Shrubs

Euonymus Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Spindle”

Our Guide to Euonymus Plants - Everything you will ever need to know! Tips for growing and caring for “Spindle”

Euonymus is a genus that contains around 130 species of flowering small trees, shrubs, and lianas. Depending on the species, the members of this genus come along with various common names like Spindle, Wintercreeper, Strawberry bush, Burning bush, or simply Euonymus.

Euonymus plants originate mostly from several regions that range from East Asia to the Himalayas, with 50 species being endemic to China. However, they can also thrive in Europe, Madagascar, North America, or Australasia.

Prized for their showy foliage and adorable fruits, Euonymus plants come along with numerous superb cultivars that you can choose from. The most popular species in cultivation are E. alatus, E. americanus, E. atropurpureus, E. europaeus, E. fortunei, E. japonicus, E. planipes, and their charming varieties.

About Euonymus Plants

  • The E. alatus ‘Compactus’, E. europaeus ‘Red Cascade’, E. fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’, and E. fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ cultivars have gained the well-known Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
  • Euonymus species are wonderful ground covers, edging plants, informal hedges, specimen plants, and foundation plants. They look absolutely fabulous in woodland gardens, cottage gardens, city gardens, slopes, naturalized areas, or shrub borders.
  • Traditionally, the wood of some Euonymus species served as a great material to produce spindles for spinning wool and butchers’ skewers. This particular use is the origin of their most common name “Spindle”.
  • The bark and the seeds of Euonymus plants play a big part in medicine. While the seeds are emetic and cathartic, their bark has alterative, diuretic, laxative, tonic, and expectorant properties.
  • Euonymus europaeus is an excellent ingredient to produce charcoal. Thanks to its strength and density, many artists see this type of charcoal as a superior product.
  • The seeds of Euonymus plants are very attractive to several species of frugivorous birds. These birds typically digest the fleshy seed coats, then disperse their seeds anywhere they feel like it.
  • A few parts of the Euonymus species, such as their fruits, are pretty toxic to humans, pets, and livestock. For safety purposes, grow these plants in a place where your kids or furry friends cannot reach them.
  • Due to their easy-going nature and vibrant colours, Euonymus plants make for great companions to other interesting species including Asters, Cranesbill, Hakone Grass, Monkshood, Pale Yellow-Eyed Grass, Purple Fountain Grass, Red Hot Poker, Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’, Snowdrops, and Winter Heath.
Euonymus Shrub
Euonymus Shrub

Euonymus Plants Features: An Overview

  • Euonymus plants belong to the Celastraceae family that comprises different species of shrubs, small trees, vines, and herbs. They share this family with other popular genera, such as Canotia, Catha, Celastrus, or Maytenus.
  • Euonymus plants are evergreen or deciduous flowering perennials. Depending on the species, they can reach from 3 to 20 feet (0.9-6.1 m) in height with a similar spread.
  • Their foliage consists of simple, ovoid, glossy, usually 0.8 to 5.9 inches (2-15 cm) in length, and finely margin-serrated leaves that grow oppositely or rarely alternately arranged on long stems.
  • The leaves of Euonymus plants can come in a wide variety of lovely colours. While some species have light to dark green leaves, others typically exhibit variegated or chartreuse-yellow shades.
  • Several Euonymus species have a unique feature, bringing them more appreciation during the fall months. The foliage of E. alatus and E. planipes is green in general, but it turns into hypnotic red, pink, or purplish hues in autumn.
  • Euonymus plants bloom from late spring to early summer, producing many small groups of insignificant star-shaped flowers. Their colours can vary from one species to another, appearing in either green, pink, yellow, or maroon tints.
  • After the flowering period, these plants replace their blossoms with masses of fruits. They are large, four/five-valves, and pink to white pod-like berries. When mature, the fruits split open and reveal the fleshy-coated orange to red seeds.

Growing Euonymus Plants

Euonymus plants are generally very low-demanding, making them great start-ups for beginner gardeners. Although these buddies come with some particular demands, they can also adapt to a wide range of environmental and growing conditions. At the end of the day, the only mandatory thing they ask for to thrive and be happy is, of course, lots of love.

Most Euonymus plants do well in locations where they can receive plenty of full sunlight to partial shade. However, they can also withstand a significant amount of shade, especially during the hot and dry summer months. If you are the lucky owner of variegated specimens, you should keep them under some part sun to part shade exposure.

In terms of temperatures, Euonymus plants grow at their best in all climate conditions found in the USDA zones 4 to 9. In regions with harsh winters, these plants may suffer a bit from ice and temperature fluctuations. Yet, they will recover so easily that you will probably forget all about this unfortunate scenario. If you still want to minimize winter damage, you can wrap your beloved plants in burlap in autumn.

While all Euonymus species are tough plants, some intruders like scale insects, aphids, or mealybugs may bother them once in a while. These pests usually feed on their leaves and damage them, so it will be pretty simple to spot this issue. If you notice any curious presence on your Euonymus plants, you can treat them weekly with neem oil until you get rid of the pests.

Gold Splash Wintercreeper (Euonymus) Live Evergreen Shrub, From Amazon

Planting Euonymus Plants

When it comes to the growing medium, Euonymus plants will tolerate many different soil conditions. In general, they have the time of their life in almost any type of soil as long as it also comes with good drainage. If soil pH is among the things that concern you, make sure you plant them in substrates that are more on the alkaline side.

Like most species with insignificant flowers, Euonymus plants do not need frequent fertilizing to show the best results. However, if you are growing these plants in poor soil, you might want to give them some extra attention. Feed your plants with a small amount of an all-purpose fertilizer once every year in autumn. Keep in mind that you should apply the product only over the root zone without touching the rest of the plants.

Because Euonymus plants grow and spread like crazy, pruning will be your best solution to control their temper or keep them in the desired shape. If you want to change their overall look, you must do it right after their blooming period has ended. They also have a tendency to become invasive, so we suggest you remove the offshoots that show up from their branches or root balls.

Watering Euonymus Plants

Euonymus plants will require your constant attention only until they settle in their new environment. During their first year after planting, make sure you provide your companions with plenty of water. Once established or mature, they become fairly tolerant of drought for somewhat long periods.

How often you will have to water your Euonymus plants depends on the climate and season. In general, they do just fine if you water them whenever the top 3 inches (8 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch.

In regions with regular rainfalls, you can skip watering for good. Moreover, if you live in a zone with harsh winters, you can prevent common winter problems. Remember to give your Euonymus plants a nice dring in the autumn, just before the ground begins to freeze.

Propagating Euonymus Plants

It’s propagation time, so let all your fears behind and grab your favourite gardening tools! Euonymus plants are very easy to grow, look gorgeous, and bring all-year-round interest. What more reasons could you possibly need to want more of these fellows around? Now, when we are talking about Euonymus plants, using semi-hardwood cuttings is surely one of the friendliest methods of propagation.

Euonymus fort Emerald 'n' Gold
Euonymus fort Emerald ‘n’ Gold

First things first, you must find the perfect moment to propagate your Euonymus plants. In general, they respond best to this process in late summer or early fall. Look for healthy semi-hardwood branches and cut about 8 to 12 inches (20-30) off them using a sharp, sterilized knife. Make sure you cut just below the growth nodes to maximize your chances of success. After this step, cut the branches into sections of 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) long, then remove the leaves from the lower half of each one.

Fill a seedling container with a moistened mixture of peat moss with perlite or coarse sand. Plant the end of each Euonymus cuttings into the mixture, then cover the pot with a plastic bag to provide them with proper humidity levels. Place the container in a warm, well-lit location and remove the plastic bag periodically to check for root growth.

After six to eight weeks, when the roots are about one inch (2.5 cm) long, you can get rid of the plastic bag. Provide your tiny Euonymus plants with water whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. When the last danger of frost has passed, you can transplant them in the garden and care for them as usual.

In Conclusion

If your garden needs more attractive members, Euonymus plants are exactly what you are looking for! Their eye-catching foliage is one of a kind, bringing interest throughout the year with little to no effort on your part. Basically, with minimal care, you will have a loyal friend around for a very long time!

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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