was my beautifully blooming Euphorbia. We were both amazed at how strong the coffee smell was. This plant certainly had my full attention now!  Wow, drought tolerant, blooms for months with coffee scented flowers & loved by the bees, what’s not to love?   As for our neighbor……., come to find out she doesn’t even drink coffee.


  1. Karen connell says

    Hey Shannon!
    That seems like a really interesting type of Euphorbia! Hope to get one of those plants for myself. I hope everyone is very careful when pruning Euphorbias, or taking cuttings because the “milk” that comes out can really cause some major problems if it gets in your eyes. It happened to me while working at a commercial greenhouse. Many blessings, Karen

  2. Pauline says

    Do they need full sun? How much room do they need? It sounds like this is just what we need around here. Thank you for posting.

    • Shannon Dillon says

      They prefer full sun and ours has gotten pretty big. It’s almost 4 feet tall & about 3 feet wide. You can keep them pruned smaller, just be careful of the sap as it can be a skin irritant. If you need something hardy & deer resistant it’s perfect!

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