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Burning Bush

Burning bush, Euonymus alatus, is one of my favorite plants for a landscape because of its amazing fall color. Burning bush is also sometimes called winged euonymus or just euonymus. There is also a dwarf variety that is more commonly sold - called dwarf burning bush, dwarf winged euonymus, or Euonymus alatus 'compacta'. Burning bush is a favorite among many landscape lovers due to its marvelous fall color, but it is a beautiful green shrub in the spring and summer as well.

The straight species of burning bush grows quite large, 15-20 feet tall, which is why many people prefer to use the dwarf variety, which only grows 8-10 feet tall. There are other varieties that are smaller and have better fall color and better form, such as 'Chicago fire' and 'Rudy Haag', but they are all fairly similar in structure and growth habits.

Burning bush is also called winged euonymus because of the wing-like structures found all over the branches of the bush. The twigs of this bush are covered with four ridges made of a corky material that seem to look like four corners of a square sticking out. Burning bushes bloom from May to June with inconspicuous, small, green flowers. The fruits of this shrub are small, round, red berries that appear in September or late fall; you still may be seeing a few of these berries on the shrubs in your yard in November. The most desirable trait of burning bush, and how it got its name, is the bright red color they turn in the fall. They almost look as if they were on fire.

Burning bush can be planted in part shade to full sun, but typically turns a deeper red in sunny locations and more of a pink color in shady locations. This plant does not tolerate extreme drought or overly wet soils, so be careful of watering and be sure to not plant it where water will pool often or where the soil is very well drained. It is best used as a hedge or a focal point of a landscape.

One other important thing to remember when planting burning bush is that it is highly susceptible to scale. Scale is a type of insect that looks like white flecks on the branches and leaves of the plant. The scale insect that attacks burning bush is specific to Euonymus species and will therefore not harm your other plants. This insect will usually not kill the plant, but if not controlled, it can cause the shrub not to grow as full as it otherwise would. Scale insects can be controlled with a general insecticide applied when the scale is in its crawler stage, typically in the early spring. You can tell when a scale is in its crawler stage by periodically shaking a branch over a piece of paper. If the "white flecks" fall on the paper, they are the crawlers moving around.

Burning Bush branch
burning bush
Corky edges on branch of burning bush.
Nicole Stoner
Nicole Stoner
Extension Educator - Horticulture

As a professional horticulturist, Nicole's focus areas include trees, shrubs, lawns, gardens, and insects.

Gage County Extension
1115 West Scott
Beatrice, NE

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