Look around your landscape. If it’s like most landscapes, you see lots of green. From the grass in your lawn to the leaves on your trees and shrubs, you probably have plenty of green. But you can use one simple design trick to brighten and refresh your entire landscape ‘– simply by adding variegated plants to break up the sea of green! And if you choose variegated plants that are also evergreen, you’ll enjoy the bonus of year-round color. Our horticulturists recommend a versatile plant that is evergreen, variegated, and so easy to care for ‘– Golden Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureomarginatus’).
Showy and Textural Foliage
The foliage of Golden Euonymus forms a striking pattern. Each richly colored green leaf features a brightly colored edging of cheerful golden-yellow. And we’re not talking about tiny leaves with small splashes of color. The leaves of Golden Euonymus grow up to 3 inches long with wide yellow margins! So, you will not have to squint to see the green-and-yellow variegation. You’ll even notice a textural quality because the leaves are gently serrated near the tips. And the foliage is thick and lustrous, so it holds up during rainstorms without being damaged.
An Evergreen with Year-Round Color
When deciduous shrubs and trees shed their leaves in autumn and flowering perennials begin their winter’s nap, you can rely on Golden Euonymus to continue adding color to your landscape. The color does not fade from season to season; it maintains the same vibrancy in the heat of summer as it does through a cold winter. So as many other plants in your landscape transition back and forth, depending on season, Golden Euonymus is a dependable evergreen that keeps its year-round coloration.
You May Also See Tiny Flowers
You’ll grow Golden Euonymus for its foliage, but we thought we’d mention that it also produces tiny, white flowers. You may not even notice these flowers, which appear in late spring to early summer, because the foliage definitely takes center stage on these shrubs. But Golden Euonymus is different than other flowering shrubs because its spectacular color is dependent on its foliage, not its flowers. This is a big plus compared to the short-blooming times of other shrubs that offer pretty color that’s only temporary.
Bold Accent Plant
Even if you planted only one Golden Euonymus, it would make an immediate impact statement in your landscape. You can grow it front and center as an up-close focal point, or you can place it at a far-off spot in your landscape where you want to enjoy a pop of color in the distance. As a matter of consideration for scale, Golden Euonymus can potentially reach a height of 10 feet, although heights of 5 to 8 feet are often more common.
Magnificent Privacy Hedge
As dramatic a statement as a single Golden Euonymus plant makes, can you even imagine what a row of them looks like? If you’ve wanted to plant a long privacy hedge, or a shorter privacy screen, you’ve probably considered the traditional plant choices that form a hedge as they grow. But if you’d like your landscape to stand apart from all those that have cookie-cutter hedges of solid green, why not grow Golden Euonymus as a beautifully variegated alternative? Space individual plants 4 feet apart, and watch them grow together as the plants mature to form a privacy hedge that blocks the view behind it. And unlike other hedging plants that have small leaves, Golden Euonymus makes an ideal hedge because of its thick leaves and its dense growth habit.
Versatile Shrub for Your Border Garden
A versatile trait of Golden Euonymus shrubs is their ability to tolerate partial shade. In fact, if you live in the hotter regions of its perennial range across USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 through 9, Golden Euonymus will actually prefer some afternoon shade. If you have a transitional area in your yard that receives part sun and part shade, Golden Euonymus performs like a champ! What comes to mind is a landscape-design effect called a “border garden.” Originally, a border garden was designed as an area that was planted as a buffer between your yard and the border that defined your property line. But this design feature has been expanded to include the border in front of any home or garden structure, such as a fence, a garden wall, or the side of your house or garage. Golden Euonymus is so versatile that it can grow in all these places, and it’s particularly lovely as the backdrop for smaller plants in your border garden.
Foundation Plant with Character
If you want a variegated evergreen that bumps up the look of your foundation planting, Golden Euonymus has you covered. Stagger it between solid-green evergreen shrubs for a two-tone look or grow it as a single row of shrubs at your home’s foundation. It works best at foundations with windows that are higher off the ground because of its mature size or at the edges of your home where its height can grow naturally without needing to be pruned back each year so it doesn’t obstruct windows.
Understory Shrub that Brightens Shady Nooks
Golden Euonymus grows best when it receives some sun each day. But if you have a spot in your yard that’s at the edge of a wooded area, which receives several hours of morning or afternoon sun each day or dappled all-day sun, Golden Euonymus is a fabulous, trouble-free plant to add color that’s often missing underneath large shade trees.
Container Design Ideas
You may not think of growing shrubs in containers, but Golden Euonymus works beautifully as a potted plant. You’ll want to plant it in a larger container ‘– at least 16 inches in diameter ‘– where you can grow it as a standalone plant or as a taller specimen in a mixed-plant grouping. Play off its golden coloration by pairing it with complementary plants. For example, plant trailing petunias around the outside of the pot in colors of hot-pink or purple, or plant blue evolvulus as a contrast against the yellow leaves of Golden Euonymus. As a study in contrasting textures, plant daylilies around its base. The grass-like, weeping foliage of daylilies softens the upright growth and thick leaves of Golden Euonymus.
It Even Thrives as a Seaside Plant
If you live in a coastal area, you know the challenges of growing plants that are salt-tolerant. Many plants cannot survive the onslaught of coastal salt spray, even inland plants that catch coastal salt spray drifting on the breeze. Or you may live in a climate where roadside de-icing salts dissolve and run into your landscape, which can kill many salt-sensitive plants. Golden Euonymus is salt-tolerant, which makes it a resilient plant in both these situations.
Easy-Care, Tough Plant
Golden Euonymus is one of those plants we consider a workhorse in the garden. It’s a tough shrub that handles numerous adverse conditions, such as heat, humidity, partial shade, moderate drought, and poor soils. And once it’s established, it requires minimal maintenance to keep looking its best. Doesn’t this describe what you’re looking for in any landscape plant?
Just a Few Care Tips
Your Golden Euonymus will grow best in rich, well-drained soil. You’ll need to water it often during its first year in your landscape, just as you would for any plant to help its root system become established. Thereafter, natural rainfall should suffice, unless your climate experiences drought conditions. If that happens, you’ll want to give it a little supplemental watering to tide it over until the next rainfall. You’ll only need to fertilize it once each year ‘– in early spring ‘– with a slow-release fertilizer, which will release its nutrients throughout the growing season. And you won’t have to prune Golden Euonymus unless you want to shape it to keep its appearance tidy, or if you need to remove any broken stems. If you decide to prune it, the best time for this task is in spring, just after the tiny flowers have finished blooming.
Origin and Family Relatives
Golden Euonymus is native to China, Japan, and Korea. It’s one of more than 800 species of plants in the Celastraceae plant family, also known as the bittersweet or staff-tree family. Plant relatives include the burning bush, winter creeper vine, and strawberry bush. This plant family is also known as the spindle tree family because the wood from some of its plants are used to make spindles and pegs.