Euonymus alatus - Burning Bush
Family: Celastraceae

Hear the scientific name

Euonumus alatus is a tough, but overutilized, land-scape shrub primarily found in mass plantings or as a formal hedge. Burning Bush is widely known for its brilliant red autumn display, and lesser known for the bold-textured corky stems that have winter appeal on the underutilized species form.

Alternate common name: Winged Euonymus

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  form2 form Form

-large-sized foliage shrub

-species form very slowly maturing at 15' tall x 15' wide

-cultivars are smaller (10' x 10', or less, making them medium-sized shrubs), and often are kept to an even smaller size by shearing, irrespective of their specific genetic potential for size

-upright vased growth habit in youth, becoming spreading rounded and horizontally layered with age (if not pruned)

-slow growth rate

foliage Foliage

-medium to dark green, 1-3" long, with a short petiole

-opposite to subopposite, elliptical to obovate, with finely serrated margins

-autumn color is a brilliant red in sunny sites or a faded pink-red in shady sites


-yellow-green miniature inflorescences in late May and early June, usually inconspicuous


-many individual plants and/or cultivars have sparse fruits, if present at all


-for the species form, very narrow dark green strips occur along the axis of the thick stem, surrounded by very prominent tan to brown corky wings

-the common cultivar 'Compacta', however, has relatively thin stems that are primarily green, and the corkiness is replaced by thin tan strips interrupting the subtle green color

trunk Trunk

-brown and slightly fissured, usually multi-trunked and branching very low to the ground

-with advanced maturity, some shrubs (especially the species form) can be limbed up into multi-trunked tree form, or truly "specimen" shrub form

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-full sun to full shade

-very adaptable to poor soils, compacted soils, various soil pHs, heat, drought, periodic shearing, and pollution (and is therefore very urban tolerant), and is also quite adaptable to partial to full shade (where growth is less vigorous and autumn color is a mixture of pink-red and faded yellow)

-several significant problems may affect this species (coral spot, nectria canker, euonymus scale)


-zones 4 to 8


-native to Northeastern Asia and Central China

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-brilliant flaming-red autumn color

-takes well to pruning and shearing

-urban stress tolerant

-vased shape in youth and layered horizontal branching at maturity (if unpruned)

-ornamental winged stems (on the species form and some little-known cultivars)


-whether pruned or unpruned, it often slowly grows beyond its intended boundaries or presumed mature height

-several biotic and abiotic stresses can be significant for this species, compounded by its being over-utilized in the landscape

-may slowly sucker from its base or roots with age, forming tight colonies at maturity if these are not regularly nipped off

-some plants may become leggy with age


-formal or informal hedge, group or mass planting, non-thorny barrier, deciduous screen, specimen, border, entranceway, foundation, or at water's edge (outstanding red color reflection in autumn, but not wet site tolerant)


-medium texture in foliage, and medium (non-corky stemmed) to bold (corky stemmed) texture when bare

-thick density in foliage and when bare

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Varieties and Cultivars - Search OSU PlantFacts for additional plants in this species


-shrubs with good autumn color (Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliantissima', Fothergilla gardenii, Hamamelis x intermedia, Viburnum rufidulum, Viburnum setigerum, etc.)

-shrubs that may serve as formal or informal hedges (Ligustrum obtusifolium, Ribes alpinum, Taxus x media, Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald' ('Smaragd'), Viburnum dentatum, Viburnum lantana, etc.)


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