Learn About The Care Of Burning Bush – How To Grow A Burning Bush Plant

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Gardeners who want a burst of crimson color in fall should learn how to grow a burning bush (Euonymus alatus). The plant is from a large group of shrubs and small trees in the genus Euonymous. Native to Asia, this large bush has a natural open form that shows well in borders, beds and even containers. Almost any site and soil condition is sufficient when growing burning bush plants. Care of burning bush is minimal too, which makes the plant an excellent choice for even novice gardeners.

Burning Bush Growth

The arching stems are decorated with clusters of finely pointed leaves that droop appealingly from the branch. The plant is also called winged Euonymous because of the ridges that arise on young burning bush growth. These disappear after the stems mature.

The plant will get tiny flowers in May to June that turn into tiny dangling red berries. Birds eat the berries and inadvertently plant the seeds in your garden. In rich soils, even dropped berries may sprout and become new plants.

You can plant a dwarf form of the bush in small spaces or to minimize maintenance, especially since the plant’s 15-foot (4.5 m.) height may be too great for some landscape applications. There are two excellent cultivars, which produce smaller, dwarf forms of this bright Euonymous:

  • ‘Rudy Haag’ is a slow growing diminutive form of the bush that will get only 5 feet (1.5 m.) tall in 15 years.
  • ‘Compactus’ is aptly named and may grow 10 feet (3+ m.) tall over many years.

How to Grow a Burning Bush

Burning bush grows well in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 8 but can become invasive in the warmer ranges. Burning bush plants may get 9 to 15 feet (2.5 – 4.5 m.) tall and are suitable for full sun to partial sun locations.

Any soil type, including alkaline, may support burning bush growth. However, when growing burning bush, it’s best to place the shrub in sites with excellent drainage but lightly moist soil.

Burning Bush Care

There is little to know about caring for burning bush, as this plant is versatile and hardy. In fact, no special care of burning bush is required for a splendid color display. The plant produces only on early flush of new growth in spring, so you should apply fertilizer very early to maximize the effect.

Burning bush care also includes occasional pruning to keep the size down and remove any broken or damaged branches. The natural shape of the bush is appealing, so pruning is not necessary, but if you wish to trim the plant, do so in very early spring before leaves appear.

The plant has few pest problems or disease except some foliar fungal issues. Reduce overhead watering to combat fungal problems. Burning bush plants are occasionally susceptible to scale insects. These are scab-like white insects that only move around during the development phase. They are sucking insects that can reduce the vigor of the plant if they are in large populations. Scrape, rinse and control them with horticultural oil sprays or neem oil.

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Burning Bushes Features

Probably everyone who has their own personal plot knows that our garden is not beautiful with flowers alone.

There are many plants with decorative leaves, an exotic crown and other characteristic features that make them indispensable in decorating the landscape.

One of these plants is the euonymus. This ornamental shrub has more than 200 species, but we will focus on the most beautiful of them. Meet the winged euonymus.

The winged spindle tree (Euonymus alatus) is a decorative deciduous shrub or tree. In the natural environment of the Far East grows up to 3-4 meters, in the garden – up to 2.5. It grows very slowly.

Centenarian. Spreading openwork crown consists of tetrahedral branches. On the faces, there are cork growths, “wings” (about 5 mm), thanks to which this species got its name.

In May it blooms with yellowish inconspicuous flowers, which by the end of summer form bright raspberry four-leaved capsules with an orange seed coat in the middle. The fruits have an unusual shape and are very decorative.

But the main advantage that the winged euonymus is known for is leaves. In the summer they are saturated green, rounded-diamond-shaped, and by autumn the bush literally lights up with all shades of red and pink flowers.

We planted a burning bush in April. We live in Crestview,Fl. It is thriving but is not growing. We have fertilized it but seems to not have helped. Is there anything to do to encourage growth. I thought they were fast growing scrubs. Thank you.

Shrubs and trees generally spend their first year in the ground establishing their roots. So while you may not see much above ground growth, there is likely lots of below ground growth. Which is what you want. A healthy root system will ensure long lived plants.

But don't worry, in a few months they will change their focus to above ground growth and they will just take off.

Growing Conditions

Burning bush shrubs are hardy, robust plants that can grow under a variety of soil and light conditions and resist both pests and drought.


Burning bush shrubs flourish in full sun—at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day—but they can also grow in partial shade. For the most vivid colors, you’ll want to plant them in full sun. Too much shade can lead to a faded, pinkish hue in fall.

Burning bush shrubs are highly adaptable to a wide range of soil types. The pH level doesn’t have any impact on their growth, and they can thrive in everything from sand to clay. However, the soil must be semi-moist and well-drained.


Once established, burning bush shrubs are drought-tolerant. For the first few months after planting, water more often. Then, you can reduce it to about the equivalent of one inch of rainfall per week.


Feed your burning bush shrub in early spring with a slow-release fertilizer specially designed for trees and shrubs. Doing this will prime your shrub for excellent growth during spring.


You should prune your burning bush shrub in late winter or early spring, either to maintain its shape or to boost new growth. Always be sure to remove any dead, damaged, or diseased wood close to the main branch to encourage the emergence of a healthy bud.

Burning Bush Details

The burning bush is an especially adaptable plant that grows in any type of garden soil, including soil that's compacted or poor in nutrients. It prefers a well-drained spot and doesn't thrive in locations that tend to stay wet and soggy. It grows in full sun to full shade, making it an exceptionally versatile plant.

Sometimes called the cork-bark or winged euonymus, the burning bush has branches with corky surfaces and longitudinal ridges, or wings. It can be 15 feet tall and wide at maturity, but some cultivars are smaller, including "Compacta," which is about 8 feet tall and wide, and "Rudy Haag," an even smaller specimen that's only 5 feet tall.

Planting and Care

Firebush can be planted in late spring or summer in USDA zones 8-11. It will grow and flower best if planted in full sun, but it can also be planted in partial shade. Firebush is also moderately tolerant of salt spray, which can be helpful for gardeners in coastal areas.

Firebush can be planted in any well-drained soil and will do best if it is watered regularly until it is established.

Plants may need to be pruned to keep them to a desired height, especially in South Florida where they grow year round. Firebush is typically pruned no shorter than five or eight feet, since pruning too hard or too frequently may reduce blooming.

For more information on firebush, contact your county Extension office.

Watch the video: The Burning Bush - Plant Profile

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