Euonymus Plant (Wintercreeper) Profile

Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus) leaves

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If you're looking for an easy-to-grow shrub that can provide coverage, Euonymus plant might be just what you're looking for. The green-and-golden-leaved varieties provide a classic but colorful look for the garden. One of the most popular varieties of Euonymous is Wintercreeper, Euonymus fortunei. Eunonymous is an evergreen shrub that is part of the Celastraceae family and native to East Asia.

Wintercreeper's scientific name, forutnei, comes from plant explorer Robert Fortune, while its common name indicates that it will creep higher and higher as it grows. Wintercreeper can climb up to 66 feet as a juvenile plant, if it has support, creeping high enough into the crowns of surrounding trees to get more light. However, it stops creeping as an adult. Without support, the vines can grow to between 5 and 15 feet. It can also be grown as a shrub (up to about 2 feet tall) or as a ground cover (less than 1 foot tall).

  • Botanical Name: Euonymous fortunei
  • Common Name: Wintercreeper
  • Plant Type: Evergreen shrub
  • Mature Size: 2 to 4 feet tall (shrub), 2 to 6 inches tall (ground cover), 5 to 15 feet tall (vine)
  • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full sun
  • Soil Type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH: Alkaline
  • Bloom Time: Summer
  • Flower Color: Flowers typically are ornamentally insignificant and often not visible
  • Hardiness Zones: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • Native Area: China

How to Grow Euonymous Wintercreeper Plants

Wintercreeper is generally easy to grow and is tolerant of unfavorable conditions, such as poor soil, drought, and pollution, making it suitable for urban environments. However, because it's technically an invasive plant, it can spread into surrounding lawns and garden areas, as well as climb adjacent trees if it is not kept in check.

Light

Wintercreeper thrives in full sun to part shade, but it can tolerate a significant amount of shade.

Soil

Wintercreeper grows easily in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil. It prefers alkaline soil but will tolerate many different soil conditions, including compacted soil, various pH levels, and dry (drought) soil conditions. It does not do well in wet soil.

Water

Water Wintercreeper when the top 3 inches of soil are dry. If the plant is already established, it can also tolerate drought conditions. If you live in a cold-winter climate, you can help prevent common winter problems, such as desiccation, by watering the plants well in fall, before the ground freezes.

Temperature and Humidity

Wintercreeper does well in a range of temperature and humidity levels, including USDA planting zones 5 through 9. Some other varieties of Euonymous are very cold-hardy, while others do best at the warmer end of the scale. In areas with harsh winters, Wintercreeper can suffer some winter damage from ice and dramatic temperature fluctuations. Wrapping plants in burlap can help minimize damage. Fortunately, this resilient plant is very good at recovering from the effects of winter.

Fertilizer

As an evergreen shrub with insignificant flowers, Wintercreeper may need no fertilizer for general health. If desired, you can feed it once a year, in fall, using a small amount of fertilizer and keeping it at least 2 inches from the plant's trunk.

Varieties

There are three varieties of Wintercreepers:

  • Euonymus fortunei var. fortunei is native to China and Korea. This is the only variety that features the green-and-gold leaf pattern.
  • Euonymus fortunei var. radicans is native to Japan. This variety has plain green leaves.
  • Euonymus fortunei var. vegetus is native to northern Japan. Some experts say it's not distinct from var. radicans.

Additionally, there are three cultivars, though not all will offer the emerald-and-gold coloring that many gardeners desire:

  • Emerald Gaiety has green and white leaves.
  • Emerald 'n' Gold has green leaves with wide yellow margins.
  • Emerald Surprise has green foliage with smaller yellow margins.

Toxicity

Fortunei is considered to be a toxic plant, but is it poisonous only if it is consumed in large quantities, so there's no need to be too concerned.

Common Pests

One of the most common problems you may face with many types of Euonymous shrub is Euonymus scale, an armored insect that attacks the leaves and stems of infected plants. Treat for scale by pruning off infected branches and/or by applying a horticultural oil at the appropriate times of the growing season. In many areas, this is late May to early June and late July to early August, during the two hatches of the insect.

Comparing Wintercreeper to Japanese Euonymous

A similar species to Wintercreeper is the Japanese Euonymous (Euonymous japonicus), which is native to Japan, Korea, and China. Like the Wintercreeper, it's an evergreen shrub that grows to be around 10 to 15 feet tall when grown as a vine. However, Japanese Euonymous is most commonly used as a hedge plant, growing 6 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide in its natural form. It has hardy, leathery foliage and dense growth, making it a good choice for a topiary plant.

There is a green and yellow cultivar of Japanese Euonymous, known as Bravo, while other cultivars—Albomarginatus, Latifolius Albomarginatus, and President Gauthier—have green and white leaves. There is also a dwarf variety, microphyllus, that's about 2 to 3 feet high and is often used for edging.