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November Plant of the Month: Euonymus alatus

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

As the days shorten and the temperature falls, your garden can still be vibrant with autumn colour. November’s plant of the month is perfect for brightening up outdoor spaces this autumn. Euonymus alatus, also known as ‘Winged spindle’ or ‘Burning bush’ is a deciduous shrub with spectacular autumn colour, at its absolute best this month.

Burning bushes are native to East Asia and have been used in British landscaping since the 1860s. They are the only member of the Celastraceae family of flowering trees and shrubs to thrive in our climate. They can grow to 4 metres in height and spread, but if space is at a premium (a common issue in Cambridge!) they can be pruned in late winter to keep them compact. The are also relatively slow growing so you're unlikely to be pruning them too much.

The burning bush looks its most spectacular in autumn but provides interest through most of the year. Elegant arching stems tipped with foiliage fan out from the shrubs’ centre. Vibrant green oval-shaped leaves appear in spring, followed by tiny yellowy-green 4-petalled flowers in early summer. Clusters of finely pointed oval-shaped foliage turn from bright green to crimson red with the first frosts, and fall as winter progresses.

Grown primarily for its gorgeous autumn colour, this plant also provides valuable food for wildlife. Insects feast on the flowers, and the pretty orange-red berries are popular with many garden birds, providing sustenance as food sources become scarce in autumn.

Euonymus alatus is fully hardy and suitable for almost all soil types and growing conditions (except deep shade). For the best autumn colour, choose a site in full or partial sun. Happy in borders, beds or containers in courtyards, there really is no space too small to accommodate this stunning plant.

When planting, dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice its’ width. Soak roots for a couple of hours before planting and keep watering for a few weeks while it establishes. If your soil is very heavy, add compost when planting to improve drainage.

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