Euonymus or Wintercreeper Euonymus
(Celastraceae - Staff-Tree Family)
- usually a small-sized, broadleaf evergreen, ornamental shrub, maturing at 2' to 4' tall by 2' to 5' wide (depending upon cultivar)
- the cultivar 'Colorata' is a broadleaf semi-evergreen woody groundcover, to 1' tall when not near a supportive structure
- upright clump to spreading clump growth habit for shrubform cultivars, and a procumbent mat growth habit for the groundcover 'Colorata'
- medium growth rate for both forms, slowing with maturity unless frequently pruned
- full sun to partial shade (with the variegated forms performing best in partial sun to partial shade)
- prefers moist, well-drained soils in partial sun, but tolerates poor soils, various soil pHs, soil compaction, heat, drought, shearing, and pollution, and is therefore urban tolerant
- propagated primarily by rooted stem cuttings
- Staff-Tree Family, with Crown Gall being the primary cosmetic disease problem (rare occurence, with age) and Euonymus Scale being the primary cosmetic and life-threatening pest problem (common occurence with age, especially in mass plantings where it progressively spreads)
- shrub forms (primarily the variegated cultivars) are abundantly available in containers, while the groundcover form is commonly available in flats
- rejuvenation shearing in early Spring for the variegated shrub forms will keep their rapid growth in-bounds and result in more vibrant variegated foliage
- evergreen to semi-evergreen, medium to dark green leaves are moderately shiny, with virtually no petiole
- opposite, elliptical, and finely serrated to crenate on the margins,
ranging from 1" to 3" long, depending upon cultivar
- most cultivars are foliage-color variants that have white, cream, gold, or yellow variegation, usually at the leaf margin, but sometimes extending into the leaf interior or down the midrib
- fall color is variable, becoming distinctly red-purple-bronzed for the solid green-foliaged groundcover form 'Colorata', but having hues of dull gray-green or pink in addition to the persistent but faded variegation for the shrub forms, depending upon cultivar; leaves persist throughout Autumn and some may slowly abscise during Winter, especially on the groundcover form
- cream-yellow or lime-colored flowers bloom in June or July, but are usually not present or are ornamentally insignificant (except for some unpruned green-foliaged shrub cultivars, which can have a subtle but nice ornamental display)
- dehiscent capsules that expose the small orange seeds in Autumn are often ornamentally inconspicuous, if present at all
- usually medium green with a hint of corkiness, changing to tan with age, and either procumbent (for the groundcover form), or emerging from the much-branched base as relatively unbranched and vertical (for the shrub forms)
- stems, when placed next to a climbable structure (e.g. block or brick foundation, chain-link fence, tall wooden timbers, etc.) will clasp to it and take on a short clinging vine stature, irrespective of whether the plant is a shrub form or groundcover form of the species
- ID Summary
- opposite, elliptical, subtlely serrated broadleaf evergreen foliage is often found in variegated form on the shrubs, or green but heavily bronzing in Winter on the groundcover form
- foliage and stems form a dense canopy with maturity, but are eventually subject to attack by scales, miniature white or gray ellipsoid structures that have juice-sucking insects underneath an outer protective "scale"
- foundation, specimen, facer, low hedge, edging, or group or mass planting shrub
- mass planting groundcover (if 'Colorata')
- medium texture in foliage
- thick density in foliage
- many variegated shrub forms, and one prominently-used groundcover form
- evergreen to semi-evergreen broadleaf character, often either variegated (shrubs) or Winter-bronzing (groundcover)
- urban stress tolerant
- very prone to Euonymus Scale (often slowly lethal unless the insect infestation is treated with pesticides and/or dormant oil, and always unsightly as a white or gray "powder" on the stems and undersides of the foliage), with a secondary infection of gray mildew occuring in extreme cases
- both shrub and groundcover forms retain blown leaves due to the numerous low, upright stems and retentive foliage
- zones 5 to 9
- native to China
- evergreen groundcovers (Hedera helix, Liriope spicata, Lysimachia nummularia, Vinca minor, etc.) or broadleaf evergreen shrubs (Ilex glabra, Ilex x meserveae, Mahonia aquifolium, Rhododendron catawbiense, etc.)
- an abundance of cultivars exist, selected for growth habit or variegation; only the most common are noted below:
- Euonymus fortunei 'Colorata' - Purple Wintercreeper - probably
the most common broadleaf evergreen trailing groundcover after English Ivy (Hedera helix), becoming intensely burgandy-purple in Winter (bronzing), often found in raised planters, along sidewalks, or at foundations, where it may also partially climb walls as a clinging vine for several feet in height; otherwise growing to 1' high as a dense entangled groundcover mat; mulch upon transplanting the plugs to achieve weed control and to prevent freeze heaving of the shallowly rooted transplants during the ensuing Winter; several selections of this form are being sold under the same cultivar name in the nursery industry; also sometimes spelled 'Coloratus' or considered as the variety colorata or coloratus
- Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' - a shrub that slowly matures at 4' tall by 6' wide if unpruned, but often frequently sheared back to contain its vigorous vertical as well as spreading habit, with emerald leaves that have a white to creamy margin, having a few prostrate branches from which arise many vertical, unbranched stems; very popular
- Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald 'n Gold' - a shrub similar in all respects to 'Emerald Gaiety' except that it has emerald leaves surrounded by a striking gold to yellow leaf margin; also very popular
- Euonymus fortunei 'Green Lane' - a lustrous bright-green to dark-gren foliaged shrub form with slightly larger leaves, maturing at 4' tall by 6' wide, with showy July flowers that give rise to light pink fruits, which dehisce to expose interior orange seeds in Autumn; low availability
- Euonymus fortunei 'Sun Spot' - a shrub with a golden-yellow stripe down the midrib of each dark-green leaf, with new stems also being yellow, having a sprawling habit and slowly maturing to 3' tall by 6' wide
- Euonymus translates as "good name" (used ironically, since the genus
once had a bad reputation for poisoning cattle).
- fortunei is named for Robert Fortune, a botanist who collected plants
from 19th century China, including the famous Tea Plant (now classified as Camellia sinensis) that he introduced to India.
- Euonymus is a popular small broadleaf evergreen shrub with many variegated cultivars, or a bronzing semi-evergreen procumbent groundcover known as Purple Wintercreeper.
- Euonymus fortunei is a variable growth habit species (small shrub to groundcover form), usually found in variegated shrub form and utilized as a broadleaf evergreen accent for foundations, edgings, or group plantings.
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