Euonymus fortunei winter creeper

Wintercreeper

Size and Method of Climbing (vine); method of spreading (ground cover)

6 to 12 inches high as a ground cover; up to 2 to 3 feet high as mounded shrubs; spreads 10 to 20 feet as a vine.

As a ground cover it is a trailing-rooting ground cover. Trailing-rooting ground covers have trailing stems that spread out from a central root system. These stems spread out horizontally over the ground and can root where they come in contact with the soil. New shoots will be formed at the point where rooting occurs.

As a vine, it is a clinging vine. Clinging vines attach themselves directly to a surface by means of holdfasts (adhesive discs) or by small aerial roots. This type of vine grows best on a flat surface, such as stone, masonry walls and wood.

Tree & Plant Care

Grows in full sun to dense shade. Tolerant of most soils except extremely wet.
This species has become invasive in some areas.

Disease, pests, and problems

Euonymus scale is a common and serious insect problem.
Crown gall (bacterium) , anthracnose, leaf spots, mildew, and aphids.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, opposite, evergreen leaves; oval shape with toothed margins; 1 inch long.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous and occurring only on adult forms.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Pinkish-red capsules that open to reveal seeds with an orange coating (aril).

Cultivars and their differences

Baby Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Minimus’): 1 to 1½ feet high and 6 feet wide; leaves are smaller that those of the species (1/4 to 1/2 inch long).

Big-leaved wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Vegetus’): 2 to 4 feet high and up to 6 feet wide; creeping form with bright green leaves; very cold hardy but also very susceptible to scale.

Canadale Gold wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Canadale Gold’): Compact, irregular, mounded form with spreading stems; leaves are glossy green with golden-yellow margins.

Emerald Gaiety wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’): 3 to 4 high and 4 to 5 feet wide; dark green leaves with white margins; leaves take on a reddish tinge in winter.

Emerald ‘n’ Gold wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’): 3 to 4 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide; bright green leaves with broad golden margins; leaf color is best in full sun; leaves take on a reddish tinge in winter.

Glossy wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Carrierei’): Can grow 6 to 8 feet high and wide; irregular, mounded form with spreading stems; deep green leaves and abundant, showy fruits are about 1/3” in diameter, with greenish-red covers that open up when ripe to expose yellow-orange seeds.

Gold Prince wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Gold Prince’): 3 feet high and wide; bright green young leaves variegated with bright golden tips, aging to solid green; very hardy cultivar.

Moonshadow little-leaved wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Moonshadow’): 2 to 3 feet high and 3 to 5 feet high; variegated leaves, glossy green margins and bright-yellow centers.

Purple leaved wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’): 1 to 1½ feet high and 6 feet wide; leaves are glossy green (with purplish undersides), but turn purple in late autumn and winter.

Sarcoxie wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Sarcoxie’): 4 to 5 feet high and wide; dark green leaves with whitish veins.

The wintercreeper can’t seem to make up its mind. Depending on the situation, it can be a glossy-leaved ground cover, an evergreen climber, or a dense shrub. Seed-grown winter-creepers begin by creeping along the ground. When they find a suitable support, such as a tree trunk or wall, they begin to climb it. When they reach full sun at the top of the support, they change to their mature phase, with shrubby branches and larger leaves. Only the mature phase bears flowers and fruit. Interestingly, cuttings taken from the mature form will not revert to the creeping or climbing phases, but instead will produce shrublike plants.

Description of wintercreeper: In culture, this plant is highly variable, with many different leaf sizes, growth forms, and foliage colors. Juvenile forms have small, scallop-edged, dark green leaves with lighter veins. At maturity, the leaves become much larger. Mature forms bear insignificant flowers followed by attractive and durable light pink to orange-red berries. Ease of care of wintercreeper: Easy.

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Growing wintercreeper: Plant in full sun or moderate shade in ordinary soil.

Propagating wintercreeper: By cuttings or layering.

Uses for wintercreeper: This plant’s variability provides a wide variety of uses. It can be a small shrub (up to 4 feet), a low-growing ground cover (excellent for erosion control), or a tall climber that scales trees or walls via clinging aerial roots. It is the hardiest of all evergreen climbers.

Related varieties of wintercreeper: The leaves of Euonymus Fortunei Colorata turn dark purple in fall and winter. The common wintercreeper (E. F. radicans) is all green and is used both as a ground cover and as a climbing shrub. Sarcoxie is an all-green shrubby form, ideal for hedges and as a specimen plant. Emerald ‘n’ Gold, gold-edged leaves, and Emerald Gaiety, white-edged leaves, are typical of the numerous variegated wintercreepers.

Scientific name of wintercreeper: Euonymus Fortunei

CAUTION: This species — and many of its cultivars — are invasive in much of eastern North America.

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  • Garden Types: There are many ways to cultivate a lush oasis around your home. Read about all the different types of gardens you can create.
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Winter Creeper Euonymus

Back to Invasive Plant Photos and Information

Winter Creeper Euonymus
(Euonymus fortunei)


Photo: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

About Winter Creeper Euonymus: An Invasive Plant in Maryland

Life cycle/information: Winter creeper euonymus (Euonymus fortunei), also called creeping euonymus, is a perennial plant that grows as a groundcover, climbing vine, or sprawling shrub. It was introduced from China in 1907 for use as an ornamental evergreen groundcover. In 1994, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported it as being invasive in natural areas of Maryland. The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) named winter creeper a Tier 1 invasive plant, as of February 2018. This classification means that a person may not propagate, import, transfer, sell, purchase, transport, or introduce any living part of a Tier 1 invasive plant in the state of Maryland. See the MDA website for additional details.

Growth habit: Winter creeper euonymus is highly variable in its growth habit and appearance. Leaves are evergreen, about 1 inch or less in length, crenate-serrate along the margin, and arranged oppositely along the stem. Leaf color is variable, usually dark green with silver-toned veins. Climbing stems form aerial roots, similar to English ivy.
Winter creeper can be 4-12 inches tall as a groundcover or as high as 70’ as a climbing vine. These plants can also grow in the form of mounding, woody shrubs. The groundcover form restricts growth of native terrestrial plants and the vining form can climb and kill small trees.


Photo: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

Reproduction: Adult plants produce a ⅓” diameter pinkish capsules that open to expose orange seeds in October-November. Birds and other animals aid in seed dispersal. Winter creeper also spreads vegetatively from the roots.

Photo: Ansel Oommen, Bugwood.org
Conditions that favor growth: Tolerates heavy shade to full sun and variable soil conditions.
What to plant instead: Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). See other options for groundcovers.

Controlling Winter Creeper Euonymus

  • Burrell, C. Colston. 2007. Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants. Brooklyn Botanic Garden.Kaufman, Sylvan Ramsey & Wallace Kaufman. 2007. Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species.
  • Maryland Biodiversity Project, Winter Creeper.
  • Swearingen J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.

Compiled by Christa Carignan, reviewed by Debra Ricigliano, University of Maryland Extension, 9/2018.

Euonymus fortunei

  • Attributes: Genus: Euonymus Species: fortunei Family: Celastraceae Life Cycle: Woody Recommended Propagation Strategy: Stem Cutting Country Or Region Of Origin: Assam to Temp. Eastern Asia and Western & Central Malesia Play Value: Attractive Flowers Wildlife Food Source Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): Salt Climbing Method: Twining Dimensions: Height: 2 ft. 0 in. – 10 ft. 0 in. Width: 2 ft. 0 in. – 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Ground Cover Poisonous Shrub Vine Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Semi-evergreen Habit/Form: Climbing Dense Erect Mounding Multi-stemmed Rounded Spreading Growth Rate: Rapid Maintenance: Low Medium Texture: Medium
  • Cultural Conditions: Light: Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day) Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Texture: Clay High Organic Matter Loam (Silt) Sand Shallow Rocky Soil pH: Acid (<6.0) Neutral (6.0-8.0) Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Moist Occasionally Dry Very Dry Available Space To Plant: 3 feet-6 feet 6-feet-12 feet NC Region: Coastal Mountains Piedmont Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Orange Pink Red/Burgundy Fruit Value To Gardener: Showy Display/Harvest Time: Fall Fruit Type: Capsule Fruit Length: < 1 inch Fruit Width: < 1 inch Fruit Description: A dihiscent capsule, pinkish to reddish and 0.3 in., splits to expose seeds with an orange aril.
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Green Insignificant White Flower Inflorescence: Cyme Insignificant Flower Value To Gardener: Fragrant Showy Flower Bloom Time: Summer Flower Shape: Dome Star Flower Petals: 4-5 petals/rays Flower Size: < 1 inch Flower Description: Small, greenish white flowers. The flower is about 1/4 inch with four petals which may be dome shaped or flat. Axillary cymes (adult form). Greenish-white, < 1/4″. Appear in July.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Semi-evergreen Leaf Color: Gray/Silver Green White Leaf Feel: Glossy Smooth Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Opposite Leaf Shape: Elliptical Oblong Ovate Leaf Margin: Crenate Serrate Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 1-3 inches Leaf Width: 1-3 inches Leaf Description: Paired leaves with broad, shallow, or rounded teeth; dark green and silvery white vein either on edge or mid-leaf. Opposite, simple, ovate-elliptic, 1-3″, crenate-serrate, thinly coriaceous. Often discolors in winter.
  • Bark: Bark Color: Dark Brown Dark Gray Bark Description: Gray-brown, thin, initially smooth.
  • Stem: Stem Color: Green Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Form: Straight Stem Surface: Smooth (glabrous) Stem Description: Round slender green stems
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Lawn Recreational Play Area Rock Wall Slope/Bank Woodland Landscape Theme: Children’s Garden Winter Garden Design Feature: Border Hedge Mass Planting Screen/Privacy Attracts: Bees Songbirds Resistance To Challenges: Salt Problems: Invasive Species Poisonous to Humans Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans: Poison Severity: Low Poison Symptoms: TOXIC ONLY IF LARGE QUANTITIES EATEN. Vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, chills, coma, and convulsions. Poison Toxic Principle: Unidentified, possibly a glycoside Causes Contact Dermatitis: No Poison Part: Bark Flowers Fruits Leaves Roots Sap/Juice Seeds Stems

Euonymus Wintercreeper – Tips On How To Plant Wintercreeper Vines

For those interested in planting perennial vines in the landscape, perhaps you will want to consider growing Euonymus wintercreeper. Learning how to plant wintercreeper is easy and other than occasional pruning, wintercreeper care is simple too.

Euonymus Wintercreeper Vines

Wintercreeper (Eyonymus fortunei) is an attractive woody evergreen vine. Numerous varieties are available, including those with a strong climbing habit. Some vines reach heights of 40 to 70 feet quickly, making pruning wintercreeper vines necessary to keep it under control.

E. erecta is a non-climbing variety with upright leaves and E. kewensis forms a lovely ground-hugging mat.

If you have a large open area, or a place where other plants have failed, try wintercreeper. This hardy, attractive plant bears tiny yellowish flowers

from May through July, and can be used as a low hedge or wall covering. Many people with rock barrier walls dangle wintercreeper vines over the edge for color.

How to Plant Wintercreeper

Wintercreeper can be planted in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9 and will do well in full sun or partial shade.

Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in spring once the ground can be worked. Wintercreeper is not particular about soil conditions but does best in an acid loam that is moist but not overly saturated.

Water young plants well until they are established. Once established, wintercreeper tolerates dry conditions and does not require extra water.

Wintercreeper transplants well and can be used to fill in other garden areas once mature.

Care of Wintercreeper Plants

Once planted, euonymus wintercreeper requires minimal attention. In fact, once established in the landscape, the care of wintercreeper plants is simple.

Although not necessary, unless it becomes unruly, pruning wintercreeper may be done to control growth and cut tall sprouts if using for ground cover. Always use clean and sharp pruning shears when clipping.

Euonymus scale can be a problem and is fatal if not controlled. Check for scale insects on the underside of leaves and use an insecticidal soap or neem oil as directed.

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