Plants - Perennials

Grow it: Euonymus

Anne Marie Van Nest
Photography by
Roger Yip

Four cultivars to try

Top pick: purple-leaf wintercreeper (shown above)

Euonymus are reliable plants that may be grown as groundcovers, shrubs or vines. Most of these broadleaf evergreens tolerate urban conditions and look good year-round, keeping their leaves throughout winter in milder parts of Canada. My favourite is purple-leaf wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’), which makes a great groundcover. It spreads horizontally, rooting where its stems touch the soil, to form a low, dense mat that’s ideal for stabilizing sunny or shady banks. Once colder weather comes, purple-leaf wintercreeper’s lustrous, green leaves turn a magnificent maroon (especially vivid on plants grown in full sun) that persist throughout winter. Young plants will reach 45 centimetres in height, but mature plants may develop into small, woody shrubs, sometimes with greenish white blooms that ripen into creamy capsules with orange seeds. And, if this plant finds a substantial post, wall or tree to climb, it will behave like a woody vine.

This tough garden workhorse is tolerant of many soils and levels of moisture (except waterlogged conditions), and can survive short periods of drought. Watch for euonymus scale (white to whitish grey, armour-bodied insects the size of coarse ground pepper). Spray with dormant oil in late winter, if present. Rejuvenate older, sparse or overgrown plants by pruning back in spring. Zone 3.

What can you do with euonymus?


More great cultivars to try: 

‘Timber Creek’ Chicago Fire burning bush

Euonymus alatus ‘Timber Creek’
Height: 3 m
Spread: 2.5 m
Location: full sun to part shade
Cultivation: tolerant of many soils (except waterlogged)
Foliage: deciduous, dark green with red tints on new growth;
crimson to dark red fall colour in full sun
Fruit: abundant, orange-red capsules and seeds persist into winter Zone: 4

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