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Growing a Burning Bush

With its stunning autumn foliage and tolerance for neglect, Burning Bush (Euonymus) makes a wonderful ornamental addition to nearly any yard or garden. Here are some tips for growing and caring for burning bush in your landscape.

Beware of the Giant "Dwarf"

Plants labeled 'dwarf" or "compact" are usually assumed to be smaller versions of the same species. It's no wonder then, that many gardeners end up surprised by the irony associated with the name Euonymus alata "Compactus", a.k.a. "Dwarf Burning Bush". Capable of reaching a mature height and spread of 10 feet by 10 feet, the shrub is not exactly "dwarf" in size. Its namesake, "Dwarf", actually refers to the fact that the corky ridges found on its bark are much smaller and less distinctive than they are on the Euonymus species form. Good information to have before planting a row of them under your picture window.
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Care and Feeding

Winged Burning Bush is easy to care for and considered essentially maintenance-free, at least until they outgrow their space. It is this ability to thrive in less-than-ideal conditions and subsequent tolerance for abuse (and pollution) that makes them such popular choices for the urban landscape.

Burning bush prefer to grow in a sunny spot, and in soil that is moist (not wet) and slightly acidic. Fortunately, they also adapt to partial shade, poor soil, dry soil, and the wrong pH, although each of these elements may adversely affect their fall color display.

Things to consider:

To Prune or Not to Prune?

The answer as to whether or not you should prune your burning bush depends entirely on your individual situation. Healthy growth does not depend on regular pruning, so in most cases, your shrubs will look best if left alone. However, when you need to control their size and shape (and eventually you will), pruning will become necessary.

Options:

Fast Facts

Dwarf-winged Burning Bush (Euonymus alata "Compactus")

Exposure: Sun/partial shade.

Soil: Not super fussy, but does need ample drainage.

Form: Shrub-like; starts with an upright growth habit becoming more rounded with age.

Foliage/bark: 1 to 3-inch long narrow leaves, finely serrated; medium to dark green in summer and turning flaming red (full sun) to pale pink (shade) in the fall. The bark has visible corky ridges on the regular-sized species, but is smaller and less distinctive on the so-named "dwarf" variety.

Flower/fruit: Inconspicuous flowers in late spring/early summer; produces tiny red-orange fruits in the fall that are attractive to wildlife.

Height/spread: Will slowly grow to 8 to 10 feet tall with a spread as wide ("Compactus"); other varieties may be much taller. Euonymus alatus 'Rudy Haag' is shorter - typically reaching 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide.

Growth rate: Slow to moderate.

Hardiness: Most varieties are hardy to zone 4.

Invasive In Some Areas

Winged burning bush is native to northeastern Asia and was first introduced in North America as an ornamental plant in the 1860s. Although still considered a popular landscaping shrub, it is considered invasive in certain parts of the United States - especially in some Northeast states and New England.

Winged burning bush can invade a variety of disturbed habitats including forest edges, fields, and roadways. Once established, it can form a dense stand that chokes out native vegetation. Before planting burning bush, check the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States to see if it is considered a threat in your area.

http://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/subject.html?sub=3023#maps

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29 Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

May 7, 2012

My burning bush has small, completely black bugs, that have not moved yet. I found them on end of new growth, under leaves, and on the stem, in clusters. They are making the leaves roll and turn towards the inside. I have never seen this before. I have not introduced anything new in 3 years.

By Ellen B

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May 20, 20120 found this helpful

I'm having the same problem. They look like aphids, only black. Lady bugs seem to be eating them, but there's not enough lady bugs to really make a difference. I've been making a spray of 2 Tbsp. dish soap, 2 tbs veg oil in a spray bottle of water. Then blast them with it. On alternate days I just knock them off the plant with the force of the water from the hose. Seems to be helping, but I notice the ends of the plants are dying where they were.
And I had just gotten these plants looking good after a couple winter's ago when the rabbits completely girdled them.

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August 20, 2016

I planted a burning bush plant. While planting it all hair roots were torn off. 6 months later it is not dead, but looks exactly as we planted it.

It has not grown at all. Should we wait or replace it? Thank you.

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February 27, 20170 found this helpful

Do you have it getting the proper amount of sun/shade/water? Try giving it some fertilizer.

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January 31, 2011

I don't know my gardening zone, but I want to know if a burning bush will grow where I live? Sometimes it is very windy. Also where can I buy the plant? Thank you.

By jayne brooks from Mulege, Baja Sur, Mexico

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

Here is a link to determine your gardening zone. I am not certain if you can grow one in Mexico or not but you can ask at a nursery or find out on one of the nurseries online. Just google nurseries and I am sure you can find out.
www.usna.usda.gov/.../ushzmap.html

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February 2, 20110 found this helpful

I live in Wisconsin, and my bush only turns red in the fall, right before it goes dormant.

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April 17, 2010

I was wondering if you can get a start off a burning bush, plant it, and it will grow?

Hardiness Zone: 6a

By shelly from Patricksburg, IN

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April 17, 20100 found this helpful

Burning Bush Cutting Progress (Euonymus alata)

This fall I took a scraggly looking branch off a little burning bush I had. The botanical name is Euonymous alata. These bushes are green during most of the growing season but turn fiery red in the fall before they lose their leaves. It is for this reason that people plant them. Yesterday I checked the cutting's progress.

I wasn't really expecting anything so the resistance I felt when I tugged gently at the cutting was surprising. I very pleased when I extracted the cutting and several tiny little roots were revealed. You can see the little roots on the right side of the picture.

Starting the cutting was pretty simple. I found a nice looking section of stem about 5 inches long. I cut it below a node, dipped it in water and applied powdered rooting hormone. When you dip the cutting in water it allows the powder to stick better. Then I put it in a container with sand and made sure to keep the sand moist. I will leave the cutting in the sand for a couple more weeks then pot it up. I'm keeping it in the garage to avoid frost damage on the tender little guy. Good luck.

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May 19, 20100 found this helpful

I'm not sure about the rooting of the burning bush, but a lot of folks don't know that the burning bush drops seeds readily each year and a good friend might be more than willing to give you all the starts you need. I don't mulch under my bushes, so that may be helpful to know. They drop seeds under the mother plant and they come up everywhere like crazy.

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October 22, 2009

What kind of food should I use on my Burning Bush?

Hardiness Zone: 7a

By leah0860 from Morganville, NJ

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October 23, 20090 found this helpful

I spread some mulch under my buring bushes a few years ago. Other than that I leave mine alone. Right now they are a brillant red.

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October 23, 20090 found this helpful

They don't require a lot of care. An organic mulch is really all they need because the mulch will break down over the years and improve the soil. If they were doing poorly this year, an inch of compost around them will help feed them without stressing them.

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March 21, 2019

I received some bare root burning bush hedge plants, about 25 of them. I planted them in the fall last year, in October. When I first received them from gardendirect.com and planted them they started showing leaves and signs of growth after just a couple weeks. Then as winter came they lost all the leaves and the stems went from green to red.

Now it is near the end of March and they are not showing any signs of growth however if I scratch the stem it is still showing green under the bark. Am I just being impatient or should they be out of dormancy by now? I live in northern California.

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October 6, 2018

I have a small courtyard that gets tons of sun. I'm planning on planting a dwarf burning bush that I plan to diligently maintain in small tree form (5-6' H 4-5' W). Is there a chance the root system could damage an adjacent concrete patio as the bush gets older?

Even if I maintain the size, is there any chance it can outgrow the space? Thanks!

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October 7, 20180 found this helpful

I dont think it will be an issue with either roots or the space

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October 1, 2015

It is October 1st in Wichita Kansas; can I still plant a burning bush?


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October 23, 20170 found this helpful

Fall is the perfect time to plant. Plant the burning bush in full sun.

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September 10, 2012

Can I trim a burning bush after the leaves fall and before winter sets in? We live in New York state.

By Janet M.

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September 10, 20120 found this helpful

This page has some information about pruning.
www.thriftyfun.com/tf52138569.tip.html

Generally, I believe early spring and later winter are good times to do heavy pruning. Light trimming can be done just about any time.

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November 8, 2010

What is the proper time to prune a burning bush?

Hardiness Zone: 7a

By Earline from Henderson, NC

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November 12, 20100 found this helpful

I have several burning bushes and I prune them whenever I think of it, Any time I have my pruners in my hands maybe pruning something else. They have always done fine. I don't think you could kill them if you tried.

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March 14, 2010

I just noticed that the rabbits did quite a number on all my burning bushes this winter. They have pruned them down quite a bit. Will this affect their growth this summer? Or doesn't it matter?

Hardiness Zone: 5b

By Vicki from Hannibal, NY

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March 14, 20100 found this helpful

If the trimming was mainly on the ends of branches towards middle, bush will probably be fuller. If they took off whole branches in uneven manner, hard to say. Pruning often encourages growth.

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June 15, 2006
Q: I have a bug problem and no idea what they are. I have a Burning Bush, now 3 years old. I found what looks like black aphid looking bugs. They are very sticky and the black ants are all over where they are. The growth that they are on looks wilted. I have cut off all the bad parts but they come back. I am looking for a natural way to rid of them because the bush is near our garlic. Does anyone know what these are, the cause of them, how to rid of them?

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Thank you,
Countrygal from New Castle, PA

A: Countrygal,

It sounds like you have a classic case of aphids. The sticky substance you're referring to is called honeydew and is secreted by the feeding aphids. Ants just love to feed on honeydew, hence the sudden explosion of ants around your bushes. Some species of ants will actually "farm" aphids-caring for them and protecting them so that the ants have access to a constant supply of honeydew.

Give the leaves a good forceful spray (within reason) with the garden hose. This will knock off most of the aphids. To get rid of the remaining pests, mix 1 finely chopped onion, 1 large clove of finely chopped garlic, and 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap with 2 cups of water. Put this all in a blender on high and then strain out the solids using cheesecloth or the toe of an old pantyhose. Pour this into a hand-held sprayer and spray this all over your burning bush. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for several weeks and keep using it at the first sign of trouble.

Good luck!
Ellen

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May 12, 20060 found this helpful

Keep your eye on them--once the ants discover them, they may well take care of the problem! If not, mix up some mildly soapy water and spray that on the bushes, it should take care of them! (Luckily they're easy to get rid of!) Watch, though, that they don't invade other plants, or get on your roses.

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May 16, 2014

How can you start a new bush from the one you have?

By Jane

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