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

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


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

    1. Roger Says:

      I live in NJ too and I’m seeing winter damage on many broadleaf evergreens. Last winter we had similar damage.

      Whether or not they’ll recover, re-bud and push new growth depends on the extent of the winter damage. In other words, if damage goes beyond the leaves and into the stems the plant will not recover at those points.

      You’ll need to wait and see (into spring) if and where the plant is showing signs of new buds. If new buds appear further down the stems, but not towards the tips, simply cut back to those “living” points, i.e. just above the first new bud.

    2. Theresa Says:

      Thanks so much for your quick response. I will take your advice and see what happens in the spring.

    3. Gail Braun Says:

      I have a Emerald Gaiety and the leaves did not fall off through the winter. Do I cut it down or leave the old leaves and branches on? Will the new buds start with all last years leaves on?
      Thank you

    4. Roger Says:

      Emerald Gaiety is an evergreen, so it’s good the leaves are still on. If the plant looks OK, and it sounds like it is, simply let it be. New buds should form throughout the plant this spring (among the existing leaves) and give a new flush of growth.

    5. Nick Says:

      What is the best way to cut back a huge area of winter creeper ground cover?

    6. Roger Says:

      When you say “cut back” are you wanting to eliminate it from an area that it’s invading?

      If so, there are two approaches you could take.

      The first one I practice on my property. I have wintercreeper along a border planting that continually wants to invade further into the lawn area. To stop this expansion, every time I cut the grass I deliberately let the mower go over into the edge of the oncoming wintercreeper. If I sense the wintercreeper is “winning more lawn area,” I let the mower overlap further into the groundcover. This constant, low cutting (mower height) discourages the plant from expanding.

      The other approach would be to physically remove the invading plant — roots and all. As it spreads the running stems are rooting into the ground. So you would establish the point (or line) you want to cut back to and start removing the foliage, stems and roots from there.

      Wintercreeper will continually want to reclaim that space. So you’ll need to have a steady method of containment, like with the lawn mower, to keep the plant in-check. Even a with a physical border like brick or plastic edging, wintercreeper will eventually grow over it.

    7. karie Says:

      My euonymus gold isn’t looking so good this spring. It only has a few greens on the bottom of the plant. The rest is dry branches. Should I cut right back to the base of the plant? If so there will not be much left to it. But hoping it will bud. Any advice? Thank you.

    8. Roger Says:

      You’re doing the right thing, i.e. pruning out any of the deadwood.

      You could fertilize the plant to help it along. And, of course, make sure it gets watered occasionally. Not too much though – euonymus do not like it wet.

      I think it will recover. The fact that it’s budding is a good sign.

    9. Christine Says:

      Hi Roger,

      I have 4 large euonymus plants climbing up trellis, used as a privacy screen. The NJ winter was not kind to them this year and I found a lot of small branches in the inner part of the plant died. The plant seems to be coming back, but much of the new buds and leaves are at the end of the branches, so the plant is looking quite leggy. Is there anything I can do to stimulate new growth more towards the inner part of the plant, rather than the ends?

      Thank you!

    10. Roger Says:

      It’s still early, and the plant will continue to recover.

      Later on in the season, if the plant still looks thin, you could selectively tip prune the longer shoots throughout the plant. I know, that’s a big job!. :-) You can always do it in stages; a little bit at a time. As you might expect, the plant will then direct energy to lower and lateral shoots.

    11. Jean Says:

      When is the best time to prune euonymous?

    12. Roger Says:

      I would prune euonymus in mid to late spring, especially if I was making aggressive cuts to reduce the size of the plant or renovate it.

      For general maintenance and light pruning, we’ll do that now, i.e. mid to late summer.

    13. Sharon Says:

      I planted a little emerald gaity in my front yard in a soil that has a lot of clay. We may have over watered in an attempt to help establish it. Now the leaves are over 50% dead. Is there a way to rescue this poor plant?

    14. Roger Says:

      If it is over-watering, and it sounds like it is, you’ll want to raise the plant out of the wet conditions — maybe one third out of the ground. Use available mulch or top soil (that drains well) to mound around the exposed root-ball.

      It’s never a guaranteed thing to reverse damage from over-watering or too wet ground. This condition deprives the root system of oxygen.

      Elevating the euonymus out of this wet, clay ground will give it the best chance of recovery. It’s OK to moisten the surrounding top soil or mulch you’ve mounded around the root-ball. But also let it dry out once in awhile, i.e. a more natural watering cycle.

      If the plant does recover I would not expect to see new buds or re-growth until next spring. If there is new buds and growth, you could then prune out the deadwood. Perhaps then you could even lower the plant (root-ball) a bit more into the native ground. But I would still favor keeping the top of the root-ball higher than the surrounding ground. You would have to judge how much that would be — I can’t give an amount without seeing the situation.

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