How to Grow and Care for Emerald Gaiety Wintercreeper

'Emerald Gaiety' upright shrub with white and green leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Emerald gaiety (Euonymus fortunei) is a cultivar, a broadleaf evergreen shrub also commonly called wintercreeper euonymus. Emerald gaiety is a tough plant that tolerates drought conditions and the pollution of urban settings. Classified as a shrub or bush, it forms a mounding shape with sprawling, upright branches with small red berries and blue-green leaves with white margins and serrated edges that are variegated when grown in partial shade. The leaves may take on a tinge of pink in the fall and winter. 

Plant new emerald gaiety shrubs in the spring after the threat of frost. This shrub has a slow growth rate, growing about 1 to 2 inches per year until reaching a mature height of about 5 feet and equally as wide. This plant is toxic to both humans and animals, as are most plants in the Euonymus genus. Emerald gaiety can also be invasive in the eastern United States.

Common Name Emerald gaiety wintercreeper, emerald gaiety euonymus, wintercreeper euonymus, spindle tree
Botanical Name Euonymus fortunei
Family Celastraceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 3-5 ft. tall, 3-6 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Moist but well-drained
Soil pH Alkaline
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Green, white
Hardiness Zones 5-8 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
Toxicity Toxic to humans and animals

Emerald Gaiety Wintercreeper Care

Grow this shrub in full sun to partial shade. The other members of this species that display green and gold or yellow variegated leaves tend to have their best color when grown in full sun, but the color variegation is better on emerald gaiety when it receives a bit of shade.​

Long stems easily root themselves where they touch the ground, so be on alert to remove these if you don't want the shrub to spread.

Emerald gaiety can be planted as a screen or informal hedge if kept trimmed. But it can also be grown as a vine or ground cover if you allow it to grow unchecked. As a ground cover, it is planted en masse and allowed to gradually take over a space through drooping branches that take root where they touch the ground. To grow it as a vine, you will need to provide support and be prepared to train the branches and tie them up with twine or tape.


Emerald gaiety belongs to the Chinese staff-tree family, and it can be invasive in the eastern United States.

'Emerald Gaiety' shrub branch with white and green leaves on ground

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

'Emerald Gaiety' shrub branches along wooden wall with white and green leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

'Emerald Gaiety' shrub vines and branches on wooden fence

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


Variegated forms of euonymus such as emerald gaiety prefer part sun and part shade conditions.


This plant prefers average, well-drained soil that is somewhat on the alkaline side. It does not do well in wet soil.


Euonymus plants need plenty of water as they are establishing, but once mature, they have a good tolerance for drought conditions. A brief rainfall or watering every few weeks is all that's required for mature plants.

Temperature and Humidity

All forms of Euonymus fortunei have a good tolerance for all temperature and humidity variations found throughout their hardiness range. Ice can sometimes cause damage in winter, but the plants easily recover.


Emerald gaiety generally thrives without any feeding at all. In poor soils, a fall application of fertilizer over the root zone might help the plant's vigor.

Types of Wintercreeper

Consider these cultivars of Euonymus fortunei which have many of the same virtues as emerald gaiety wintercreeper:

  • E. fortunei 'Emerald 'n' Gold' grows 1 to 2 feet tall with a 2 to 4-foot spread; it has green leaves edged in yellow.
  • Euonymus fortunei 'Colorado' is a pure groundcover, growing to only 9 inches tall with a spread of 1 to 2 feet. The solid green leaves turn purple in the fall.


Remove stems that revert to all-green leaves. To shape this plant, do so immediately after the plant blooms in late spring.

Propagating Emerald Gaiety Wintercreeper

Emerald gaiety is easily propagated with semi-hardwood cuttings. Here's how:

  1. In late summer or early fall, take an 8- to 12-inch-long cutting that contains both leaves and a portion of hardwood stem. Cut just below a growth node.
  2. Cut the stem into 3- to 4-inch lengths and pull the leaves off the lower half of each segment.
  3. Embed the end of each cutting into a seedling container containing a moistened mixture of peat moss and coarse sand or perlite.
  4. Cover the pot with a plastic bag to create a mini-greenhouse, and place it in a spot with bright, indirect light. Periodically remove the pot and check for root growth by probing the soil with a knife.
  5. When the roots are about 1 inch long (this generally takes about six to eight weeks) remove the pot from the plastic bag and continue growing in bright direct light.
  6. Keep the soil lightly moistened through the winter.
  7. Plant the specimen in the garden the next spring when the danger of frost has passed.


As an evergreen, this shrub holds some potential for visual interest in winter. But if you live in a region that can receive heavy snowfalls, you will want to train it to grow up a support or trellis which can raise it above snow level.

Common Pests

Euonymus plants are very susceptible to scale insects. Treatment takes place only when the scale insect eggs hatch in April and May into first instar nymphs called crawlers. A second generation of crawlers is produced from late July through August. Spraying crawlers with organic insecticidal soap, like neem oil, can be effective in controlling scale insect infestations.

Common Problems with Emerald Gaiety Wintercreeper

As with any variegated shrub, you will need to be on alert for reversion, or new branches with solid green leaves with no sign of variegation. These shoots should be pruned off as soon they appear. Otherwise, the entire plant can revert to all-green foliage and lose its distinctive creamy white variegation.

Emerald gaiety euonymus is a tough plant, and the main challenge is to control its spread. For example, the Missouri Botanical Garden recommends against using this plant in landscaping due to its invasive behavior in that region. To control the plant, remove offshoots that root themselves from branches that touch the ground, as well as shoots spreading out from the root ball.

  • How tall does emerald gaiety wintercreeper get?

    If trained to climb, this vigorous shrub can grow up to about 5 feet tall.

  • How fast does emerald gaiety wintercreeper grow?

    This wintercreeper is slow-going and grows about 1 to 4 inches per year.

  • Does emerald gaiety wintercreeper stay green in the winter?

    This evergreen plant holds its green and white color during the winter.

  • Does emerald gaiety wintercreeper have flowers?

    This shrub does grow small and insignificant white and green flowers, but it is most appreciated for its striking foliage.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Euonymus fortunei var. radicans. North Carolina State Extension.

  2. Spindle tree. ASPCA.

  3. Euonymus Fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety'. Missouri Botanical Garden.

  4. Euonymus Scale. Missouri Botanical Garden.