The conditions this fall have been ideal for bringing out the rich colours in the foliage of trees and shrubs as the green chlorophyll is replaced by pigments of orange and red. Warm sunny days and cool nights make for a superb show in October, and perhaps no plant has reflected this reality than Euonymus alatus, the Burning Bush. Everywhere they are planted, including in my garden, the Burning Bush are truly living up to their billing; the foliage is an intense fire-engine red. This doesn’t happen every year, so enjoy it before hard frosts and November winds drop the leaves to the ground.
The species will grow up to 5 metres in height and width but the most common cultivar in the trade, Euonymus alatus ‘Compacta’ matures at just 2-2.5 metres tall and wide and there are some even smaller. Foliage emerges a medium to dark green in spring followed by small yellowish-green flowers in May and June. Growth is generally tidy and symmetrical with little need for pruning. There never seems to be a slender, well-behaved branch out of place and in winter snow frames the branches beautifully. Once the leaves fall off Burning Bush displays unique, corky ridges along the bark of these branches. Plant in full sun and average soil. Burning Bush is hardy to about -35 deg. C.
Burning Bush can be used in all kinds of garden situations. It makes a very good formal deciduous hedge, running along a driveway for example. Can you picture what that would look like right now? It also looks wonderful massed together on a hillside or in a mixed border in a large scale planting and it’s very effective as a screening or foundation plant near the house. Planted near water the brilliant red fall foliage reflected on the surface is spectacular. Euonymus alatus is truly a four season shrub but it’s a star performer this autumn.

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