How to Grow and Care for Golden Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus)

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Golden euonymus is an evergreen shrub that has variegated foliage and brightens up a hedge or border with its golden, yellow-edged leaves. 

Native to parts of Asia, this plant is commonly known also as the Japanese spindle tree. 

This variegated perennial is grown as an ornamental plant for its striking, evergreen foliage. It can develop into a small tree or shrub.


Euonymus japonicus comes from Japan and other parts of eastern Asia. It has become naturalized in many other regions of the world, including parts of the USA and Europe.

In the UK, golden euonymus has been cultivated since the early 1800s and is a popular garden plant. Since its cultivation in Europe, golden euonymus has naturalized and the shrub now grows wild in Sicily.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameEuonymus japonicus
Common namesGolden euonymus
Height10 feet (3 m)
Width6 feet (2 m)
USDA Plant Hardiness ZoneZones 6 to 9
Native toAsia
Blooming seasonSpring
Flower colorsGreeny-white, inconspicuous
Plant specific featuresStriking, evergreen variegated foliage

How to Plant and Grow a Golden Euonymus Bush

Where to Plant

Golden euonymus is an excellent choice of garden evergreen, whether you are looking to include it in a striking, colorful hedge or plant singly as a specimen plant.

As a hedging shrub, golden euonymus will provide you with dense, green, and gold-variegated foliage that is tough and relatively easy to care for. 

As a stand-alone plant that can grow over 10 feet (3 m) tall, golden euonymus can be a spectacular and showy evergreen to include in your garden.

Euonymus japonicus grows upright with a rounded habit. If given appropriate growing conditions, this long-lived specimen can survive for over 100 years.

When to Plant

It’s always best to avoid planting shrubs in extreme heat or cold weather. Therefore, the ideal time to plant is either in the Fall or in cool Spring weather. Just make sure that the soil is not waterlogged at the time of planting.

Golden Euonymus Shrubs Care and Maintenance


Ideally, provide the golden euonymus with soil that is moist and well-draining. Good drainage is far more important to the health of the golden euonymus shrub than the type of soil in which it is planted. 

Euonymus japonicus is a shrub that is adaptable to most soil types, and tolerant of diverse pH levels.


Especially when newly planted, it is essential to water the golden euonymus regularly and thoroughly. This will encourage the development of a tough root system, that once established, will be able to access both moisture and nutrients from deep within the soil to nurture the shrub.

After the first growing season, the root network should have developed sufficiently for you to be able to reduce the frequency of the watering. 

However, golden euonymus isn’t particularly tolerant to extended, dry spells. It will do best if you keep the growing medium moist. To improve moisture retention in the soil, you can apply organic mulch annually. 

Make sure, however, that any mulch you do add, doesn’t come into direct contact with the stem of the plant as this can lead to fungal disease or rot.


Once the golden euonymus shrub begins to produce its new shoots in the Spring, provide it with a slow-release balanced fertilizer, that is designed for evergreen shrubs and trees.

For a new plant, avoid using too much fertilizer, as there is a risk that you will burn its newly formed roots.  Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for dosage and application frequency carefully.


The best place to plant a golden euonymus is in a spot where it will receive plenty of sunlight. The sunnier the planting position, the more striking the foliage color will be.

Pruning and Repotting

Especially if you are including golden euonymus in a mixed hedge, you will need to prune the shrub regularly. However, golden euonymus is an evergreen that can be sheared if required and tolerates hard pruning. 

Trimming or cutting back the golden euonymus will keep the shrub to the desired shape and size. Pruning will also encourage plenty of vigorous new growth, which will increase the density of the hedge.

Even if you are growing a single, specimen golden euonymus plant, you may still wish to prune it. Left unchecked, a golden euonymus tree will reach over 10 feet (3.05 m) high and over 6 feet (2 m) in width. 

Unless you have plenty of space, you may need to trim it regularly or the golden euonymus may grow too large for the planting space available. 

If you have multiple plants, then make sure they are spaced well. This will ensure that there is good air circulation and improve the health of the plants.

Golden euonymus shrubs grow fairly fast; they can be pruned at any time of the year, but it is best to avoid pruning and stressing the plant during extremes of temperature.

Propagating Golden Euonymus

Propagating from seed is complicated and slow. The seeds have to be subjected to a period of cold stratification before being sown, in order to germinate.

It is far better to take stem cuttings in the late Spring or Summer. Alternatively, if there are any low-growing branches, you can simply peg these down into the ground, and they should root easily. 

Pests and diseases

The golden euonymus isn’t a difficult plant to care for, but there are a few problems that you should be aware of and that you may encounter.

Golden euonymus is a variegated shrub. Its leaves should be the highlight of the plant, and you need to ensure that they stay that way. You may notice that some branches have leaves that have reverted to plain green, or plain yellow. 

If you take no action, your golden euonymus will turn into an all-green shrub, which isn’t particularly attractive. Immediately you notice all green or all yellow leaves, cut them off, and also the branch on which they grow. 

Several pests can damage golden euonymus; the euonymus scale insect is tiny, which will cause spots on the leaves. It can be difficult to control and even harder to eradicate this insect. 

If it takes hold, euonymus scale can cause premature leaf drop, which is likely to be more significant during the winter months. As far as treatment is concerned, the best and really only feasible course of action is to treat with either horticultural oil or a pesticide.

Fungal diseases cause leaf spot, which is not too serious for the plant’s health but causes unsightly cosmetic damage to the foliage. 

Prevention is the best cure; always pick up and remove any diseased plant tissue (leaves, branches, stems) from around the base of the shrub. 

Regularly rake up fallen leaves, and then you can spray the gold euonymus with a fungicide at the intervals suggested by the manufacturer.

If you have any disease on your golden euonymus, don’t put the damaged plant material onto a compost heap. It needs to be removed and ideally burned in order not to spread the infection.

Other less serious threats to the health of the golden euonymus are mites, powdery mildew, and mealybugs.

Some good news after all the potential problems listed above. Golden euonymus is deer resistant. It is not known exactly why deer steer clear of the attractive, glossy foliage of the golden euonymus, but it is possible that it is because the foliage is strongly scented.

Temperature and Humidity

Protect the golden euonymus from strong, cold winds. It will thrive in USDA zones between 6 and 9, and in a position that receives either full sun or partial shade. 

Other Uses for Golden Euonymus

As well as inclusion in a mixed border or its use as a hedging plant, golden euonymus makes an excellent subject for container planting. 

Planted in a large pot and placed on a terrace, and golden euonymus will bring you joy on dull, winter days. Just bear in mind that in a pot, a golden euonymus shrub will need a little more care. 

The soil in containers dries out quicker than in the open ground, so watering will need to be carried out more frequently. Roots of pot-grown plants are less insulated than the roots of plants grown in-ground and therefore can freeze in cold winters. 

The coloring of the leaves of Euonymus japonicus “Aureomarginatus” is strikingly beautiful. The mellow, deep yellow leaf borders combined with the deep glossy green really are spectacular in the winter, when so often the garden is devoid of color and vibrancy. 

Types of Golden Euonymus You Can Grow

There are cultivars of golden euonymus which have slightly different coloration or are smaller and more compact in both size and form.

E. japonicus “Aureomarginatus” is the standard golden euonymus, and “Goldspot” has green-edged leaves and yellow blotches.  

The smaller E. japonicus varieties and cultivars are great to use in pots or for dwarf hedging and can substitute box hedging. This is definitely advantageous since the box is now very prone to blight and box tree caterpillar. 


There is no denying that the golden euonymus is brightly colored and livens up winter gardens in particular. To some people, this is a strikingly showy shrub, whilst to others it is seen as garish and unpleasant! 

Nevertheless, its popularity continues, and it will thrive in a wide range of situations, making it a good gardener’s choice.

*image by hecos/depositphotos

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