Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus)

Box-Leaf Euonymus, Dwarf Japanese Euonymus, Evergreen Euonymus, Japanese Euonymus, Japanese Spindle Tree, Spindle Tree

Evergreen spindle(Euonymus japonicus) is a popular ornamental evergreen shrub with numerous cultivars. Due to its superb adaptability and decorative looks, evergreen spindle can be found in parks and gardens all over the world. Its flowers produce a lot of nectar, which makes this plant very attractive to bees.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Euonymus japonicus (evergreen spindle or Japanese spindle) is a species of flowering plant in the family Celastraceae, native to Japan, Korea and China. 

The species is a hermaphrodite, meaning it contains both male and female organs and is pollinated by insects.

When grown in the right climate and growing conditions, Evergreen Euonymus japonicus grows up to anywhere between 6’ – 26’ feet in height and around 6’ feet in width.

Control the bushy growth by pruning and making a neat hedge around your garden.

Japanese Euonymus produces inconspicuous greenish-white flower color and dark green leaves.

Each flower is quite small, just over ¼” inch wide.

The bloom time of Euonymus japonicus is in late spring to early summer and is known to have a vinegary smell.

If you look for them, they are attractive against the foliage.

Come fall, the plant also produces small orangish-pink fruits in late summer or early fall, which are best kept out of children’s reach as they are toxic.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

Lots of bright, indirect light is good for this plant indoors. Placing the plant in direct sunlight can cause leaf scorch which will turn the leaves white. The plant is best suited for a window with an eastern exposure. Or, place the plant a few feet away from the bright sunny light of a southern or western window. It is a good idea to rotate your Japanese spindle houseplant every few months to expose all sides of the plant to the sun.

Temperature and Humidity

The average room temperature is fine for the Japanese spindle. The plant likes to receive average warmth with temperatures ranging from 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the plant in cool but temperate conditions during winter. Euonymus japonicus does prefer lower humidity levels, so an average humidity level of 30 to 60 percent in the home would suffice (higher humidity is better for tropical plants). In the winter, however, the plant may do better when the indoor humidity is in the higher average range.

Watering

Watering needs of evergreen spindle are critical during the first year of growing, once roots are established it becomes dependent on its roots for moisture absorption from the soil. Generally, evergreen spindle needs 1 mm of water per day in the initial growth stages that may increase up to 3 mm per day with the established plant whereas it is capable of evaporating excessive moisture in the atmosphere. On the other hand, it is capable of withstanding drought when fully developed. Watering in the winter climates is also critical to avoid early desiccation. So keep watering, not flooding your evergreen spindle.

Soil

Evergreen spindle is adaptable from poor to rich soil with medium water holding capacity that is well-drained and aerated. Damp calcareous soils equally favor its growth including compact and dry soils. It is also adaptable to a variety of soil pH where it can successfully grow in acidic to high alkali soils of varying pH ranging from 5.6-7.2. Evergreen spindle can also grow in swamplands, bottomland hardwood forests, thickets and slopes near or on the stream banks. When it becomes fully established, it is exceptionally drought tolerant.

Fertilizing

Usually, evergreen spindle doesn’t need fertilizers for its growth and development but it can be added if you are growing for the purpose of hedging in the landscape gardening during the first year only. NPK(20:20:20) is a major essential nutrients fertilizer that can be added twice to the young plants, i.e. once in the spring and then in early winter. A general recommendation is 1 tablespoon per plant.

Planting Instructions

Planting is done through digging a pit of suitable size at the selected location in the garden that is well aerated and suits the needs of the variety being planted. Dig a pit double the size (in-depth and width) of the pot carrying your plant. Remove all garden soil out of the pit to make an even surface for planting.

Add 5 to 8 cm of the similar garden soil into the pit that was previously removed before placing your plant into the pit, gently. Fill in the pit with remaining garden soil to the surface of the garden soil. Water frequently till the newly added soil becomes settled into the pit.

Keep on watering for the initial 4-5 days and add more garden soil to the desired pit level as needed. Water your plants during the first year of growth regularly until it establishes its root system. The spacing of evergreen spindle to establish hedges is recommended 1 to 1.3 m apart while spacing for the shrubs or small trees is often observed from 2.5 to 3 m apart.

Pruning

Pruning is often practiced on the evergreen spindle grown for hedge formation in the landscapes. Medium to heavy pruning is advised if the purpose is to shape or topiary formation otherwise it goes well unpruned. Winter is the best pruning and trimming time for the evergreen spindle other than evergreen shrubs.

Container and Size

Choose a fairly large pot for a Japanese spindle houseplant. The container should be able to retain moisture yet have plenty of drainage holes. A plastic or glazed ceramic pot would work fine to hold moisture. However, make sure the pot is hefty enough so it will not tip over since this tree can grow fast. The pot you choose should be about the same size or slightly larger than the pot the plant came in from the garden store.

Potting Soil and Drainage

Though they can tolerate lots of conditions, their soil should be well-drained and moist. A typical potting soil mix should be fine for this houseplant.

Potting and Repotting 

This plant grows well in pots but when it doubles in size, it should be repotted. Japanese spindle will likely need to be repotted every year in the spring. Water the root ball in advance to make the process easier, then remove the entire plant in one piece. Trim the roots to loosen up the ball, then replace in a new pot and backfill it with potting soil.

Weed Control 

Weeds are stray plants that grow beside Euonymus Japonicus and utilize the nutrients present in the soil. They deprive the plant of essential nutrients, eventually leading to its death. Therefore, removing them is necessary. You can remove the weeds by applying weedicides or by pulling them by hand. However, you need to be careful while you pull the weeds out by hand, as it may destroy the roots of the Euonymus Japonicus.

Overwintering

Euonymus Japonicus is a relatively winter hardy plant and can survive low temperatures. All you can do it to protect it against winter damage is keep the soil moist but make sure it isn’t sopping wet. Also, mulch with many inches of organic mulch like shredded bark. Apply the mulch in a way that covers the root zone without getting up against the main stems. If your plant is in a windy spot, use windbreakers to prevent it from drying out. 

Pests and Diseases

Evergreen Euonymus is known to be one of the plants notably resistant to honey fungus.

However, root rot and some fungal diseases are a problem due to overwatering.

Euonymus scale, fungal leaf spots, crown gall, witches’ broom, stem dieback, and powdery mildew are troublesome additional diseases.

As for pests, the Evergreen Euonymus plant is susceptible to aphids, mealybugs, leaf miner, mites, and attacks from caterpillars, especially during the flowering season.

This evergreen shrub is also a natural host of the sugar beet fly.

  • Known Hazards

If you didn’t know, the Evergreen Japanese Euonymus species is known to have toxic parts.

While parts like leaves, fruits, and flowers are a problem, the seeds contain the most amount of toxins.

When consumed in large quantities by animals or humans, it can trigger bouts of vomiting and diarrhea.

It can cause other symptoms like weakness, chills, and convulsions, and can put someone in a coma.

It’s important you be very cautious when planting Evergreen Euonymus in your home, especially if you have children or plants.

III. Uses and Benefits 

The Euonymus Japonicus plant is endowed with several environmental benefits. It is used in fields like Agroforestry, Landscape improvement, Revegetation, Soil conservation,…

  • Research uses

Euonymus Japonicus is used as a Research model to learn about various plant diseases like root rot, rust, smut,… It can also be used to track and discover plant procedures and their reactions to chemical exposures.

  •  Medicinal uses

The leaves of the Euonymus Japonicus plant contain chemicals containing anti-rheumatic, anhidrotic, and diuretic properties. Therefore, it is used widely as an ingredient in the preparation of medicines.

  •  Ornamental uses

Evergreen spindle is an evergreen shrub or small tree commonly found in gardens. It is prized for its pretty blossoms and rich foliage. Its compact shape makes it suitable for borders and hedges. Evergreen spindle is appropriate for Mediterranean and drought-tolerant gardens. It is also suitable for coastal gardens. Suggested companion plants include Coral Bells or Coneflowers for color contrast.

Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus) Details

Common name Box-Leaf Euonymus, Dwarf Japanese Euonymus, Evergreen Euonymus, Japanese Euonymus, Japanese Spindle Tree, Spindle Tree
Botanical name Euonymus japonicus
Plant type Perennial
Hardiness zone 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Growth rate Medium
Harvest time Fall
Height 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
Width 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Green
Leaf color Green