Euonymus: Expert Tips for Grow, Care, Pruning, Uses, and More

If you are looking for something for your landscape that is both deciduous and evergreen, shrub and vine, multi-species, and versatile, look no further than Euonymus. It has all you were looking for. It would not be wrong to say that this is a one-stop solution for your garden.

There are 130 known species and varieties of Euonymus available to you. All of them are eager to enhance your area and add color to it.

This guide has everything you need to know about growing and caring for euonymus. If you read this guide once, you will hardly need to search anywhere else. Would you like to expose the layers of euonymus? Yes! So let’s go…

Why Should You Choose Euonymus?

First, let’s get acquainted with Euonymus and see if it deserves a place in your landscape!

This genus, which has a neat and beautiful appearance, is rich in diversity. From vines to climbers, including specimens, accents, screens, and foundation plantings, there is hardly a role where euonymus cannot fit.

Their main attraction is their beautiful, gorgeous, color and texture leaves. On the one hand, evergreen species have gorgeous foliage all year round, while on the other hand, deciduous species have leaves that surpass other shrubs in good looks once autumn arrives.

These are known for their multi-branched leaves and graceful branches. But they also bear flowers and fruits. Although they are less showy, they contribute to the overall beauty.

These can be grown with average care. Like other shrubs, it requires quality soil, water, proper temperature, and sun. Also, a little pruning, fertilizer once a year, and new plants need some winter care. Nothing more special than this is required.

We are also giving you some more reasons to choose them. They can tolerate full shade, are drought-resistant, and even fire-resistant. They are quite easy to propagate and add color to your landscape.

At a Glance

Botanical Name:Euonymus spp.Flowers:Small flowers followed by colorful fruits
Family:CelastraceaeFlowering Months:June, July, August
Genus:EuonymousBerry color:Red, purple, orange
Species:Alatus, atropurpureus, fortunei, japonicaHeight:10-25 feet, depending on species
Common Name(s):Euonymus, Spindle, spindle tree, burning-bush, strawberry-bush, wahoo, wintercreeperSpread:7- 20 feet, depending on species
Native Area:East AsiaSpacing:Depends on species
Plant Type:Deciduous or evergreen woody shrub or tree or vineMaturity Time:5-10 years (depending on species)
Hardiness (USDA Zone):4-9 (depends on the species)Growth Rate:Medium to fast
Sunlight:Full Sun to Partial ShadeTime to plant:Spring, fall
Water Needs:ModerateMaintenance:Moderate
Soil Type:Any fertile soil that is not parched or waterloggedTolerance:Black walnut, drought, fire, full shade
Soil pH:Slightly acid, neutral, alkalineUses:Hedge, specimen, ground cover, accent, foundation planting
Foliage:Evergreen or deciduousAttracts:Songbirds
Foliage Color:Green, gold, purple, red, yellow, white-green, variegated (red in autumn)

Euonymus Species to Choose From

There are currently 130 known species in the Euonymus genus, which has become increasingly widespread with the addition of cultivars. From such a huge list, we are telling you about some of the popular species that you will not be disappointed by choosing for your garden.

Burning Bush

Burning Bush
Photo by Atves, under CC BY-SA 4.0, via Flickr

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) is a popular Euonymus species and is sometimes used as a synonym for Euonymus. It is a deciduous tree and is named Burning Bush because of its leaves which remain fiery red in autumn.

The main attraction of the shrub is the medium-green oval leaves turning brilliant red in autumn. Whereas this bush is dense, multi-stemmed, spherical. In late spring the plant produces small yellow-green flowers that are less showy. The red-orange berries in fall provide some additional ornamental value.

Zone 4 to 9 is considered best for this. It requires full to partial sun. Also likes moist but well-drained soil. It grows 3-20 feet tall, and 3-12 feet wide., whereas the variety named ‘Compacta’ is similar to it but is only half the size. You can give space in your garden for a gorgeous specimen or screening hedge.

Euonymus Japonicus

Euonymus Japonicus is also called Green Spire Euonymus (or Euonymus japonicus ‘Green Spire’). The leaves are dense and shiny, and their color is yellow-green. On the other hand, they also bear flowers and fruits but they are very less showy.

Euonymus Japonicus
Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

E. japonicus typically grows 12 to 15 feet tall and spreads 6 to 8 feet. If conditions are ideal it can grow up to about 25 feet tall, but this is often rare. They perform best in zones 6 to 9.

They are tolerant of pruning and perform like boxwood. There are many varieties of these which differ slightly from each other in shape and size. For example, some are compact and have small leaves while some have green leaves and thick golden-yellow edges.  ‘Aureomarginatus’, and ‘Microphyllus’ are examples of some notable varieties.

So under E. japonicus, you have a huge collection to choose from. Hedge or border planting is their ideal use.

Winter Creeper (Wintercreeper or Euonymus Fortunei)

Another popular variety of Euonymus is Wintercreeper. It is known by many names including Euonymus Fortunei, The Spindle, Fortune’s Spindle, and Winter Creeper.

E. fortunei is a broad-leaved evergreen shrub that can grow as both a bush and a vine. These are grown as climbing plants or as ground covers.

Their main attraction is their green-yellow and many other similar textured leaves. Whereas the insignificant flowers that appear in spring are greenish-white in color. The distinctive green and golden varieties of their leaves provide a classic colorful look to the garden, due to which they are much liked.

E. fortunei thrives in zones 5 to 9. Spring or early autumn is a good time for their planting. If given some support, this plant can climb up to 60 to 66 feet. And without support, it spreads over the ground like a blanket. On the other hand, if you prune it, it will remain as a bush about 2 to 4 feet high.

Wintercreeper Euonymus is a versatile plant and can be used in many ways. Like,

  • As a ground cover,
  • A fence,
  • As foundation planting,
  • A roadside plant,
  • To cover walls or chimneys.

Best Uses

These wonderful Euonymus plants can be used in many ways in every landscape. Some main uses are mentioned here…

  • As samples,
  • Small or dwarf varieties to fill visible gaps.
  • As a supplement to other plants,
  • In the open or in front of the structural foundation
  • Vining varieties as ground covering or climbing vines,

On the other hand, deciduous species generate interest in autumn along with other seasons, due to which their importance increases significantly. So, the beauty of the landscape increases manifold when hedges and screens are formed by large varieties of Euonymus. Euonymus adds to the beauty of your garden in many more ways. Their more than 100 species give you countless opportunities to choose from. Very few shrubs can compete with their decorative talent. Because with a little pruning, you can give them different shapes.

Propagation

There are several ways to propagate euonymus. But mainly there are three ways. By seeds, by cuttings, and by transplantation. Below we are discussing these three methods…

From Seeds

To propagate euonymus from seeds, you will need its seeds first. To get it you will have to wait for November. This is the time when the seeds become visible from inside the capsule.

Take these capsules, take out the seeds examine them, and remove the damaged seeds. Pour the good seeds into a strainer, then wash. Finally, air dry on a paper towel for some time.

Now take a bag filled with vermiculite or fine sand and make it moist, but not wet. Sow those healthy, air-dried seeds in that sand. Keep the bag slightly open so that airflow is not blocked.

It is necessary to stratify the seeds, so keep the said bag in the refrigerator at 40°F for 3 to 3.5 months. Check on them periodically to ensure they remain slightly moist, but not soggy.

It is time to plant when the outside temperature is 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose a spot in the garden soil that receives good sunlight. Then, sow the seeds about a quarter inch deep in well-drained soil. Make sure to give enough space between the two seeds.

After sowing, add water to the soil and mulch with pine straw. Keep moist for about 8 weeks, expose to sunlight, and wait. The seeds will germinate automatically.

From Semi-Hardwood Cuttings

Another great way to propagate euonymus is by cuttings. For this process, we need a semi-ripe cutting of Euonymus. The best time to obtain it is considered to be mid-summer and early autumn. Let’s see how it’s done…

First, select a healthy side-shoot from the Euonymus plant which is of the current season and has a strong base and soft top. Using a sterilized blade, cut a section about 3 to 4 inches long just below a knot. Remove the leaves at the bottom of the cutting and dip the lower end in the rooting compound or rooting powder.

Now place the cutting in a pot filled with cutting potting mix or a rooting medium composed of 50-50 vermiculite and sand. Take care that the mixture in the pot is kept moist with gauze without wetting it.

Cuttings need to be provided with indirect heat and for this, they will have to be kept at 70 to 85° F, for which you will have to take necessary measures.

Take good care of it, moisten the soil by misting it, and give it some time to form its roots. From the sprouts of newly born leaves, you can guess that it has developed roots. Or you can be sure by removing a little soil. Usually, their strong root system develops in four to eight weeks.

Now there is a need to toughen them. For this, keep them outside for about 1 hour on the first day. Next day keep outside for 1.5 to 2 hours and increase it by 30 minutes to 1 hour with each day. In 8 to 10 days it will adapt to the outside environment and become hard. Once it has hardened to the external environment, it can be transplanted.

From Transplant

The best time to transplant Euonymus is autumn. Dig a hole in the chosen spot that is as deep as the transplant’s root system but slightly wider. Prepare the soil by adding a few inches of a layer of organic fertilizer. Then put the plant in the pit. Fill the space with the removed soil and add water. Keep watering for some time so that moisture remains. After some time the plant will become established in the garden and start growing.

Growing and Caring Tips for Euonymus

With the propagation methods above, you will have a Euonymus that you will love to see flourish. On the other hand, if you bring the plants from the nursery and want to plant them in your garden then follow the transplantation method mentioned above.

Now let’s come to the care tips of Euonymus. Here we are giving general recommendations of the Euonymus genus which are more or less for everyone. Depending on the particular species or variety you are growing, you may have to adjust the care tips slightly. Let’s look at the care tips…

Climate

Euonymus can be easily grown in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8. However, in this case, the needs of its species may be specific.

Sun

These perform best in full sun. At the same time, it can flourish even in partial shade conditions. On the other hand, it tolerates full shade, but struggles to perform optimally and often fails.

Soil

In soil, it has some basic needs. Euonymus prefers fertile soil with organic matter and loamy texture, which is well drained and kept moist. Whereas keeping the pH of soil 6.0 to 8.0 will be more beneficial.

On the other hand, it can tolerate a variety of soil conditions, but the soil must be fertile. Also, it is unable to withstand water logging. At the same time, it can perform well even with different pH levels.

Water

The key to watering Euonymus is to water deeply if the top three inches of soil is dry. For this, inspect the soil near its stem from time to time, and watering it a few times a week may be enough.

Fertilizer

Fertilizers should be used to give them a strong start. Apply an all-purpose balanced fertilizer near the plant’s roots in the fall. Keep in mind that this has to be done only once a year. But if the soil is rich then avoid using fertilizer, as it can burn the plants.

Pruning

This evergreen shrub requires little pruning. Often these plants are weeds. Many undesirable growths appear in it which reduces its beauty. Also, by pruning, you can give them the desired shape as you want to keep them.

The best time to prune is in early spring. At this time, after pruning, new growth starts coming from it. If necessary, touch-ups can be done in summer till mid-July. If you prune at any other time, you may inadvertently harm the plant, which needs to be avoided. But, if you notice any rotting or diseased branches or other parts of your plants, feel free to remove them at any time of the year.

Pruning can direct the plant, and encourage increased density. Meanwhile, dead or infected branches can be removed to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Some species, such as E. japonicus, which are suitable for hedging, are maintained at an ideal shape by pruning. Sort other species or varieties according to their needs and your wishes.

Winter Care for Euonymus Shrubs

These beautiful broad-leafed evergreens usually hold their own in the winter. In some cases, especially during severe cold, the color of their leaves fades. But as soon as spring comes, they return to their natural color.

Newly established plants, on the other hand, require winter protection for the first few years. Similarly, plants that are stressed in some way, such as recovering from a disease, also need protection in the winter.

You can take some measures to protect them. The easiest and most effective solution is to protect it by wrapping it in burlap. Stick three poles outside the plant and wrap it in burlap. Do not knot the top and leave it open so that air and heat can continue to flow.

Before winter, do mulching to maintain adequate warmth in the roots. Pine bark or any other material can be used for this.

Watering any evergreen at the beginning of winter is an important process to keep it healthy during the winter. This becomes more important when the autumn season has been dry. Similarly, EUONYMUS SHRUBS should also be watered deeply in early November. Especially young plants. However, as a good gardening practice, you should also water more mature plants before the start of every winter so that they can benefit.

Pests and Diseases of Euonymus and Their Treatments

Every plant, bush, and tree demands something and you take care of them. If they are given what they need, they remain healthy. As a result, they get a lot of help in surviving pests and diseases.

Likewise, the efforts you make to keep your Euonymus healthy and protected from pests and diseases will pay off. Still, there is a possibility of some harm to them. Let us see those possibilities and their solutions.

Pests

Insects harm plants in many ways. They can suck their juice, eat their leaves and deform them in many ways. There is a need to be careful about them. Periodic inspection should be carried out and appropriate diagnosis should be made if found. Euonymus is mainly prone to damage by a single insect which is mentioned below…

Euonymus Scale

Euonymus Scale
Photo: SB_Johnny, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the name implies, Euonymus scale is a type of scale that specifically attacks Euonymus. If they have been named like this then you can imagine its seriousness.

Females are brown, a little more than a millimeter long, and males are white, a little less than a millimeter shorter. Whereas both their babies and eggs are very small in size and yellow.

Adults and infants like the juice of the plant and both drink the juice in equal quantities. The result is that the green color of the leaves starts disappearing. Over time, first, the leaves begin to fall, then the branches begin to die and eventually, the entire plant dies.

If you see these signs, check the damage to see how far the infection has spread. Remove and destroy heavily infected branches. If the infestation is minor, horticultural oil or insecticidal soap can be used to control it.

Disease

Euonymus may suffer from some diseases. See information about some main diseases below…

Crown Gall

A round, ugly, irregular lump-like lump is called a crown gall. It is caused by the soil-dwelling bacterium ‘Agrobacterium tumefaciens’. Crown galls can grow on any part of the Euonymus plant. Like, on the roots, or the stem.

Crown galls harm the plant in many ways, which include disrupting the plant’s metabolism, weakening the plant, etc. These persist for many years and in many cases continue to grow.

Due to their presence, not only do the plants lose their attractiveness, but they also suffer a lot of damage. It is unfortunate that once a plant becomes infected with these diseases, there is no cure for it.

As a remedy, prune infected branches below the gall. If plants are seriously infected, destroy those plants.

You can also take some other measures to ensure that this does not happen again or there is less possibility. This will protect not only other Euonymus but also other plants.

A. tumefaciens bacteria live in the soil, which is difficult to detect. These can contaminate your tools with that soil. Similarly, they infect large areas of the soil and sometimes spread to plants through infected transplants.

You need to ensure that all gardening tools are kept clean. If necessary, soil testing can be done. These bacteria survive in the soil for two to three years. So even if you have removed an infected plant they are still there. The best solution would be to plant crown-gall-resistant species like boxwood or barberry in those places.

Anthracnose

When infected with anthracnose, small, brown spots form on the leaf tissue. These spots can occur on many varieties of Euonymus. The main reason for their occurrence is the cold and wet spring season. Be careful when Euonymus is exposed to cold April rain.

Use fungicide for a solution. On the other hand, cut off the infected parts from the plant and dispose of the remains.

Cercospora Leaf Spot

When the plant suffers from this disease, small brown spots form on its leaves. These spots keep on increasing gradually and at some point, spots appear on the entire leaves.

Cercospora Leaf Spot is not very dangerous and due to this the plants do not die, but the plants start becoming weak and powerless. Besides, it greatly spoils the beauty of the plants. Therefore treatment is necessary.

Treat infected plants with thiophanate-methyl spray and destroy damaged leaves, so that the infection does not spread.

History of Euonymus

Most species of Euonymus come from East Asian countries. Which includes China, Japan, and Korea. They can also be found in Africa, Central America, North America, and parts of Europe, where they can be both naturalized and transplanted. About six species are native to North America. While some species continued to evolve in other countries.

Euonymus fruits are liked by birds. Because of them, the seeds kept spreading and they kept growing in different areas. But spread by birds, Euonymus was not welcomed everywhere. This is because some of its species are poisonous and there was a time in the past when these plants were used to poison animals. Additionally, some varieties are considered very invasive. Even today, some species of Euonymus are classified as invasive plants in many areas of the United States. Due to the above reasons many people did not like them and even today, many people shy away from them.

However recent research has not shown any indication of it being poisonous. Whatever the case, they should be avoided by humans and animals as they can be fatal. Also, some varieties of Euonymus (especially vining varieties) have been considered invasive in many places because they spread so quickly and take over other plants or large areas of soil.

But that doesn’t mean they are useless, Euonymus’ performance in the landscape is hard to ignore. When and by whom they were introduced as ornamental plants is not well known, but we are familiar and happy with them today.

If you choose the right variety for your needs and take good care of it, this beautiful and versatile plant outperforms many other shrubs.

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