Spindle Tree (Euonymus) – The Complete Guide

The diverse family of spindle tree (Euonymus) shrubs presents us with dense ground covers, small shrubs, and majestic solitaires.

There are evergreen and deciduous varieties with a furious play of colors in autumn.

Planting Spindle Tree

Spindle trees, which are also commonly known as burning bush, strawberry bush, wintercreeper, or simply spindle, are rather easy to plant.

You’ll direct a spindle tree in the right direction from the start if you plant it according to these steps:

  • In a sunny location, loosen the soil, weed it ,and till it to a fine crumb.
  • Meanwhile, place the root ball in a container with water until no more air bubbles rise.
  • Dig a planting pit with twice the volume of the root ball.
  • Mix compost and horn shavings into the excavated soil.

Unpot the young spindle tree and place it in the center of the pit. Fill the pit with the enriched substrate to a height that maintains the previous planting depth.

Then, shorten all the shoots by a third. This measure promotes bushy, richly branched growth.

Water the spindle tree abundantly on the day of planting and in the following period, without allowing waterlogging to form.

A mulch layer of compost or bark mulch will keep the soil moist and warm for longer.

Care Tips

The linchpin of the care program is balanced water and nutrients. Water your spindle tree regularly, especially in its first years of life, without causing waterlogging.

Since evergreen species continue to lose moisture even in winter, you need to water the plant year-round.

In the bed, the shrub is content with a portion of compost in March/April and June/July. Fertilize container plants with a liquid preparation every 14-21 days from April to August.

A spindle tree tolerates light topiary at any time during the growing season. For comprehensive pruning, a date in the fall or spring is your best choice.

To keep the shrub healthy through the cold season, mound the root disc with leaves or coniferous brushwood. Tubs should get a winter coat of jute or foil and a warm stand on wood.

What Location is Suitable for Spindle Tree?

The spindle tree is one of the sun worshippers. Variegated-leaved species in particular can’t get enough of the sun to show off their blaze of color.

Their solid-colored, evergreen counterparts still do best in partial shade.

Take care of these important site conditions:

  • Sunny to semi-shaded location
  • Warm, protected, and without cold drafts
  • Fresh-moist to moderately dry soil
  • Humic soil that is rich in nutrients and has good water drainage

In view of this flexible attitude, the spindle tree is often used for the greening of gravesites that can only be visited irregularly for maintenance work.

What Kind of Soil Does Spindle Tree Need?

The spindle tree thrives excellently in any normal garden soil. The shrub achieves its optimum in loose-humic soil, rich in nutrients and of fresh-moist to sandy or loamy structure.

As long as the shrub does not have to struggle with waterlogging or compacted soil, it will meet your horticultural expectations.

When is Flowering Time for Spindle Tree?

Although the focus of interest is the distinctive foliage, a spindle tree still delights us with a graceful flowering.

Depending on the species and variety, the green-white flowers appear from May to June or from June to July. The sunnier the location, the more abundant the blooms.

Pruning Spindle Tree Properly

Thanks to its modest pruning tolerance, the spindle tree has occupied one of the top places in the ranking of popular shrubs for years.

If shoots that are too close to the ground disturb the harmonious shape, they can be pruned throughout the entire growing season.

For a comprehensive shape and maintenance pruning, the autumn and early spring have proven themselves. On this occasion, you can thoroughly thin out the shrub so that light and air can again reach all regions.

For a hedge pruning that lasts a long time, we recommend a second pruning date around the days of St. John’s Day on June 24.

Watering the Spindle Tree

The dense foliage causes a high degree of evaporation. Therefore, water a spindle tree regularly, as drought stress will cause the entire plant to die.

In a container, this is sometimes necessary daily on hot summer days. In addition, on evergreen species, moisture loss continues through the winter, so in the event of a bare frost, continue to use the watering can.

Fertilizing Spindle Trees Properly

The nutrient needs of a spindle tree are met with two applications of compost and horn shavings. Follow a starting fertilizer application in March/April by another application in June.

If a spindle tree thrives in a container, it will use up the supplies more quickly. In this case, administer a commercial liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks starting in April.

In August, this year’s nutrient supply ends so that the shrub matures in time for winter.

Overwintering Spindle Trees

Since a spindle tree develops its winter hardiness only over the years, we recommend the following precautions for healthy overwintering:

  • In the bed, mound the root disc with leaves, brushwood, or straw before the first frost.
  • Cover the pots with foil, place them on wood, and cover the substrate with wood wool or leaves.
  • Move smaller pots into a light, frost-free winter location.

Evergreen spindle trees come under drought stress in winter in the absence of snow and rain. Therefore, water the shrubs on mild days.

Propagating Spindle Tree

Because the spindle tree thrives as a subshrub, it offers the amateur gardener an uncomplicated method of propagation.

In the summer, sink a clay flower pot into the ground next to a healthy specimen. Fill it with a mixture of potting soil and sand.

Now pull an outer, half-woody branch to the ground so that you can cover its middle part in the pot with the substrate. To secure it, place a stone on top and tie the shoot tip to a small wooden stick.

Lightly scoring the bark will encourage rooting. Within a few months, the pot will be completely rooted, so the sapling can be separated from the mother plant and planted in its new location.

Is Spindle Tree Poisonous?

Unfortunately, the indestructible spindle tree has a downside. This manifests itself in an alarmingly high toxin content.

The shrub is so extremely toxic in all parts, especially in the small fruits, that it is not suitable for cultivation in the family garden.

The tiny berries in the fall will fit in any child’s mouth, where eating them will cause dramatic symptoms of poisoning.

This is equally true for pets, horses, and grazing livestock. Therefore, as a precaution, dispose of any clippings and cuttings in your household trash.

Beautiful Varieties

  • Fortune’s spindle ‘Emerald’n Gold’ (Euonymus fortunei): A gardener’s favorite variety thanks to golden variegated leaves as ground cover or small hedge.
  • Fortune’s spindle ‘Silver Queen’ (Euonymus fortunei): A feast for the eyes with white variegated foliage that is adorned with red tips in winter.
  • Fortune’s spindle ‘Sunspot’ (Euonymus fortunei): A golden-yellow beauty with creeping growth when young and an erect habit later.