Manhattan Euonymus – Prune Selectively

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


euon.manh_prune1Why Can’t I Just Shear It?

I call this one of my “go-to” plants.  Manhattan Euonymus is tough, nice looking, fast growing, and cheap (I mean relatively inexpensive).  Yes you could shear it – many people do, but the result will be excessive, dense branching on the sheared ends.  This produces that mass of stems and leaves on the exterior and nothing but bare stems on the inside.  Look, I get it.  If you have a huge hedge it’s not practical to hand-prune.  But I really feel I need to state the correct way to prune if you have the time and desire.

euon.manh_prune2Concentrate On The Older Stems

Look at the flush of growth on this euonymus in the pic above. If we don’t get this plant under control the view of the house will be obliterated.  To do this I start in one area and pick a point on the plant where even after aggressive pruning there will still be enough foliage to look presentable and “mask” the heavy cuts I’ll be making.  And that’s the key.  Notice in the picture here on the left that I’m ready to cut into 2nd, possibly 3rd year growth.  But before I make the cut I check to see that there’s leafy growth nearby that will eventually fill in and help disguise the major cut.

euon.manh_prune3Like with most shrub pruning, make sure the plant shape is getting wider towards the base, i.e. don’t go in at the bottom and make it look like a ball.  There are still a few cuts remaining, but you can already see a difference.  If you look at the before pic above you’ll notice that most of the pruning occurred in the upper portion of the plant.  I did proportionately less cutting as I came down the sides towards the ground.  To avoid creating “indescribable shapes” and hearing wise-crack remarks from neighbors, stand back occasionally and check it out as you go.  I always say “picture an imaginary line as to how the shape should look (think “mounded” and wider at the base) and try to follow it”.

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    23 Responses to “Manhattan Euonymus – Prune Selectively”

    1. mark Says:

      Manhattan Euonymus
      I am trying to clone these and grow them in a green house I have but am having trouble. Where can I find instructions on best conditions and what part of cutting should be used for best rooting chances?

    2. Roger Says:

      Unfortunately plant propagation is something I’m not too well versed in.

      I did take a propagation class in college, and funny enough I still have the text: Plant Propagation, Principles and Practices (2nd Edition) by Hartman & Kester. I looked it up on Amazon and here’s the current edition.

      It would be really helpful if you could visit a nursery where they do woody plant propagation to see their systems and techniques. I wonder if any of your local nurseries or garden centers could suggest any propagators they do business with?

      Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

    3. Marti Says:

      Can I trim my manhattan euonymus in October?

    4. Roger Says:

      If pruning the plant is something you can put off, I’d say prune in spring. Winter can cause frost damage and you’d rather have the current growth on the plant for some extra protection.

      If the situation requires you prune it now, the plant will probably be OK. These euonymus can recover quite readily.

    5. Kelli Says:

      I work for a company who installs and maintains neighborhood entrances. There are euonymous manhattans that have been planted but the previous maintenance crew has been in the habit of shearing them. Now they have done exactly as you said they would and all the foliage is on the outside edge leaving the interior bare. Is it too late to or is there something I can do to make these flush back out.

    6. Roger Says:

      Hi Kelli,
      Dave Kennedy, a landscape contractor and one of our contributors here on LA, calls this euonymus a weed. And he means that in a complimentary sort of way. We like this plant because it’s attractive (when used and cared for properly) and it’s a “trooper”, i.e. it’s fairly tough and you can use (mold it) to all sorts of applications.

      It will rejuvenate and re-bud if you make severe cuts to re-shape it and get it back to where it belongs. Of course it will take a little patience on the part of the homeowners that have to look at it during that “rejuvenation period,” but on the other hand this “weed of a plant” responds pretty quickly.

      Think about this approach too. Eunoymus Manhattan is a relatively inexpensive plan, and it grows fairly rapidly. Perhaps it makes sense to just remove those that are severely overgrown and replace them, either with new euonymus or another selection. You have to weigh the cost and involvement of your pruning campaign to rejuvenate them vs. replacing them.

    7. Jay Hanlin Says:

      After a severe cut to an entire Manhattan, there appear to be scale or plaque on the branches and some of the remaining leaves are dull green/yellow. The plant lost it’s luster.

      Any suggestions for repair?

      Thank you

    8. Roger Says:

      Scale is very common in many varieties of euonymus. If you think the plant is losing the battle you can apply a systemic insecticide. Sometimes the insect population does not reach that level and the plant can live on with a minor infestation.

      I checked w/ Michael Hirsch, our plant health care advisor, and he now uses a systemic insecticide called Safari. The base ingredient is imidacloprid. This ingredient can also be found in other products like Merit, which is available to homeowners.

    9. Gary Says:

      My Enouymus have been poorly maintained with removal of the lower branches, exposing the trunk and severe verticle overgrowth. If I top the plant to a reasonable height, ie 4 feet, I have bare stems. Will the plant rebud and deveolpe new growth or will this kill the plant?

    10. Gary Says:

      I have a severely overgrown plant that was previously trimmed heavily at the base to bare wood and allowed to grow vertically. It is now over 8 feet. Can I trim it severely to essentially bare wood and will it then grow back into more manageable form? I am patient and not concerned about appearance. Will it generally recover in a single season?

    11. Roger Says:

      Go ahead and prune back as you wish. The plant should push what is called “adventitious buds” from the lower stems. This will take some time, but should ultimately rejuvenate the plant.

    12. Roger Says:

      Please see my comment in your other message.
      I’ll bet it will take 2 years before you have a nice full plant. You may want to selectively prune the tips off the new growth to stimulate lateral buds and growth. This will give you a fuller and stronger plant long-term.

    13. Elizabeth Says:

      Hi! I am hoping you can help. I have a smaller Manhattan Euonymus 5′ tall, 5′ wide in Denver that just got fried with a late spring frost (15′ and snow/ice/wind) after the new leaves barely came in. Now all the leaves are crispy, brown and dead and falling off. Any suggestions on what to do? Should I prune back and hope for new growth or let it be? Do you think the plant is dead? Thanks for your help!

    14. Roger Says:

      It could very well be that the late season frost damaged stems too, so there may be an overall die-back.

      My experience with this euonymus is the plant will recover from lower, thicker stems and branches. And in the worst case scenario it will rejuvenate from the base of the plant.

      Soon you should be able to determine what stems are alive by some sign of new growth. Where no new growth is appearing you should begin to prune back to just above where a new leaf is showing.

      We kid around in the trade that this plant is like a weed…in a good way. I’m amazed at how quickly they can recover.

    15. H King Says:

      Hi there,
      I have a client in Longmont, Co. with a hedge of Manhattan Euonymous near the entry to their home. I noticed that the new growth has curling leaves. At first I suspected a fungal problem but Im now wondering if it is leaf curling aphids. How can I be certain what the problem is?
      Thank you!

    16. Roger Says:

      It’s difficult to comment/diagnose without seeing the plant.
      Aphids can be a problem on Manhattan Euonymus. Although more often I see scale and mildew problems, but these don’t necessarily cause the leaves to curl.
      I would check w/ a plant nursery that might have an experienced, knowledgeable person on staff, or perhaps you have a plant health care person you use on your jobs.
      I also use the Rutgers Ag. Extension Service here in NJ to help diagnose plant problems. Every state has an Ag. Ext. Service and perhaps you’ve used yours. Here is a link to the website.

    17. Donna Carter Says:

      I just bought a house that has a hedge of this plant on both sides of the drive. It has not been trimmed in several years and has grown too wide to allow vehicles to enter the drive. In reality, the plant needs to be cut back at least a foot, which will basically remove all of the green and leave a woody, stemy mess. If I do this, will it eventually re-leaf, or will it ruin the plant? If it will recover, how long will it likely take to product foliage?

    18. Roger Says:

      Some of us in the trade refer to this euonymus as an “ornamental weed”. It wants to survive no matter what.

      You can cut it back quite severely and it will push buds and growth from the stems and base that remain.

      If you did this “cutting-back” in late-winter/early-spring the plant should begin to rejuvenate this growing season. However it may take 2 years to look full again. Realize, of course, that it’s hard to predict a timeline and an absolute outcome because there are too many variables.

    19. Cristy P Says:

      I always read to prune 2nd and 3rd year growth on my manhattan eonymus. How can I tell what that is?

    20. Roger Says:

      If you examine a branch starting at the tip, that first length of growth (thinnest) is 1st year. Then, simply work your way down to identify the next thicker gauge of growth, which is 2nd year – and so on.

      Someone could recommend to prune Euonymus Manhattan to its 2nd & 3rd year growth because: 1) It is a fast growing plant and often outgrows the space people give it in the garden. And 2) It will rejuvenate quite well from aggressive pruning.

      Cutting back to 2nd and 3rd year growth is aggressive pruning. I try to prune with a combination of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year growth cuts. This way the plant keeps some newer foliage towards the ends, while at the same time is “kept in check” with the deeper cuts of 2nd & 3rd year growth.

      I hope that makes sense. It’s easier to visually demonstrate than describe it in writing. :-)

    21. Cristy Says:

      That does make sense to work your way down to the next thicker gauges of growth.

      Thanks so much for your reply!

    22. Clark Says:

      Roger, I have a gap in my hedges which I would like to fill in. I took a sample of the leaves to my local nursery and they said it is probably a Manhattan Euonymus. However, when I looked at their one for sale, it had small little buds on it. Is that just because it is a young plant? I don’t see anything similar on mine at home but it is about 5′ tall now. I do see lots of new growth on mine this spring, but nothing like what the Manhattan at the store has. Do you think it was mis-identified? Can I send you a picture of the hedge I have to see if you think it’s a Manhattan? Thanks in advance.

    23. Roger Says:

      It can be challenging and a test of your patience when trying to match a particular plant. Even when a plant is “true to cultivar,” it can vary from what’s on your property. Perhaps it came from a nursery in a different environment where soil and other conditions vary enough to cause a difference in appearance.

      ‘Manhattan’ is a cultivar of Eunoymus kiautschovicus. So is ‘Sieboldiana,’ and they are often mistaken for one another.

      Perhaps you could do a bit more shopping around to see if you can find something that more closely matches your plant(s).

      Feel free to email me a picture. Take one of the whole plant, and one close-up of a few leaves.

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