How To Prune Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety and E. Gold’

How-To's, Landscape Care · Written by Roger

78 Comments

euonymus emerald gaietyEuonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’ and ‘Emerald Gold’ are 2 very common shrubs.  In many ways the two are similar in form.  You’ll often see both used as a low, mounded shrub either at the front of a garden or as an area groundcover.

Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’ has the distinct capability to climb when planted next to a structure.

In this first picture is ‘Emerald Gaiety’ and further down the stone wall   is ‘Emerald Gold’.

The loose, straggley growth on top is typical and perhaps in a larger open space this “wildness” would be OK.  For example, used on a slope as a groundcover this “rambling” habit would be great.

However, in other gardens  you may want to prune for a neater look.  In this situation the Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’ is overpowering the azalea behind it.  Let’s bring it back to scale, but keep that natural form.

How To Prune

As always, the best method of pruning any plant to maintain a “natural” appearance is to prune “selectively” – that is, by hand, single cuts with hand pruners.

Some of you are probably saying, “Are you kidding, I have too many to prune selectively”.  I hear you.  There’s a point of practicality where you have to make a judgement call.  In this case it’s not the end of the world if you shear the plants to make a monstrous task more doable.

These next 2 pictures show selective pruning on the Euonymus ‘Emerald Gold’.  I pruned the ‘Emerald Gaiety’ the same way.

Select the longest growth that extends beyond the main body of the plant and follow it down into the plant.  There, among the denser growth make your cut just above a leaf or lateral branch.

This last picture shows the Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’ after it was pruned selectively. Notice how the “natural” form was maintained, but the plant is neater and more in scale with the azalea behind it.euonymus 'emerald gaiety'

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    78 Responses to “How To Prune Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety and E. Gold’”

    1. Allan Says:

      I live in Rosamond,CA. / Mojave Desert where it is between 100-115F. during the summer and fall with very arid conditions. I have about 8 of the Golden variety. I cant figure out why they burn so much. We have alkaline soil and well water, so I try to lower the soil ph with 16-16-16 granular. Some days they respond to watering every other day with new growth, but it is usually followed by white leathery or crispy brown / rusty leaves. In the winter they do great, summer stinks. Too much or little water? I have the same problem with red tipped photinas also. I have TDS and PH meters and have measured soil run off ph to 7.0 and TDS @200-300 ppm..Frustrated.

    2. Roger Says:

      Hi Allan,
      It’s around 90 degrees in NJ right now and I want to complain, but hearing where you live and the temps…

      My overall feeling is the euonymus is being pushed to its heat tolerance max. Its zone range is 5-8 and when I looked at the zone map you appear to be located in the 8b to 9a zones. This would explain why the plant(s) do better during the cooler months.

      If you wanted a thorough and accurate assessment, you could send both plant and soil samples to your area’s cooperative extension service. Here in NJ Rutgers University handles all the state’s agricultural/horticultural information and problem solving. It’s an excellent service and I use it whenever I’m stuck on a problem. Not only do they diagnose, but in addition offer recommendations and solutions. It looks like your extension service is handled by UC Davis.

    3. Joan Says:

      I have a Emerald Euonymus at the end of my garage should I install a trellis to help it climb? Does this shrub produce flowers?
      You site has been very helpful in showing how this shrub grows.
      Thank you.
      Joan
      P S. If I do not get it under control it will come out, but I do like.

    4. Joan Says:

      Hello Roger, You site has been very helpful in providing information on what I should do to get a better control on my Eunoymus Gaiety. I have had an insect cause trouble, but as spring approaches it appears that the chemical the nursery recommended is working.
      Thank you for your help.
      Joan

    5. Roger Says:

      Hi Joan,
      Thanks for leaving your comments and question.

      If you’re looking to have the plant climb on the garage/building itself, the surface should be stone, brick or stucco. Wood siding would not be good.

      If you do have wood or vinyl siding, you could use a trellis positioned several inches away from the building to grow your euonymus on. You’ll need to use “ties” as fasteners to loosely hold and guide some of the branches. In fact, you’ll probably find you’ll occasionally need to help the branches along w/ more “ties” as it grows.

      I’ve purchased this plant in the past as a climbing version. It comes in a container with a small trellis, and twist-ties are used to hold the branches to the trellis. Take care that your ties or fasteners are never tight against the branch stems.

      And where it may be getting out of control, i.e. growing over walkways or spreading throughout the bed, it can be cut back fairly aggressively.

    6. Roger Says:

      Joan,
      Insect problems, particularly scale are common.

      Remember to not over-water this plant. It does not like “wet feet”.

      And since you mentioned getting it under control was a concern, it obviously does not need to be fed. Fertilizing can push growth unnaturally and actually make the plant more susceptible to insect (and other) problems.

    7. Jim Says:

      I have a 50×30 area of golden gaiety and I’m thinking of taking a lawn mower to it to get it under control. Will I kill it? I have used a hedge trimmer in the past and it has done well. Follow up question is what will happen if I just let it go? they are planted around rhodys and I like to keep them low.

    8. Roger Says:

      I don’t think I would use a lawn mower to cut them back. I’d probably use the hedge trimmer again. This way you can control how far down you’ll cut – appreciating the age of the plant and how “woody” and developed the lower branching is. Plus, the hedge trimmers will give a cleaner cut compared to a lawn mower.

      With regard to letting them grow, they would eventually reach a mature height of approximately 1.5 to 2′. And they do ramble so they’ll acquire more area if left unchecked. Some plant health care specialists may have a concern that the euonymus could invade the base of the nearby Rhodos and have an adverse affect. That could be debatable, but it’s probably safer to control the euonymus from growing into the Rhodos.

      I hope this helps.

    9. Shirley Says:

      I’m rejuvenating front foundation, removing some reviving others with an overall new landscape design. I have no trouble shovel pruning juniper, neglected arborvitae and yews, all grown past their time. However, I have an Emerald Gaiety that has overgrown an area approx 6′ diameter. It has completely overtaken the back and front of a shrub border as ground cover. At first I was going to shovel prune, now I’m thinking such robust root system may be worth working with as a climbing vine. Rather than cut back to 10″ from ground, I’m thinking maybe prune off some of the branches, install a trellis behind the plant and us it as a green backdrop to a more colorful shrub. I don’t mind the plant, I just don’t want it sprawling on the ground taking up valuable space for an upright plant that can be visible from the street. Have you any experience with Emerald Gaiety as a climber? Any advice?

    10. Roger Says:

      Hi Shirley,
      I think your idea and strategy with the euonymus is great.

      The times I use Emerald Gaiety as a climber are typically at the base of a masonry, brick or stone wall. It certainly will work on a trellis, but you’ll have to assist it (especially early on) with ties & fasteners. Perhaps as time goes on your help will not be as needed.

    11. Shirley Says:

      thanks Roger, how long will the vines grow? I know sometimes when spindly branches are elevated, they seem to “reach” for the sun. Just wondering how tall the trellis ought to be.

    12. Roger Says:

      From a functional standpoint, I’d think if the trellis was about 5′ high it would work well. Now it could be that you’d like the trellis to be taller because of the design circumstance…and that’s fine. Some trellises are so beautiful they can literally stand on their own.

    13. Chris Says:

      My plants are growing very long stems nad not filling out. What is,the problem?

    14. Roger Says:

      Hey Chris,
      Is it more than one plant reacting the same way?

      Typically, if they are not pruned regularly, dominant growth will happen on the tips (or terminal ends) of a certain percentage of the branches. This causes a more open and sparse looking plant. Less light can cause not as full a plant too.

      Do they appear healthy otherwise?

      Prune them if you haven’t been. And really all it takes to make the plant push growth internally (and fill out) is to cut the tips of the branches. This removes the apical bud at the end and sends a message to the plant to push growth laterally.

    15. Carolyn Says:

      Deer have nearly destroyed the Euonymus. Can I prune severely in the hope it
      will be restored?

    16. Roger Says:

      Hi Carolyn,
      Yes, you certainly can, and it will likely push new growth from the base. Of course you better have some strategy in place to prevent the deer from grazing on it again. I just ordered a deer repellent product called Repellex. It’s a systemic that get absorbed into the plants system and makes the plant unpleasant for the deer to eat. I continue to search for solutions to this ever-growing problem. Today we have a deer presence on almost every landscape project we do. I actually now focus on just using plants that naturally resist deer grazing on my jobs.

    17. Brandy Says:

      I purchased two Emerald Gaiety on clearance on a whim. I can’t decide where to put them as I don’t know much about them. I have an area about 5′x4′ along the side of the house that needs to be filled with some sort of bush. I also have a huge slope in the back yard that is currently covered with grass, but needs a ground cover to stop erosion and cut down on maintenance. I would prefer a short ground cover, though. It’s hard to tell how tall these will be as ground covers. What do you recommend?

    18. Roger Says:

      Hi Brandy,
      The 4 X 5′ area would eventually accommodate the Emerald Gaiety very nicely, but in the beginning it’s going to look rather sparse.

      This plant can get to 4′+, however I’m more familiar with mature plants I’ve seen that are closer to 3′. If you’d prefer a shorter groundcover then I’d not use ‘Emerald Gaiety’. Standard Euonymus fortunei (common name: Wintercreeper), of which E. Gaiety is a cultivar, will stay lower as a groundcover (6 – 12″). Perhaps that would work for you on the slope.

    19. Rebecca Says:

      I have a silver king euonymus that I am trying to get to re-grow from the base. For a year or two I was letting it grow upward hoping to get more “shrub” thinking it just needed more of itself and then I would eventually cut it back. Needless to say this did not work. so I got some books from the library about pruning and cutting and I’ve now cut/pruned and thinned the protruding branches in the hopes of encouraging some new growth from the base. does this sound about right? It is very sparse, if nothing at all, at the base. In your opinion, what is the best way to encourage new growth at the base so i can have a full, euonymus bush? also, what is a good fungicide since i think it may be infected with something.

    20. Marty Says:

      Hi. I have inherited an old but healthy Emerald ‘n Gold Euonymus.
      At this point it is much more like ground cover than a shrub. We need it to be a shrub. What must I do to get it to grow in that fashion vs. along the ground?

    21. Valerie Says:

      Thank you!

    22. Roger Says:

      Marty,
      The variety of euonymus you have is characteristically a mounded, sprawling plant. Other than tidying up the side branches (by pruning) to give the plant more singular definition, you really can not change its predisposed form.

    23. Roger Says:

      Hi Rebecca,
      To encourage new growth at the base of the plant you’re doing the right thing by pruning back selectively at the top. Thinnning the plant is another good technique you’re practicing.

      I don’t have direct experience with this particular variety, but the general concept is the same for many plants. Now some plants will respond better to this than others – it just comes down to each plant types inherent ability to rejuvenate from the base. But you’re doing the right thing so good luck with that.

      In terms of a recommended fungicide, I would first get the problem diagnosed properly. A nearby garden center or plant nursery may be able to help. And you could always send a sample to your state’s agricultural extension service. These euonymus do have their problems/pests, but make sure you’re applying the right solution. And it could be that the planting conditions are not right and are adversely affecting the plant. A good diagnostician will be asking questions to fully understand the environment the plant is in as this can sometimes be a supporting part to the problem.

    24. CECELIA Says:

      HI, AFTER PRUNING, CAN I REROOT SOME OF MY LONG CLIPPINGS. IS THIS A SHRUB THAT CAN BE EXPANDED? HAVE HAD TWO BUSHES THAT ARE GROWING VERY WELL. I HAVEN’T PRUNE THEM BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THEM. ONE OF MY BUSHES HAS A STEM THAT IS GOING STRAIGHT IN THE AIR ABOUT 10″ PAST THE REST OF THE SHRUB, THAT IS WHY I AM SEARCHING FOR INFO BEFORE I DO THE WRONG THING. I AM GOING TO PRUNE THEM TOMORROW, WANT TO KNOW IF I CAN RE-ROOT SOME THE STEMS? THANKS FOR ANY HELP.

    25. Roger Says:

      Cecelia,
      I’m not that experienced in plant propagation. And it’s been too many years since we covered it in college. I can tell you that euonymus is not difficult to root just by following a few basic steps and then being patient – it does take time.

      I Googled “propagate euonymus” and came up with many sites to visit. The first one was a YouTube video, http://youtu.be/fIHL3Fyu0Ak , which was pretty informative.

      Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

    26. Maha Says:

      I have several euonymus bushes but unfortunately the deer ate almost all the leaves this winter (as I guess it was a rough winter for them too). How can I save those bushes by pruning them to encourage growth. I am planning to spray then with bobbex (a natural product). Thanks for any help.

    27. Roger Says:

      Maha,
      Although I don’t think it’s necessary, it would be OK to take your trimming shears and just snip off the jagged ends from the deer. New growth should emerge from the base of the plant this season.

      Good luck with Bobbex. Let us know how it works.

    28. Maha Says:

      Roger,

      Thanks for your reply. I went ahead and trimmed the jagged ends as you had suggested and sprayed them with Bobbex. Will let you know if it will work.
      Thanks again,

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