Euonymus - Growing Guide

Growing Euonymum

Spindle tree

Euonymus, as a genus, are all completely hardy plants but different species have very different habits and very different uses in the garden. Here we have divided them into three categories; those which are mound forming evergreen ornamental groundcover shrubs with very colourful foliage and suitable for shrub or herbaceous borders (even as climbers or wall shrubs in some cases), those which are suitable for hedging, and those which are free standing ornamental shrubs in the woodland garden with impressive autumn colouration or spectacular ‘spindle’ berries.

Euonymus flowers tend to be fairly nondescript and unexciting but, in autumn, they all produce winged, lobed or spherical ornamental fruits in a range of colours. These fruits split to reveal the seeds which can be sown in containers in the cold frame as soon as they are ripe and nearly shedding in autumn. Deciduous and lower growing E. fortunei cultivars species can generally be propagated from greenwood cuttings while other evergreen species and varieties are best taken later from semi-ripe wood.

Ornamental groundcover shrubs – E. fortunei cultivars

These grow best in full sun and are quite happy in poor soils. If grown near a wall or a fence these mound forming shrubs will adapt and begin to climb the surface forming long tendril shoots and aerial roots as they do so. They can even begin to climb through other shrubs but are best used as simple spreading groundcover on a bank or slope to reduce weed growth. These plants are often used in bulk to brighten up otherwise dull car park plantings and are pretty indestructible.

‘Emerald Gaity’ – is a compact and bushy form with light green leaves and white margins that are tinged pink in winter.

‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ – this is a bushy variety with broad yellow margins to its green leaves which also have a pink tinge in winter.

‘Gold Harlequin’ has colourful irregular variegated leaves marbled lime-green, yellow, and pale green.

‘Harlequin’ has silver variegated and mottled foliage and white new growth.

‘Silver Queen’ is variegated green and white and can develop into a vigorous climber.

Euonymus  'Silver Queen' click for larger image
Euonymus 'Silver Queen'

‘Sunspot’ is an excellent groundcover plant with gold splashes on its dark green leaves.

‘Woolong Ghost’ is not a shrub but, instead, a vigorous climbing variety. The white veining in its dark green leaves disappears when it gets going up a tree. It can readily get up to 20ft plus in height in time but needs some support and help to get going

Hedging euonymus – E. japonicus and E. microphyllus varieties

E. japonicus (Japanese spindle) is a dense, erect and bushy evergreen shrub which can grow to 10-12ft. It is very resilient in the face of winds and salt spray and is often therefore clipped and formed into a 4-5ft hedge in coastal gardens.

E. japonicus ‘Aureus’ has the occasional or more regular gold splash within its green leaves. The odd plant in a green hedge can have a pleasing impact but it can revert or produce odd completely yellow foliaged branches.

E. japonicus ‘Aureus’   click for larger image
E. japonicus ‘Aureus’

E. japonicus ‘Kathy’ is similar but with white splashes and margins.

E. microphyllus varieties with silver or golden foliage have a totally different hedging potential although they do also make attractive small freestanding plants on their own in borders. E. microphyllus varieties have a very upright habit but only grow to around 3ft. They therefore make an ornamental edge to a more formal border in the same way (or, currently, as a welcome alternative) to low box hedging.

Ornamental shrub species of euonymus

E. alatus, the Winged spindle from China, grows to around 6ft in height with a wider spread. This is a bushy shrub with dense branching and ‘corky’ bark. It comes into its own in the autumn at Burncoose on the drive where it puts on the most marvellous dark red leaf display which can hold for several weeks in calmer weather.

Euonymus  alatus click for larger image
Euonymus alatus

E. europaeus ‘Red Cascade’ is quite similar in appearance to E. elatus but grows about twice the size and has more pendant shoots. The fruit capsules are a rich rosy red and the leaves turn a rich scarlet.

  E. europaeus ‘Red Cascade’ click for larger image
E. europaeus ‘Red Cascade’

E. grandiflorus ‘Ruby Wine’ is deciduous and has large yellowish flowers and standout pink seed capsules as you can see in the photographs below taken in late November in the nursery.

E. grandiflorus ‘Ruby Wine’   click for larger image
E. grandiflorus ‘Ruby Wine’

E. hamiltonianus ‘Coral Charm’ is semi-deciduous and also has pink capsules. Its autumn colouration is yellow. This small tree can grow to 20ft.

E. phellomanus has ‘corky’ winged stems and gorgeous autumn colour. It grows into a large shrub of 10-12ft and has pink fruit capsules containing orange seeds.

E. planipes is an upright deciduous shrub growing to around 10ft in height with scarlet fruits and outstanding autumn colours.

E. lucidus, which grows so well as an evergreen hedge at Caerhays, is actually a 30ft tall evergreen tree with exceptional crimson new growth fading to a coppery colour, then green.

Euonymus  lucidus click for larger image
Euonymus lucidus

The variation in this genus is so considerable that this may not have done all the species and varieties proper justice! However there are a number of other new species which we are trying out in the gardens which will, hopefully and in time, be added to the website listings for this exceptional range of plants.

These include:

E. tingens which is also a large semi-evergreen and spreading tree in maturity at Caerhays with pink tinged flowers in summer and pink fruit capsules.

E. tonkinensis & E. morrisonensis 

Euonymus morrisonensis  click for larger image
Euonymus morrisonensis
Euonymus  tingens click for larger image
Euonymus tingens
Euonymus tonkinensis  click for larger image
Euonymus tonkinensis
Euonymus  albomarginatus click for larger image
Euonymus albomarginatus


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