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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    97 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.
      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.

    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:

      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:

      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:


    25. Roger Says:

      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, , 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:

      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:


      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,

    29. Bo Says:

      I have recently move to a new house which has what I have identified as a type of Euonymus shrub. They haven’t been very well tended and we are in the middle of a severe drought here in the Texas panhandle. I hate to remove these hedges since they are well established. Can I prune back to the stumps and create a new hedge? Or if not how far can I prune them? They are about 4 1/2 ft tall and bases are about 2 feet out from wall of house. I’d appreciate any advice you can offer!

    30. Roger Says:

      I would approach this pruning a bit cautiously. It looks like the Texas panhandle has plant zones 6 and 7. So you’re a little ahead of where I am in terms of plant growth. But I’m especially concerned about the drought you’re having.

      If you do any aggressive pruning you’ll want consistent moisture for the plant, or else it’s just going to be more stressed and less likely to recover.

      If you can water the plants consistently (e.g. twice / week), I would prune back approximately 6″ or so this time. But more importantly, I’d thin the plants out by selectively pruning some of the thicker, older stems back into the center and lower portion of the plant. This will start to let more light and air into the plant, and potentially push some interior growth and maybe even some at the base.

      Next early spring, and hopefully not in a drought, you could go at it again and lower the plant even more.

    31. Bo Says:

      Thanks for the advice, Roger…. I will give this a try. I am able to provide the watering at this time, but we are liable to be put on restrictions at any time, so for this year anyway I will be a bit more cautious. Thanks again for taking the time for us!

    32. Debi Says:

      Hi Roger. I have just bought an Emerald Gaiety plant around 1 foot high, and want to grow it in a container 2x2x2 feet on my balcony, as I live in an apartment. Do you think the shrub will do well in a container? I’d like it to grow into a bush around 2×2 feet. Also, I live in Toronto, Canada, which gets very hot humid summers and very cold and snowy winters. I’m assuming the shrub can be left out on the balcony over winter? If so, do I need to protect it in any way?

      Thanks for any advice!

    33. sheila Says:

      My plants look dead, will they come back?

    34. Roger Says:

      The euonymus would do OK in the planter. The problem would be during the winter. The “above-ground” exposure and fluctuating temperatures of winter would be too much for the plant.

      Most, if not all, leafy plants would suffer the same consequence. You’d have better luck with a dwarf conifer, cypress or juniper of some kind.

      Sometimes, in situations like this, it’s better to just accept the seasonal aspect and replant each growing season with an annual plant or vine. If you’re intent on having something 12 months, try something like I mentioned above.

    35. Roger Says:

      If by mid-June you’re not seeing any new growth (check by the base of the plant too), then it’s likely dead.

    36. Kris Says:

      Help. I planted a very long row of Emerald Gaiety plants thinking these had the potential to become an evergreen hedge. However, the more I read the more I’m concerned this may not be possible. Can these become a true hedge and if so, how can I best train them?

    37. Roger Says:

      Emerald Gaiety will form a hedge, but it will be and should be maintained as a more natural, informal hedge – not sheared to an absolute shape (IMO).

      Also, EG will not get very tall (possibly 3′ or so over time).

    38. Donna Says:

      Last summer I planted a very small “Emerald/n Gold Euonymus” shrub, which never grew at all – nor did it die. Because it was planted in a garden around our tree in the front yard, I just presumed it needed to establish it’s roots and may have been competing with the tree. It is now a year later and it is still not growing, nor dying. I’ve given it plenty of fertilizer (Miracle Grow), but it simply is not getting any bigger and looks like I just planted it. I have another Emerald Euonymus in a different garden that is doing very well. Also, all my other plants and shrubs in my garden around the tree are doing very well. Do you have any idea what the problem could be.

    39. Natalie Says:

      We just recently purchased a new-to-us home and there are 9 emerald gaiety plants on my front walkway. They are quite leggy at the top and those legs are all leaning. In addition, it is overtaking the area overpowering the other ground cover planted around it. The tops of these are about waist high. I’m not much of a gardener and so at first I didn’t even know what they are.

      The fact that they are not supported is probably why they are leaning. I guess I should prune them back into a mounded shape?

    40. Tammy Says:

      Hi Roger,

      When is the best time to prune the emerald gold? I live in southern Ontario, just outside of Toronto. Sorry if you answered this question alread.


    41. Roger Says:

      Wait until spring to prune the Emerald Gold.

    42. debby Says:

      the ppl next me dont like to take care of there yard would this help hide it?

    43. Roger Says:

      Emerald Gaiety does not grow tall enough for screening.
      You’d be better off using Euonymus ‘Manhattan’.

    44. Roger Says:

      Hard to say what’s troubling your Emerald Gold E. The fact that other plants in that same garden are doing well gives some assurance the ground is OK and competition with the tree is not a big issue.

      One thing to consider would be in the spring (not this fall) to dig down next to the root ball and see if the plant has been pushing new roots out into the surrounding soil. Often “container-grown” plants become root-bound in their containers. And if you don’t “tease” the roots (i.e. cut or rough them up a bit) before you plant, they’ll remain stagnant and not develop properly.

    45. Margo Says:

      We have planted the low growing shrubs in a raised garden around a gazebo. We live in Ottawa, Canada which I believe is Zone 5 and are subject to cold winters and snow. Is it necessary to cover these plants with burlap to avoid freezing?

    46. Roger Says:

      Yes. When you near the time that freezing temperatures begin to be routine, you’ll want to protect the plants from wind and sun exposure. Winter sun will warm the leaf surface and cause it to transpire (give off moisture). If the root system is frozen beneath the ground, the plant cannot replace that lost moisture.

      A “raised” bed presents a challenge because that elevated planting is more susceptible to fluctuating freeze/thaw cycles.

    47. Roger Says:

      Exactly. If you can wait until early spring to prune them back, that would be best.

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