Euonymus are popular and useful shrubs that are hardy, easy to grow, and can be used as ground cover, grown in pots, trained on supports and planted as a hedge. The majority of euonymus are evergreens with attractive glossy leaves in a range of colours and variegations, and these are especially good for winter interest. Deciduous euonymus have corky ‘winged’ stems, spring flowers, unusual and colourful autumn fruit, and leaves that develop beautiful autumn tints before falling. Our native spindle, Euonymus europeaus, is a fantastic shrub or small tree for the garden and attracts a wide variety of wildlife.
Choosing euonymus for your garden
Planting site and use of euonymus depends on their size and growth habit. Evergreens come in a variety of sizes, from spreading ground-covering forms to more vigorous and upright shrubs that grow to at least a couple of metres high. Low growing, spreading Euonymus fortunei varieties make excellent ground cover, either in groups or singly, and can also be trained up a wall, fence, or trellis to form short climbers. Euonymus japonicus varieties are good as single specimens in a border, in pots, or as hedges in a range of sizes – the smallest ones are ideal as dwarf hedges and are an excellent substitute for box (Buxus) which is now prone to box blight and box tree caterpillar. Euonymus can also be bought as standards to grow in pots or borders, and as mature plants trained on trellis panels. Deciduous euonymus vary in size – some stay as bushy shrubs a metre or two in height, while others slowly grow to several metres in height. Plant these in borders, individually or in small groups; as specimens in a lawn, or in a woodland border.
More on growing euonymus:
Where to grow euonymus
Euonymus are easy to grow in a wide range of situations and soils, thriving in all but the most extreme of conditions. Most evergreen varieties thrive in sun or shade. Those with young growth that is pure yellow or white should be sited in partial shade, as full sun can scorch new shoots and in shade the colouring is less pronounced. Deciduous euonymus do best in sun or part shade. Euonymus japonicus is tolerant of salt and makes a good hedge or screen in coastal gardens.
How to plant euonymus
Plant euonymous in any reasonable soil at any time of year as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged. However, autumn or spring are the ideal times to plant. If soil is poor, add organic matter such as compost or a proprietary soil conditioner to get plants off to a good start. For growing in pots, use a peat-free, multi-purpose potting compost with added loam. Plant with the soil level at the same depth as in the pot, firm well and water in. Mulch border plants annually and regularly water plants that are growing in pots.
Caring for euonymus
Euonymus are easy to grow and are trouble-free once established.
Long dry spells can cause evergreens to shed some leaves, which can be avoided with a thorough watering every 7-10 days.
Euonymus scale insect can occur, particularly on plants that have become stressed due to poor growing conditions. Ensure plants are healthy by planting into well-prepared soil, and mulch the soil around the roots annually with well-rotted garden compost or chipped bark.
When grown as a hedge, keep euonymus in shape by trimming 2-3 times a year, between May and late September.
Vigorous varieties of Euonymus japonicus that have become overgrown can be rejuvenated by hard pruning in April, thinning out several of the oldest branches back to near the base, cutting to where new growth is emerging.
How to propagate euonymus
Propagate evergreen varieties by cuttings, or layering shoots that are close to the ground. Take cuttings of the current year’s growth in mid to late summer. Low-growing varieties may layer themselves by rooting where stems touch the ground, or stems can be pegged down into the soil and detached after some months when roots have formed. Deciduous euonymus species can be grown from seed collected in autumn, although success rate can vary.
Advice on buying euonymus
- Euonymus are widely available in a range of sizes, either from nurseries and garden centres or from online suppliers
- Multi-packs of euonymus in 9cm pots are the smallest size available and are an economical way of planting for ground cover or to make a small hedge
- ‘Starter’ shrubs in 9 cm or 1-litre pots are another economical way to purchase plants. The ‘standard’ pot size for buying plants is 2 to 3 litres
- Larger, well-grown specimen sized plants are available in pot sizes of around 7.5 to 10 litres
- Ready-trained standards, or topiary plants, are available to buy, as are mature plants on trellis panels. The price tag for these is high due to the amount of time and care taken to grow them
Where to buy euonymous
Euonymus varieties to grow
Deciduous euonymus renowned for fiery red autumn leaf colour. Also gives good winter interest with three-sided, corky-textured stems.
Height x Spread: 2.5m x 2.5m
Our native spindle bush is compact, with mid-green leaves that turn red in autumn, complemented by beautiful orange and pink ‘winged’ fruits. Excellent for wildlife. The cultivar ‘Red Cascade’ is even showier.
H x S: 2m x 2m
Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’
Euonymus fortunei has small oval evergreen leaves in a wide range of different colour variegations and has a low-growing and spreading habit, ideal for ground cover and border edges. The fresh green leaves of ‘Silver Queen’ have beautiful silver-white margins.
H x S: 1m x 1.5m
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ has leaves with mid-green centres, variegated with white.
H x S: 1m x 1.5m
Euonymus fortunei ‘Harlequin’
‘Harlequin’ is a dwarf, evergreen euonymus with green leaves mottled and splashed with white, more so on new young shoots.
H x S: 50cm x 70cm
Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureomarginatus’
This variegated euonymus bears small, oval leaves with a green centre and edged with dark yellow. Narrow and upright in habit.
H x S: 1.5m x 1m
Euonymus japonicus ‘Macrophyllus Albovariegatus’
This is a compact and dense shrub, with yellow-green leaves and tiny, inconspicuous flowers in spring. Perfect for using as a low-growing hedge.
H x S: 1m x 60cm
Euonymus japonicus ‘Ovatus Aureus’
Euonymus japonicus ‘Ovatus Aureus’ is a showy green and gold variegated variety with large, oval to rounded glossy leaves.
H x S: 3m x 1.5m
Euonymus japonicus ‘Paloma Blanca’
This unusual variety has white-green new leaves, which contrast with older, dark green foliage, giving the shrub a two-tone look.
H x S: 2.5m x 1.5m
This large euonymus is evergreen with an upright habit. Stems are clothed in large, oval, glossy dark green leaves. Good for hedging and tolerant of salt winds, so perfect for coastal situations.
H x S: 4m x 1.8m