Euonymus is a genus that comprises several varieties of deciduous and evergreen shrubs. Most of these shrubs and small trees are found in East Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea. Some varieties are spread out across Europe, America, India and Madagascar. It is also called spindle because its wood was earlier used to make spindles for spinning wheels. Euonymus species can have some poisonous parts while some have medicinal properties and uses.
Euonymus usually occurs with a simple opposite arrangement of leaves instead of an alternate arrangement. The leaves of euonymus shrubs are ovoid in shape and between 5 – 15 cm in length. They have fine serrated margins and are generally between bright and dark green shades. Euonymus shrubs have small flowers in shades of red, pink, maroon and yellow. They are found in small clusters. Fruits of Euonymus are pink and white berries in pods with several valves. These split open when ripe, revealing reddish seeds that are dispersed by birds through droppings.
Euonymus is quite popular in gardening and landscaping, being known for its convenient shrub size and beautiful foliage. The deciduous varieties often show change in coloration, going from green to red in the months of autumn. Euonymus is an excellent choice for bonsai because of its ornamental berries, thick foliage and adaptability. Its evergreen variety shrubs can reach heights of 7 – 8 meters.
They are hardy outdoor plants that respond well to sunlight or even semi-shade conditions.
The most popular variety of Euonymus is the Burning Bush, otherwise called the Spindle Tree. It comes in deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen varieties, and all of these are equally preferred for bonsai. Their appeal is connected with their bright red autumn foliage and the wing-like structuring of their leaves.
There are approximately 175 species of Euonymus but only some of these are suitable for bonsai. The classification of these can be done on the basis of the following identifying features –
- Type of tree or shrub, that is, evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous.
- Leaf coloration and shape
- Fruit and flower ornamentation
- Adaptability to sunlight
- Stem and shoot type – shrub, tree or creeper variety
Some of the Euonymus species are the easiest and best choices to consider when it comes to bonsai and landscaping. They are hardy, beautiful and maneuverable. Even beginners can experiment with the Euonymus bonsai if they are enthusiastic enough to try. All bonsai styles are suitable for Spindle varieties except the Broom style.
This guide is an attempt to acquaint all levels of bonsai enthusiasts about Euonymus Bonsai Tree Care.
How long does it take to grow Euonymus (Spindle) Bonsai?
Euonymus or Spindle bonsai trees can take between 5 and 7 years to grow properly. Only a mature Euonymus can start bearing flowers and fruits. After seeding, you need to keep nurturing the plant with the best soil and water conditions for it to start growing. For ideal propagation the seed should be sown in fall or autumn, when they are ripe. In case of cuttings, they should be rooted in the summer months. Keep repotting annually to have the perfect results as soon as possible. The specific time of growth also varies according to the species of Euonymus you are planting.
Before getting into the specifics of how you can plant, grow and care for your Euonymus bonsai, you need to be aware of the ideal conditions and prerequisites to grow it. We have put together the basics with regard to the best conditions and requirements for Euonymus or Spindle bonsai tree care.
Position and lighting
Euonymus requires a good light area without heavy direct sunlight in the summer. Euonymus are quite hardy but still require frost protection in winters when temperatures go below -5 degrees Celsius. Euonymus are still known to resist temperatures as low as minus zero and also strong winds.
Euonymus are hardy and can resist low temperatures and strong winds. However, in winter they need careful frost protection if temperature falls below -5 degrees Celsius.
They need partial light but direct sunlight is prohibited.
Basic soils are ideal for Euonymus Bonsai with a basic or neutral pH. Soils that are well-drained suit the hardy evergreen varieties.
The watering needs of Euonymus are moderate. They don’t need heavy watering – however they must not be left in completely dry conditions. During growth, daily misting could work wonders.
Feeding of Bonsai should be done every two weeks from the beginning of late spring to summer. Half-strength plant food, bonsai food or timed release pellets are ideal feedings for the Euonymus Bonsai Tree.
Euonymus Bonsai can grow in a variety of different styles. All over the world many styles of Euonymus Bonsai are grown in practice. Styling of the Euonymus Bonsai Tree is suitable for all forms in all sizes except the Broom. The two trunk style of Euonymus Bonsai is very attractive and is widely used in practice as a styling method.
How to Plant and Grow Euonymus Bonsai?
You want to know how to plant and grow Euonymus (Spindle) bonsai. That’s great! But first, you need to know about the commonly available Euonymus species and those usually recommended for bonsai.
- Euonymus Europaeus/European Spindle Tree – these are deciduous species of the Euonymus and have conical structures. They grow up to the size of a small tree, roughly around 3 meters. They have oval-shaped and scallop-like leaves that are around 7 cm in length. The leaves change color in fall, turning from green to red. Fruits are red with seed pods. It is hardy in between 3 and 7 zones.
- Euonymus alatus/Winged Spindle Tree – also called the burning bush, winged Spindle, winged Euonymus or Corkbush, this variety is known for its unusual fall color. The leaves turn a purplish pink shade in the autumn months, and it bears orange fruits. In the zones of 4 to 8, the species is hardy.
- Euonymus sieboldianus/Japanese Spindle Tree – It bears unusual green flowers with pink and white fruits. The seed pod bears red seeds.
- Euonymus japonica ‘variegata’/Japanese Evergreen Spindle – This species is not hardy in winter zones and can be brought indoors. It has glossy leaves and is hardy in zones 7 to 9.
- Euonymus fortunei/Winter Creeper Euonymus – These creepers are mostly used for cascading styles. When mature, they develop hard, woody stems and can be propagated with cuttings. Leaves are variegated and the hardiness depends on variety.
Other varieties of Euonymus suitable for bonsai are Euonymus kiautschovica, Euonymus sieboldianus and Euonymus bungeana.
Once you know about the popular Euonymus (Spindle) bonsai species, it’s time to get into the specifics of how you can actually plant and grow them. The first thing to keep in mind is that you should plant the cuttings in summer and the seeds in fall.
Propagation of Euonymus Bonsai is a very good method for letting it grow at other locations. This practice is achieved through certain methods. In the case of Euonymus, propagation is generally done through rooted stem cuttings and seeds. Seeds could be sown when they get ripe in Autumn. In summer, root greenwood cuttings are used for propagation.
Pruning and wiring
We can do light pinching of the bonsai during the growing season to get a cup which is denser.
This bonsai is not wired in practice much. However, if you want to wire this bonsai, it should be done before its sprouting.
To wire this bonsai, cut the new shoots back to about 2-3 leaves. This bonsai can be wired during summers and the spring, however the delicate bark needs to be protected. Only a single plant flowers, but if fruits are desired, several of the specimens are needed to perform cross-pollination.
Repotting needs to be done in the early spring for every 2 – 3 years. It should be done just before the start of the spring sprouting. However, during the tree’s first ten years, yearly repotting is necessary depending on how the root grows. For repotting, a basic bonsai soil mixture should be used.
As new buds continue to extend, repotting annually is recommended in spring.
How to Care for Your Euonymus Bonsai
Euonymus needs a lot of indirect light, however its exposure to full sun should be very limited. Some of the species of Euonymus are hardy but others are quite tender. The tender Euonymus varieties could be kept indoors during winter but they need outdoor light and air in spring. The Euonymus Bonsai, which are small in size, need frost protection for their tender roots.
Euonymus needs moderate watering. The soil should not be allowed to dry down anyhow. Daily misting is highly recommended during growth.
Euonymus Bonsai should be fed every two weeks from late spring to summer. To feed it, half-strength plant food, bonsai food or timed-release pellets could be used.
From spring to mid-autumn, fertilizers should be used. Organic fertilizers could be applied every two weeks with the help of irrigation water.
Pests and diseases
There are not many serious diseases or pests that we need to be worried about in the case of Euonymus Bonsai. However, a mild threat is posed from caterpillars, leaf spot, aphids and mildew. By maintaining the tree’s health one can avoid any such pests and prevent diseases. Appropriate fertilizers and pesticides should be used to keep the pests and diseases away. In case of any infections, affected twigs should be taken off immediately. Plant injuries should also be prevented which could otherwise lead to certain diseases. To improve the tree’s health, watering should be regularly done.