Euonymus shrubs are deciduous or evergreen shrubs valued for their foliage and autumn color. Euonymus shrubs are often used for foundation plantings, landscaping, and as hedging and screening plants. Find facts and information on euonymus shrub varieties to find out which variety will work best in your landscape.
Facts on Euonymus Shrubs
Euonymus is a large group of over 170 species of plants. It includes deciduous and evergreen shrubs, trees, and occasional creepers and vines, all originating from Asia. Euonymus varieties can be found that will adapt to almost any exposure or soil, whether wet, dry, or chalk. They take easily to shearing for screens and hedges. Scale insects are a constant problem with any types since they contort stems, leaves, and fruit in a short time.
Euonymus fortunei (winter creeper)
Euonymus fortunei, winter creeper, grows in Zones 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 and grows 10’ high x 20’ wide. It will grow in full sun to semi-shade. Fortunei is shrubby by nature but occasionally trailing or even climbing by its aerial rooting. It has a habit of flattening out or elongating its upright growth during heavy winter snowfalls; this gives it the name of wintercreeper.
All of the fortunei species can be sheared at any time for hedges, espaliers, or border specimens. The inconspicuous creamy-colored flowering during late spring develops into 1/2 inch spherical capsules with pink-toned seeds capped by an orange dome. Oval, toothed, up to 2 inch long leaves have white veins evident on the undersides on rounded stems with noticeable warts.
The plant is the parent of many evergreen shrub and vine types having reliable hardiness and good vigor. The popular ‘Emerald’ strain originated in a Massachusetts nursery, and presents a series of durable, smog-resistant forms containing desirable variegated foliages. Together, these varieties contribute useful landscape accents.
Cultivars of Euonymus fortunei
‘Carrieri’ grows 6’ to 8’ tall and is wide-spreading to 10’ with 1 1/2” to 2” glossy, deep green foliage on non-climbing stems highlighted by occasional sport branches of foliage with bright creamy variegation. It creates an interesting informal hedge or a clipped formalized edging, but does not provide much as fruiting goes.
‘Emerald Charm’ develops a narrowly columnar form to 5’ with deep green foliage year-round. It has no fruit.
‘Emerald Cushion’ is a dwarfed, compact type with small green leaves and a mounded outline 2’ tall. It appears to be fruitless.
‘Emerald Gaiety’ has achieved great popularity for its year-long green and white foliage contrast (even in shade) from 11/2-2” leaves on a sprawling yet often erect silhouette that grows to 4-5 ft. Fruit is unknown. There is a vine-like form, ‘Silver Queen’ that is sometimes, mistakenly sold under its label.
‘Emerald N Gold’ requires strong light at all times to maintain its unusually bright yellow and chartreuse green summer color mix on the 1” leaves. For winter it usually mottles into a blend of pink, red, gold, and deeper green. The ultimate height and width is 5’ after several decades of growing. It produces no fruit.
Variety vegeta (vegetus) becomes bushy to 4’ and wide-spreading to 10’ with nearly rounded, 1-1 3/4”, dull, yellow-green leaves. When mature, it produces notable annual fruiting. If supported and tied in place (it has no aerial root development) when young, it can rise to 15 ft. to make an interesting wall espalier. Unfortunately, this variety is exceptionally prone to scale insect attacks that quickly eradicate its good qualities.
Euonymus Japonica (evergreen euonymus, Japanese spindle tree)
Euonymus japonica is widely used in the southern United States because it cooperatively adjusts to high heat and varying light conditions. This euonymus has tolerance for dryness, coolness, salt spray, and either acid or alkaline soils. Euonymus japonica grows in Zones 8, 9, and 10 and reaches 10-15' high by 10' wide. It is densely branched and slow-growing with an erect, shrubby nature, the plant also can be trained as a small tree form.
Flowering is typically greenish white, tiny, and inconspicuous during June, pink seed capsules covered with orange arils. The narrowly oval 1 1/4 to 2 1/4 inch foliage is dark, glossy green with blunt-toothed margins on slightly four-angled stems. While many destructive pests bother this species, mildew is more disfiguring. This can be controlled by placing the shrub on a hot, dry site originally. Avoid planting this shrub where humid air stagnates in summer.
‘Albomarginata’ is a slow-growing type with narrow white banding on the foliage. It if often erroneously marketed as ‘Pearl Edge’.
‘Argenteo-variegata’ has leaves margined and streaked with white.
‘Aurea’ produces mostly yellow-toned foliage and grows slowly.
‘Aureo-marginata’ (‘Giltedge’) expands sluggishly with leathery leaves edged in golden yellow.
‘Aureo-variegata’ is undoubtedly the most popular golden form, with foliage blotched in the centers by deep yellow markings. Growers frequently market this as ‘Gold Spot’ which is an invalid name.
‘Fastigata’ creates a columnar form with narrow leaves.
'Golden' is a broadleaf evergreen shrub, growing in Zones 7-10. It has large, glossy, oval shaped leaves that are dark forest green and broadly edged in bright golden yellow.
‘Grandifolia’ (‘Gigantea’) has exceptionally large, lustrous, deep green leaves and a stiffly upright form.
‘Mediopicta’ carries foliage with large yellow blotches over the central parts.
‘Microphylla’ (‘Pulchella’) is compact, dense, and slow-growing with narrow leaves between 1/2 and 1inch long.
‘Microphylla Pulchella’ becomes the gold-variegated form of the previous entry, ‘Microphylla’.
'Moonshadow' is a dark olive green variegated with yellow. It is prevalent in Zones 4-8, and unlike other species, it seems to stay a more compact and low growing ground covering.
‘Picta’ stays dwarfed with dark green leaves.
‘Pyramidata’ is also columnar but is more compact than ‘Fastigata’.
‘Viridi-variegata’ (‘Duc d’Anjou’) sports large bright green leaves variegated with yellow and pale green.
Euonymus alatus, winged euonymus, is also known as a winged spindle tree, or its common name, burning bush. There is a separate article devoted to the burning bush with facts and detailed information.
Euonymus europaeus, the European Spindle, is a deciduous shrub It has very hard wood and was often used to make spindles for spinning wheels in Europe. Euonymus europaeus grows in Zones 4-7 in full sun to part sun. It has a height of 6-15’ by 5-10’.
It blooms in early summer and has tiny, greenish colored blooms. Europaeus has dark red foliage an brilliant hot pink and orange fruits in the fall. It looks best when it is planted as a specimen in the fall landscape as it stands out quite well. Companion plants such as ornamental grasses to add to the fall colors of the landscape.