Prepared by Marjan Kluepfel, HGIC Horticulture Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. (New 05/99. Images added 04/09.)
Euonymus species range from evergreen shrubs such as evergreen euonymus (Euonymus japonicus)to evergreen vines such as wintercreeper euonymus (E. fortunei). Some of the more common species are described here.
This shrub is also known as strawberry bush or "Hearts-a-Busting." It is a deciduous, suckering shrub, 4 to 6 feet high. Leaves are medium green and up to 3 inches long. The greenish-purple flowers are a third of an inch in diameter and have 5 petals, which is unusual for euonymus (usually four-petaled). From September to October the showy scarlet seed capsules open to reveal purple insides and bright orange seeds.
Colorful fruit of American euonymus
Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, www.insectimages.org
This is a deciduous shrub, which grows to a height of 10 to 20 feet and similar spread, depending on the variety. The dark-green foliage turns brilliant red in fall. The flowers are ornamentally unimportant, yellow-green, and present in May and June. The plant likes partial shade to full sun and well-drained soil.
"Wings" on bark of winged euonymus twigs.
Karen Russ, ©2008 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Burning bush euonymus fall color. The Dow Gardens
Archive, Dow Gardens, www.insectimages.org
This is a deciduous small tree, which eventually may reach 30 feet in height. The dark green leaves turn yellowish red in fall. The fruits are the ornamental feature: bunches of red capsules open to reveal bright orange seeds. Spindle trees like full sun or partial shade.
This is an evergreen groundcover, 4 to 6 inches high, which can scramble 40 to 70 feet when placed on a structure. The range of leaf types is endless. The species has opposite dark green leaves that are an inch long or less. Flowers are greenish white and not very showy. Wintercreeper euonymus tolerates full sun and heavy shade.
Wintercreeper euonymus foliage, James H. Miller, USDA
Forest Service, www,insectimages.org
This is a very dense, oval shrub when growing in full sun and more open in shade. It grows 10 to 15 feet high and about half that in width. The leaves are opposite, evergreen, leathery and 1 to 3 inches long. The flowers are greenish white and inconspicuous. The species is very tolerant of heat but prone to cold damage.
This evergreen shrub grows 8 feet high and as wide or wider, with some low branches trailing on the ground and rooting. The leaves are light green and 2 to 3 inches long. Flowers are greenish white. Bees and flies swarm the plant when it is in bloom in late summer, so it may not be a good choice near patio areas.
Young spreading euonymus habit
Karen Russ, ©2008 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Growth Rate: Most euonymus species grow medium to fast (13 to 24 inches per year), except for E. alatus, which grows slowly (less then 12 inches per year), and wintercreeper euonymus, which grows very fast (25 inches per year or more).
Landscape Use: The landscape use of euonymus is unlimited: these plants are excellent for hedging, in groups, as a specimen plant, for borders and screening. E. alatus makes an excellent foundation plant because of horizontal lines and clean foliage. E. fortunei may be used as groundcover, vine, wall cover and low hedge, depending on the cultivar.
Cultivation: Euonymus plants are easy to grow. They transplant readily and tolerate most soils, except waterlogged conditions. Euonymus can grow in full sun to heavy shade. Deciduous kinds with fall color give a better display in full sun. Ideally, plants should be watered and mulched in hot, dry conditions. They withstand heavy pruning.
Problems: Euonymus scale, a white-covered scale insect, is the most serious pest. A severe infestation will make the underside of the leaves and the entire stem white. Unless controlled, this pest will eventually kill the plant. Refer to HGIC 2054, Euonymus Diseases & Insect Pests, for more information on euonymus pests and diseases.
Cultivars of E. fortunei: The cultivars of Wintercreeper Euonymus, which are listed here, are better known than the species itself.
Cultivars of E. japonica
Page maintained by: Home & Garden Information Center
This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.