Euonymus is a family of evergreen or deciduous small trees and shrubs that grow wild in Asia, Europe, North America, Central America, Australia and Madagascar. Euonymus enthusiasts plant them for their showy foliage and attractive fruit, according to John C. Zasada and Paul O. Rudolf from the United States Forest Service. They work well as hedges, screens, borders and specimen plants, among other uses.
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Types of Euonymus
Euonymus alata grows approximately 8 feet tall but can reach heights up to 20 feet with an approximately equal spread. It has dark green, oval, slightly serrated leaves that turn bright red during the winter, and it produces yellowish-green blossoms during the summer. Euonymus japonicus is a 10- to 15-foot shrub with thick evergreen foliage. Euonymus fortunei or wintercreeper Euonymus is a ground cover variety that grows approximately 4 to 6 inches high, with a 40- to 70-foot spread and dark green foliage. Many other types of Euonymus plants are also commercially available.
Several Euonymus alata cultivars include Monstrosa, a variety that has large, corky, winglike attachments that grow from its branches; Compacta, which has compact form; and Gracilis, which has dense, heavy foliage. Euonymus fortunei is available in many cultivars such as Gold Spot, which produces foliage with dark-gold centre spots in the middle of each leaf, and Emerald n' Gold, which has deep green, shiny leaves and yellow margins. Some of the Euonymus japonicus cultivars are Microphyllus area, which has small, narrow leaves, and Microphyllus variegatus, which has small, dark-green leaves surrounded by white margins.
Caring for Euonymus
Euonymus plants vary in their cultivation requirements depending on the species. Euonymus alata, japonicus and fortunei plants can grow in full sunlight or partial shade. They generally prefer well-drained soil, but most plants can tolerate a variety of different soil types. Euonymus fortunei is hardy in United States Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 5 through 9, while Euonymus japonicus is hardy in zones 8b through 10. Japonicus has a high tolerance for heat but can quickly suffer from cold damage.
Benefits and Liabilities
Euonymus plants are generally easy to transplant and grow easily as long as you plant them in well-drained soil. They have a moderate to fast growth rate and can tolerate heavy pruning. Euonymus alata twigs become brittle and break easily during periods of inclement weather. Most Euonymus species are susceptible to anthracnose infections that create unsightly spots on the foliage, as well as bacterial crown gall, a disease that creates abnormal growths on the stems and foliage. Euonymus scale insects damage the foliage and can cause plant death.
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- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Euonymus; Marjan Kluepfel and Bob Polomski; May 1999
- United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service: Euonymus; John C. Zasada and Paul O. Rudulf
- Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County: Winged Euonymus
- North Carolina State University: Select Euonymus fortunei Cultivars
- North Carolina State University: Select Euonymus japonicus Cultivars
- Central Maryland Research and Education Center; Winter Creeper; Thomas M. Blessington et al