Daily Flower Candy: Euonymus japonicus

Euonymus japonicus: evergreen spindle, Japanese spindle

On days like these, when we’d all rather be indoors, wrapped in a blanket with a glass of something red, those of us with seaside gardens are grateful for a small but indispensable cohort of tough shrubs capable of creating shelter quickly and reliably. They include tamarisk (Tamarix tetranda AGM, less good on the shallow chalk we have in Broadstairs), broadleaf (irrepressible Griselinia littoralis AGM), oleaster (elegant Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’ or bullet-proof Elaeagnus × ebbingei) and today’s subject, Euonymus japonicus.

Planted correctly, protected by a temporary wind-filtering screen of fine polypropylene mesh and a good thick mulch to ward off dehydration, these salt tolerant shrubs will take the brunt of winter gales, eventually helping more tender treasures to weather the storm. In common with other front-line shrubs, Euonymus japonicus has a thick, glossy, protective surface on its evergreen leaves which keeps the shrub looking fresh and healthy all year round. In hot dry summers powdery mildew can temporarily blight the foliage, but this soon disappears in cooler conditions. Avoid pruning in high summer to minimise the cosmetic damage to soft new growth. Scale insects and vine weevils can also be troublesome.

The deep green leaves of Euonymus japonicus are an excellent foil for more exciting shrubs and perennials, but if colour is what you are after E. japonicus ‘Ovatus Aureus’ AGM is a popular green and gold form which makes a rounded shrub up to 1.5 metres in height. Like the species it’s easily trimmed to make a hedge. Watch out for plain green suckers which will quickly take over if not pruned out promptly. Euonymus japonicus ‘Chollipo’ AGM, ‘Bravo’ and ‘Duc D’Anjou’ are good alternative forms if you are seeking gold highlights, whilst E. japonicus ‘Albomarginatus’ and ‘President Gaulthier’ have green leaves margined and marbled with white.

The spring flowers of Euonymus japonicus are easily overlooked but the orange fruits emerging from their rosy pink casings are a wintertime treat. Best pruned in April, you should avoid removing stems with fading flowers if you’d like a good display later on. 2015 was a vintage year for spindle berries: I photographed those below today on the cliff top at Louisa Bay, Broadstairs.

Even if you consider Euonymus japonicus a necessary evil or coastal cliché, you can’t deny its usefulness in harsh conditions. Few other shrubs will take a battering so nonchalantly. A plant for all seasons Euonymus japonicus will flourish on chalk, excel in exposed gardens and reward with dense, lustrous foliage 365 days a year.

Euonymus japonicus, Victoria Gardens, Broadstairs, Jan 2015

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10 thoughts on “Daily Flower Candy: Euonymus japonicus

  1. Glad to hear Griselinia littoralis grows so well for you. We have a few growing in our garden here in Birmingham as specimen shrubs but I think they are spectacular as a low hedge. How are yours planted?

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  2. It is lovely, but is it tough enough for the Outer Isles? I’m tempted, but even the most thugish seaside shrub, apart from the industructible Olearia transversii, has not lasted a season. I could be tempted, especially if I could find some seed. Or is this just the first folly of 2016?

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    1. Hmmm, I wouldn’t like to say. Best advice I can offer is to look around and see if anyone else grows it successfully. Temperature wise it should survive down to -15. Maybe try one plant and see how it does before planting a hedge of it?

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  3. I just love this plant and came across it on the coastal path just before entering into St Ives, Cornwall. I’d love it in my very exposed garden as it would be great for my flower arranging – however, when I look up ‘Euonymus Japonicus’ – I get all sorts of varieties but none that seem to be this evergreen with pink/white berry/flowers that you have pictured here. Can you help with a fuller name, so I will get the variety pictured!?

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