Euonymus True Evergreen Vines

In this decorative, useful group of plants are some true evergreen vines, hardy in even the coldest parts of the country if planted in suitable locations.

They creep or climb with rootlike holdfasts, and support themselves up brick or stone walls with ease. Some make luxuriant ground covers.

Some varieties display colorful foliage in the fall, others produce bittersweet-like fruits. Leaves may be two inches long, or less than a half inch. And there are some species and varieties, hardy and evergreen in mild climates, that will shape themselves into a bush or climb as a vine, according to where and how they’re planted.

The euonymus will accept any good garden soil and a considerable amount of shade. In fact, where winters are severe, it is important to plant them against a shaded or north-facing wall, so winter sun will not burn the leaves.

Euonymus fortunei evergreen vine

Scale A Problem

Unfortunately, the vining euonymus are especially subject to the euonymus scale, which is hard to control once it gets a foothold. It can get so thick it whitens the vine, the leaves drop, and the plant dies. Preventive annual spraying with dormant oil in spring, before growth starts, and with white oil in summer are helpful, but no sure guarantee. Do your best to get the spray behind the leaves, close to the wall. Check under the leaves regularly for signs of the whitish scales, and go into remedial action immediately, try organic neem as a natural pesticide.

Propagation is by seeds kept moist, dark, and chilled through the winter in a cold frame or similar setup; by stem cuttings of young growth or hardwood cuttings in fall; by layering or grafting; or simply by pulling off and transplanting any parts of stems that have rooted in soil.

Confusion Over Varieties

Don’t be surprised if you find some confusion and overlapping, when you comb catalogs and check suppliers on available varieties. What was once classified. as a species, radicans, has been discovered to be a variety of another species, fortunei, but may be listed under the old name.

Mature plants have a hedera-like tendency to sport, or produce branches with natural foliage and fruit variations, and actually turn into different varieties or forms. A number of named varieties are also available. This much is fact. E. obovatus, and Euonymus fortunei and its varieties, no matter how they are listed, are the vining or creeping types considered winter-hardy. The species japonicus and kiautschovica are for the South. For colorful fall fruits, select the fortunei varieties, carrierei or vegetus. There are some baby-leaved varieties, and some with variegated leaves. In the following listing, all possible catalog names have been included.

Euonymus fortunei – wintercreeper – Hardy, evergreen species with slim-oval deep-green leaves that hold their color well into winter. Spring flowers are greenish white and inconspicuous. Once established, and with a suitable support to climb on, the vine may top twenty feet. When mature branches get heavy, they may need wiring so they can’t be torn loose by wind. This vine makes a handsome foliage pattern against a stone wall, wood fence, or tree trunk, is also an excellent ground cover.

Varieties of Euonymus fortunei include:

Euonymus carrierei (radicans carrierei) – glossy wintercreeper – Thinner, pointed leaves and scarlet-coated seeds in fall.

Euonymus coloratus (radicans coloratus) – purple-leaf wintercreeper – An evergreen with lovely-fall coloring, usually recommended as a ground cover or for low walls. The one-inch leaves turn rich purple-red in autumn and remain through the winter. Growth habit is restrained, response to training and clipping excellent. This vine is often used with other evergreens in formal plantings.

Euonymus gracilis – Leaves edged with white, yellow, sometimes pink. This variety is useful in the rock garden, or on low stone walls or foundations, because of its moderate size. It is possible that the variety listed as Euonymus radicans argenteo-marginatus, called silveredge wintercreeper, is the same or closely similar.

Euonymus minimus (radicans minimus) – miniature evergreen bittersweet, baby wintercreeper – A small-leaved variety with dainty appeal. The fingernail-size leaves are seldom more than a half-inch long, and growth is correspondingly restrained. This is not a fast cover for large areas, but a slow grower for small places. Try it in the rock garden, around a small pool or statue, or trained up a low dividing wall. Although it is not a true clinging vine, it supports itself upright against a vertical surface – and rarely needs pruning.

There is a variation, kewensis, with even smaller leaves and more intimate effect. It stays close to the ground, or covers it slowly. A delightful edging for the formal border.

Euonymus radicans – One of the hardiest and most useful varieties, with one-inch leaves and stems that will climb or trail, in time, from ten to fifteen feet. It will sometimes throw white-streaked leaves.

‘Silver Queen’ – Named variety with leaves edged in clean white. This is a slow grower, makes a striking show.

Euonymus vegetus (radicans vegetus) – bigleaf wintercreeper, evergreen bittersweet – A strong grower to twenty-five feet with lustrous, half-dollar-size leaves that hang on well into winter, and dangling clusters of bittersweet-like fruits in creamy-pink husks in fall.

Among other vining euonymus species are:

Euonymus japonicus – burning bush – An evergreen shrubby vine, or viny shrub, grown in milder climates. Foliage is dense, fall fruit bright orange. Planted in the open, it forms a symmetrical bush. Planted against a wall, it climbs like other vining types, by means of aerial roots. The lustrous leaves may be three inches long. Among the varieties of this species are some with variegated foliage, some with miniature leaves.

Euonymus kiautschovica (sieboldianus, patens) – spreading euonymus – not unlike japonicus, with similar bushy or vining habit; but leaves are thinner and lighter green. It is hardy slightly farther north.

Euonymus obovatus – running euonymus, running strawberry bush – A hardy deciduous creeper with foliage turning brilliant red before it falls, and scarlet autumn berries. It grows faster and more furiously than the evergreen types, yet seldom goes higher than eighteen inches. Its use is restricted to covering waste places, banks, and woodsy areas.

Family: Celastraceae
Common Name: Wintercreeper, Evergreen Bittersweet

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