What is Euonymus?

K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning
Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

The euonymus, also known as the spindle or spindle tree, is a flowering genus of more than 200 species. It comes in many forms, including evergreen or deciduous shrubs, trees, creepers, and vines. The highly decorative euonymus is a popular landscaping plant. Its flowers usually come in subdued shades of green and yellow, while the leaves can range from light green to bright pink. A euonymus can also have red-pink berries that cluster together in groups of four or five.

Though it is native to the area from East Asia to the Himalayas, the euonymus can be found in nearly every continent, including North America, Europe, Africa and Australia. For this reason, the euonymus is widely available in nurseries all over the world. It is most common in China, where there are over one hundred varieties of the plant.

While it can survive in a variety of climates, including frigid temperatures, the euonymus flourishes in warm subtropical regions. The plant grows well along riverbanks, on hillsides and in forests. It can also often be found growing alongside ditches.

The fast-growing euonymus is popular in landscaping because it comes in a diverse array of leaf shapes and colors. As evidenced by their widespread presence in the wild, they are also extremely durable and low maintenance. They thrive in the sun, but also do well in shady areas. Euonymus plants can also survive in a wide variety of soils.

Most shrub varieties of euonymus are trimmed so that they remain compact and close to the ground. The small tree varieties are either planted in the ground or in large pots. There are also several vine varieties of euonymus which are used as ground cover.

There are several diseases that commonly affect the euonymus. Powdery mildew and scab are fungi that invade the leaves of the plant. Cercospora leaf spot and anthracnose cause brown spots which can spread across an entire leaf or even the twigs of the plant. The incurable crown gall originates in the soil and invades the stems and roots of the euonymus via round growths called galls.

Though the euonymus is used primarily in landscaping today, it has served other purposes in the past. The stems and leaves of the plant have been used in medicines, though other parts, such as the berries, are poisonous to humans. It also came to be known as the spindle tree because the wood was often used to build spindles for spinning thread.

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