This neatly clipped winged euonymous hedge in Northern Kentucky is just beginning to assume it bright fall color.
Handsome in new spring growth and spectacular in its vivid red fall foliage, winged euonymus is positively striking in winter when the corky "wings" that decorate the leafless stems hold lines of fresh fallen snow. Reaching a height of 15-20 ft (4.6-6.1 m) and spreading 6-10 ft (1.8-3 m) across, winged euonymus is a dense and bushy, many branched shrub. The deciduous leaves grow to 3 in (7.6 cm) long and are borne in opposing pairs along the green, winged stems. The late spring yellowish green flowers are small and borne in rather inconspicuous clusters. They give rise to purplish red capsules that split open to reveal little orange-red seeds that are themselves ornamental, especially if still present after the leaves have fallen.
The variety apterus has stems that lack the corky wings. The cultivar 'Compactus' is smaller, to 6-10 ft (1.8-3 m) tall. 'Monstrosa' is very vigorous and has larger stem wings.
Winged euonymus is native to China, Japan and Korea.
Winged euonymus is a rather slow growing shrub and, with a little pruning, can be kept at a much smaller size than its potential maximum. Like other spindletrees, winged euonymus is tolerant of alkaline and limey soils.
Light: Winged euonymus thrives in full sun to almost full shade. It seems to do best in partial shade and will require more frequent watering if grown in full sun. Moisture: Winged euonymus likes a well drained soil, but should be watered during dry spells. It does best with a good organic mulch cover over the root zone. It does not tolerate heavy, wet soils. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Propagation: Winged euonymus can be grown from seed, but these must first be stratified for 1-3 months in a cold, moist medium. Greenwood cuttings can be rooted in spring or summer.
The more exposed leaves of the winged euonymous are exposed to frost and change to the shrub's signature blazing red earlier than protected green leaves (a nice effect, don't you think?).
Winged euonymus is used in the landscape for its brilliant fall color and winter architectural form and texture. This is considered one of the most dependable shrubs for fall color, even in warm climates. (The intense bright red foliage may actually be too brilliant for some landscapes!) The interesting corky wings along the spreading branches are most visible in winter, and the bush is very showy when the wings catch and hold the snow. Grow winged euonymus in a shady woodland garden, use in a mixed shrub border, or grow as a specimen where its fall and winter characteristics can be admired. Winged euonymus tolerates shearing well, and is often used as a closely clipped formal hedge, especially the cultivar 'Compactus'.
There are about 170 species of Euonymus (say, "you ON a mus") all native to the Northern Hemisphere, with most occurring in Asia. American strawberry-bush or "hearts-a-burstin-with-love" (E. americanus) is a pretty little green-stemmed shrub with engaging fruit capsules that burst open to display bright scarlet seeds. Wintercreeper (E. fortunei), a handsome evergreen vinelike shrub, has found many uses in the landscape.
Winged euonymous has escaped cultivation and established reproducing populations in shady woodlands in the northern U.S., occasionally becoming a dominant shrub in its new home. Check locally before planting to confirm that this shrub is not invasive in your area.