This group of plants consists of trees and low-growing shrubs with variable habits that make them valuable in different garden designs. Perhaps the most familiar species is the burning bush, which is widely planted for its brilliant red fall color. Many other euonymus varieties also feature stunning fall color, as well as showy fruits—typically hot pink and orange—or their sprawling evergreen habit.
Many species of euonymus are green; however, most of the low-growing types feature beautiful variegated foliage, most notably Euonymus fortunei. These plants have a unique habit that can be trained to be rounded shrubs, left to ramble, or even climb. With their bright gold, white, green, and sometimes pink foliage, they brighten a garden.
Many of the green varieties don't begin to shine until fall. Once fall's cool nights arrive, euonymus puts on a spectacular display of glowing oranges, reds, yellows, and burgundies. Others also have unique fruits with bright pink skin that open to reveal a bright orange interior.
Euonymus Care Must-Knows
With around 175 species in this family, requirements are going to vary. Preferred soil conditions, however, remain fairly consistent. Ideally, euonymus should be planted in well-drained, medium-moisture soil. Wet soil can cause rotting and other issues. Once established, euonymus is drought tolerant.
Euonymus varieties require different sun exposures. Many of the larger tree and shrub types, especially those with fall color, require more sun. While full sun is best, some varieties such as low-growing and variegated types tolerate shade. Many of the shrubby and low-growing types require trimming to keep them looking their best.
The one major pest is euonymus scale. These small insects cluster on the old growth, undersides of the leaves, and the stems of E. fortunei types. The gray or white pests can be identified by their pear-shape bodies. The best solution is to remove infected plants, especially heavily infested limbs. Even after removal, it may be necessary to follow up with a systemic insecticide to prevent future issues.
An important thing to note is that there are several euonymus species that have become invasive in native forests, especially burning bush and many E. fortunei types. Before planting any of these, check with local authorities to determine if this plant is considered invasive in your area.
More Varieties of Euonymus
Euonymus atropurpureus is a delightful North American native shrub that offers bold purple fall color and attractive scarlet-red fruits in the fall. It grows 20 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Zones 3-7
Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus' is a groundcover or climbing variety featuring deep green leaves that lighten to pink or rose in fall. Zones 4-9
Euonymus alatus bears leaves that turn a bold flame red in fall with reddish-purple berries. It can grow 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 4-9
'Silver Queen' wintercreeper
Euonymus fortunei 'Silver Queen' is a groundcover that can climb walls or other structures (it can climb as high as 20 feet) and features green leaves accented with white. Zones 5-9
Garden Plans For Euonymus
A colorful alternative to the standard all-green landscape, this foundation planting mixes broad-leafed evergreen shrubs and a sculptural tree with flowering perennials and groundcovers.
Garden Design for a Deck
A garden design featuring easy-to-grow shrubs and perennials enhances this deck and helps it blend into the garden.