Euonymus japonica is a local favorite due to its ease of growing, as well as tolerance of a range of soils and sunlight conditions. (Getty Images)

Euonymus japonica is a local favorite due to its ease of growing, as well as tolerance of a range of soils and sunlight conditions. (Getty Images)

Take a look at the many faces of Euonymus evergreen shrubs

These attractive, reliable and versatile plants tend to be underutilized in the maritime landscape.

We are fortunate, in our maritime climate, to be able to enjoy a wide selection of broadleaf evergreen shrubs — some of which will actually grow into small trees.

Rhododendrons, azaleas, hollies, Osmanthus, boxleaf honeysuckle, boxwood, fatsia, Leucothoe, laurels, privets, Pyracantha, and Viburnum davidii are just a few examples of the many options we have for shiny green foliage that can be used in our landscapes.

The genus Euonymus, with several available species, is one of my favorites and yet another option that gives us a variety of choices in foliage size, color and growth habit. These are very attractive, reliable and versatile plants that tend to be underutilized in the landscape.

Euonymus japonica is a nice shrub with glossy, 1-inch round leaves that can be found in many commercial settings due to its ease of growing, tolerance of a range of soils and sunlight conditions. Varieties like “Silver King,” “Silver Queen” and “Chollipo,” with their bright green and white variegated foliage, are commonly found. “Paloma Blanca” is a compact variety with smaller leaves that are almost pure white when they first emerge, and “Green Spire,” which sports a tight, upright growth habit is perfect for that narrow 1-foot-wide bed.

Euonymus fortunei, on the other hand, has a completely different growth habit that allows it to be used as a ground cover, hedge or even a vine. The common name for this species is climbing euonymus because of its tendency to climb up trees or walls if left on its own. In our landscapes, Euonymus fortunei is mostly used as a small shrub that is sheared into hedge form.

If you have noticed masses of bright-yellow foliage this past month in gardens in your neighborhood, chances are that they were a selection of Euonymus fortunei called “Emerald ‘N Gold” — sometimes labeled simply “Gold Mound.” “Emerald Gaiety” is a green-and-white form of this same plant.

Both varieties have a wild growth habit that can feel and look a bit unruly if left to their own devices, but like I said earlier, most gardeners end up shearing them to keep them in check. You can keep them down to under a foot tall for front-of-the-border uses or shape them into 2-by-2 foot rectangular hedges for a more formal look. I prefer the softer look and like to shape them into mushrooms. To each his own, I suppose.

For a real unusual look, you need to give “Wolong Ghost” a try. Also known as silver-veined wintercreeper, this dark green-leafed variety has silvery white veins that make a striking effect when in a hanging basket, but it is also well suited as a ground cover where it will hug the ground and crawl over rocks.

On my chimney on the north side of my house, I have a small leafed-variety (½ inch by ¼ inch) called “Kewensis” that is one of my favorites. It has covered my entire brick chimney up to 8 feet high and would continue all the way to the top if I let it. Giving the edges a quick trim in spring is all I have to do to control it — a breeze compared to something like ivy.

All fortunei varieties will grow in sun or shade and will take on a nice pinkish-purple tone in the winter, especially if they are planted in full sun. Shear them into a hedge, train them as a ground cover, or let them clamber up a tree trunk or masonry wall. Either way, you won’t be disappointed with the many flavors of evergreen Euonymus. Stay safe and keep on gardening.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Two free classes

Sunnyside Nursery’s free gardening classes are online for now. An “All Things Hydrangeas” class is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 29, followed by a “Stop and Smell the Roses” class at 11 a.m. May 30 via Zoom. With registration, you’ll receive a Zoom link to attend the online class. For more information or to sign up, visit

Talk to us

More in Life

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

A clump of flowering ornamental grass or pennisetum alopecuroides in an autumn garden.
My garden runneth over with fountain grasses, and for good reason

These late-blooming perennials come in many varieties. They work well as accents, groundcovers, edgings or in containers.

This Vacasa rental is disgusting. Can I get my money back?

The vacation rental Carol Wilson books for her group through Vacasa is infested with rats and insects. Vacasa offers to refund one night, but can they get all of their money back?

A woman diverts from her walk on Colby Avenue to take a closer look at a pickup truck that was partly crushed by a fallen tree during an overnight wind storm Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in north Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / Herald file)
Storm season is coming. Here’s how to prepare for power outages.

The most important action you can take is to make an emergency preparedness kit.

Do you prefer green or red grapes? This antique Moser pitcher is decorated with enameled grapevines on shaded red-to-green glass.
Grapevine pitcher was made by renowned Bohemian company

Also, queries about grandmother’s coffee set and late husband’s Beatles records and memorabilia collection.

The city of Mukilteo is having a naming contest for its new $75,000 RC Mowers R-52, a remote-operated robotic mower. (Submitted photo)
Mukilteo muncher: Name the $75,000 robot mower

The city is having a naming contest for its new sod-slaying, hedge-hogging, forest-clumping, Mr-mow-it-all.

Death of parent with child. Piece of paper with parents and children is torn in half.
Helping children cope with the hard realities of divorce

I’s important to set aside one’s feelings and find a way to make this challenging transition as comfortable for children as you can.