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Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus Variegatus’ (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)
Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus Variegatus’ (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)

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Zones 4-20, 26, 28-31, H1
Full Sun
Regular Water

Euonymus japonicus

Evergreen Euonymus
Evergreen, Shrubs


Deciduous and evergreen euonymus species are distinct: the characteristic squarish “hatbox” fruit common to both offers the only hint that they’re related. Deciduous types are valued for fall leaf color or showy fruit. Evergreen sorts, used mainly for landscape structure (background and foundation plants, hedges, dividers), include some of the most cold-tolerant broad-leafed plants.

Most species take a range of exposures, from full sun to fairly deep shade; deciduous kinds with fall color give the best display in a sunny location. Some species are very susceptible to mildew. Scale can be a problem on any euonymus.

Euonymus japonicus

From China, Korea, and Japan. Upright grower to 8–10 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide; usually kept lower. Inconspicuous flowers. Older shrubs are attractive trained as trees, pruned and shaped to show their curving trunks and umbrella-shaped tops. Can be grouped to form a hedge or screen. Very glossy, leathery deep green leaves are 1–2 1/2 in. long, oval to roundish.

Though the species and its varieties are very tolerant of heat, unfavorable soil, and seacoast conditions, they tend to suffer from various problems. They are prone to scale, thrips, and spider mites. They are notorious for susceptibility to powdery mildew; to lessen the likelihood of mildew infection, give a full-sun location with good air circulation.

Variegated forms are the most popular and are among the few shrubs to maintain their variegation in full sun in hot-summer climates. (There may be some confusion in nursery labeling of these varieties.)

‘Aureovariegatus’: Grows to 6 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide. Green leaves with a brilliant yellow central blotch.

‘Chollipo’: Narrow, erect plant to 12 ft. tall, half as wide. Green leaves bordered with white. Dense grower; good for topiary.

‘Grandifolius’: Grows to 6–8 ft. tall, 4–6 ft. wide, with shiny dark green leaves larger than those of species. Compact, well branched.

‘Green Spire’: Columnar, to 6–8 ft. tall and only 1–2 ft. wide. Lustrous, dark green leaves. Excellent as a narrow hedge.

‘Microphyllus’: Compact, small-leafed shrub to 1–2 ft. high and half as wide. Formal-looking; usually trimmed as a low hedge. Similar in form are ‘Microphyllus Butterscotch’ (‘Microphyllus Aureovariegatus’), with yellow-variegated leaves, and ‘Microphyllus Variegatus’ (‘Microphyllus Albovariegatus’) with leaves splashed in white.

‘Ovatus Aureus’: Grows to 8 ft. tall, 6 ft. wide. Dark green leaves have irregular margins of bright yellow.

‘Silver King’: Grows to 6 ft. tall and about half as wide, with green leaves edged silvery white.

‘Silver Princess’: Similar to above, but just 2–3 ft. high and wide.

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