Burning bush

Vital statistics

Full sun and well drained soil are all it asks to grow and color well. It tolerates almost every condition except poor drainage, which stunts it, causes premature, poor fall color, and eventually kills it.

The full sized burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is often mistaken for a small tree (15-20' tall). Dwarf burning bush is smaller than its parent species yet still surprises most people since it can reach 8-12'.

Below: The dwarf (left) and full-size or "standard" burning bush natural forms. Neither of these plants has been pruned. (Scroll to see larger images.)

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This species has been one of the mainstays of the North American landscape for 100 years, yet it is now recognized as invasive in some situations -- spreading by seed into wild areas, to the detriment of native plants whose space and resources it usurps. So if you do not find it for sale, chances are that your State or Province has outlawed its sale.

Fall color

Burning bush or winged euonymus is known for its bright red color. It stars in the middle of the fall color procession.

The full sized burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is usually pink in fall, or a paler red than the dwarf selections. Its twigs also have larger "wings" (corky ribs).

Too much shade can dull this plant's color show. Too much protection can keep it green right until the cold kills its leaves, which drop off green. The plant needs lenthening nights and fall's big temperature shifts at sundown to color well, so its show may fail if it's too well sheltered, such  as under overhanging eaves or surrounded by heat-retaining walls of a courtyard



Below: The development of color can be delayed or subdued by shade, proximity to a heat sink such as a brick wall, or protection from cold snaps at sunset (such as may be provided by overhanging tree limbs or a building's eaves). Sometimes a burning bush is so protected that it does not turn color at all but finally loses its leaves to severe cold when they are still green. The shaded, protected section of the dwarf burning bush hedge pictured below eventually develops red color if the fall is a long one; if heavy frosts come early that portion of the hedge remains green.