Growing a burning bush is not a difficult experience, since it grows in a number of geographic regions and is common in many gardens. Burning bush, also known as euonymus alatus or winged euonymus, is a deciduous shrub, meaning that it's a shrub, or bush, that sheds its leaves in the fall. This plant is used widely in gardening and landscaping, is readily available at most stores that sell plants commercially, and is easy to grow.
Burning bush is native to the northeastern region of Asia. In North America, where it is a nonnative plant, its limits are Ontario, Canada to the north and west, Kentucky and South Carolina to the south, and New Hampshire to the east. The plant was first introduced in the United States in the 1860s, after which point it escaped cultivation and became an invasive plant species in the northeastern region of the United States. In fact, in 2002, euonymus aletus was described as being the most invasive plant species in Connecticut, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. The bush was reportedly growing in Montana in 1962, but it did not appear in a 1991 study of the flora in the same area.
This shrub is easily transplanted, and can grow in sunlight conditions ranging from full sun to full shade, although it prefers access to the sun. It is tolerant of a variety of soils with a variety of pHs, it has no serious pest problems, and is tolerant of pruning. Gardeners and landscapers use this shrub to provide an attractive habit, as a border for shrubs, for foundation planting, and to add color and texture to a landscape.
This shrub matures slowly, but, fully grown, it can grow to be 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide, although some cultivars are markedly smaller. In their youth, their growth habit resembles an upright vase, but they begin to spread and become rounder and horizontally layered as they age. In the summer months, its leaves are simple and elliptical, growing to between one and three inches long. The leaves have fine, sharp serrations and are dark green in color. In the autumn, the leaves of this tree are quite ostentatious, turning a bright shade of red. Its flowers bloom in late May, but they are not ornamentally significant. The shrub's fruit, which appears as red, half-inch-long capsules under the foliage, ripens in September.
Euonymus alatus has several cultivars, or variants, that you can buy, depending on your needs.
Apertus: The apterus cultivar, sometimes seen as var. apterus, grows as large as its parent, but it does not produce such prominent wings.
Compactus: The compactus cultivar is a standard in nurseries, and is one of the most common landscaping plants. When mature, it is smaller than the species, but it can still grow to be ten feet tall. Its wings are not as prominent, but its colors are as bright as the species.
Kosho Mayune: The kosho mayune cultivar is a recent addition to the clan. The appearance of its foliage is different than that of any other cultivar, and its color is more pinkish than red in the autumn.
Monstrosus: This rare cultivar is large and has a vigorous habit. It produces very large wings with heavy substance.
Odom, or Little Moses: The odom cultivar is slow growing, and reaches only 30 to 36 inches in height when it's fully grown. Its foliage is bright red in the autumn, as per the species, and it holds its leaves longer than other members of this species.
Pipzan, or Pipsqueak: The pipzan cultivar grows to be about five feet tall when mature. It has a low horizontal habit and is denser and finer in texture than other variants. It was introduced in 2002.
Rudy Haag: The Rudy Haag cultivar, introduced in 1963, reaches about three feet high and three-and-a-half feet wide after about 15 years of growth. In autumn, its colors can range from bright pink to bright red.
Select, or FireBall: The select cultivar grows to between four and seven feet high, and has a bright red autumn color. This variation on the compactus cultivar is more winter resistant than other variants.