Manhattan Euonymus – Prune Selectively

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

74 Comments

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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    74 Responses to “Manhattan Euonymus – Prune Selectively”

    1. Roger Says:

      Karen,
      If the Euonymus is 10′ away from the septic tank, it’s unlikely its roots (if they’re even near the tank) are hindering them from digging and doing whatever they have to do.

      I’ve never had a problem with Euonymus Manhattan’s roots competing with another plant such that it was a problem.

    2. Karen Says:

      THANK YOU! I thought they were full of malarkey. And thank you for having this forum. I have learned a lot from perusing the others questions and your responses. Now if I could just learn to consistently spell Euonymus correctly, life will be good. Have a wonderful weekend. Karen

    3. Rhonda Says:

      We had three, ten year-old Manhattan Euonymus bushes in our yard. This spring the leaves are brown and crisp and new leaves have not appeared on two of the plants while the third has sprouted a few new leaves. Surrounding plants are fine. I am wondering if the uncharacteristic cold snap we experienced here in Denver in early November 2014 could be the cause. We like the evergreen nature of the Manhattan Euonymus and will likely replace them, but am curious to know what may have caused the problem with the three we had.

      Thank you.

    4. Roger Says:

      Rhonda,
      You’re probably correct assuming the unusual cold in November “played a part” in your plant loss.

      Here in the northeast we had extremely cold weather this past winter. Combined with winter-sun on plants facing south and southwest, and northern facing plants battling dessicating winds, winter damage has been severe.

      All our Euonymus Manhattan were damaged, along with many other broadleaf evergreens. Some are slowly recovering, while others are being removed and replaced.

      At this point (mid-May) it should be pretty evident what’s recovering and what’s dead. On your recovering plant, you can start to prune out deadwood.

    5. sheryl Says:

      I just bought 6 gallon e.m’s.and want to put them in front of a 27′ deck,however,at one end,i have a small concrete fish pond.will the roots invade that and break thru the concrete? (the closest one will probably be withing 3-4 ft of the pond)thanks.

    6. Roger Says:

      Sheryl,
      Not likely. Euonymus have fibrous root systems.

      I would be more concerned about the future top-growth of the euonymus and its mature size. Yes, you can keep it pruned, but don’t underestimate how wide that plant wants to get. And they are vigorous growers.

      If you can, think about moving that last one further away from the pond. You can always fill-in the gap with herbaceous plants like perennials or ground-covers. As the euonymus grows you can easily pop-out the herbaceous plants. This is a trick/technique I use all the time.

    7. richard Says:

      I am considering planning some Manahattan’s along a shaded fence line in my back yard. The height seems perfect for what I have in mind but I am concerned with the possible width of this plant. The planning/growth area is probably no more that 5 feet wide. Is this too narrow for a Manhattan? If so, what would be a suitable replacement?

    8. Marilily Says:

      Hello,
      I have discovered that if you cut off a 8-10″ stem of new growth in early June, strip off the bottom 4″ of leaves, dip them in root powder, plant a group of 6 in 4″ ish starter pot with potting soil and keep watered in mostly shade area – – you will have a new bush by the end of summer! I made 18 this year as I am expanding a “green fence” on both sides of my yard. I plant them 4 ‘ apart. Keep watered well the first year. They keep most of their leaves in the winter too! I love this bush!!

    9. Roger Says:

      Richard,
      Overtime it will become difficult to keep Manhattan Euonymus within a 5′ space.

      Another plant to consider in this situation is Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica). It has a more upright growth habit. And although is can potentially get wider than 5′, the upright habit will help (and work with you) to keep it in-check. Of course proper pruning is always a key part to guiding a plant within a certain space.

    10. Roger Says:

      Marilily,
      That’s fantastic! You’ve got a great propagation process going there.
      Thanks for sharing it.

    11. sheryl Says:

      thanks for the info!

    12. Holly Says:

      Hi! I live in SC and have 30 year old 8-10ft tall boxwoods against the front left side of my home. I’ve considered pulling these up and replacing with something new but they cover up most of the large brick wall, which is great. I’ve purchase 3 Manhataan Euonymus to plant in front of these box woods to give a tiered look. I’m hoping this wth give the look I’m looking for. Any suggestions or tips would be appreciated!

    13. Roger Says:

      Holly,
      Having large boxwood means you’re no stranger to the growth potential of plants. I say this because you’ll need the same appreciation for the euonymus. They can get 8′ high and 12′ wide.

      So space them appropriately if you have the space and are able to. And if you’re intention is keep them smaller (as foreground plants) realize you’ll be pruning them regularly. Which is fine if you have the time and desire.

    14. Jennifer Says:

      We bought Manhattan Euonymus to extent our hedge about 4 years ago and they are only 3 feet tall. We bought them because they were to be fast growing. They look healthy. Any suggestions to help them grow?

    15. Roger Says:

      Jennifer,
      There could be any number of possibilities as to why they’re not growing too quickly. How do they look generally? Is there foliage a nice, dark green — and full-sized leaves? Are there plants nearby that are also growing slowly — or are doing very well?

      I was on a job the other day where euonymus were not doing well. They were planted along a border where the lawn grade caused water runoff to go to. Every time it rained and they rain their sprinkler system, these euonymus got wet from the water runoff. That’s what was stunting them. Leaves were a light green and smaller than normal.

      At the very least you could try feeding them. I would suggest Espoma Plant-tone.

    16. Ryan Says:

      Hi Roger,

      I live in NYC and have been trying to fill my balcony with plants. I recently bought a Manhattan Euonymus, which is on laticing and is 4 feet by 5 feet wide. How large should of a pot should I plant this in? I also worry that in winter if I go with too small a pot the roots could freeze and it will die. How much can I treat it like a vine, as I am trying to get it to grow around all the railing?

    17. Roger Says:

      Ryan,
      Any evergreen kept in a planter has to adapt to this “unusual” condition. Let’s face it — they’d prefer to be in the ground. :-)

      Certainly the larger the planter the better. For example, a good size would be approximately 21″ wide X 18″ tall (or there abouts).

      During a real cold winter even the largest pots freeze throughout. Without the insulation of the ground, an exposed pot in 20 degree weather will eventually freeze. Euonymus is generally pretty tough, but it will be challenged depending on the severity of the winter. And the cold winds and winter sun contribute to the challenge because together they cause the foliage to lose moisture. The roots are frozen and cannot replace that moisture. Therefore it would be wise the wrap the plant in burlap during the winter months.

      Euonymus is not a vine. In this case it’s been trained/pruned (espalier) to grow on the trellis. It instinctively wants to revert back to being a shrub. So it will take ongoing pruning to keep it in that vine state. You can allow certain stems to continue growing and tie them off to the railing. Don’t be afraid to make the necessary cuts to make the plant do what you want. A friend in the business refers (affectionately) to euonymus as an “ornamental weed”. :-)

    18. Pam Says:

      I have euonymus Manhattan across the front of my house which have gotten out of control….5 ft tall. I want to severely trim back. Can I take them down to the woody trunks (and leave some green possibly) and expect some growth before getting into hot summer ( Louisville, Ky)? I have 4 on one side and 3 on other side of entry. Thank you

    19. Roger Says:

      Pam,
      I’ve never cut Euonymus ‘Manhattan’ down to the base to rejuvenate the plant. I have cut them back severely (leaving some foliage) and they’ve recovered without a problem.

      So I hesitate to say “yes you can cut them back that extreme”. One approach might be to do this size-reduction in stages. In other words, prune the plants back by maybe a third (leaving more foliage), and let them respond/recover for 1 year. Then, prune back further the following year.

      Another approach would be to do the incremental method, but then also cut one of the plants more severely (like you have planned) and observe how it responds. It will be like a test or experiment.

    20. Patricia Hogan Says:

      Would wrapping with burlap in the winter keep the leaves from Browning?

    21. Roger Says:

      Patricia,
      If the plant is not too large, wrapping with burlap is still a great way to protect it during winter. Burlap shades the sun and screens from wind.

      Today most people (including professionals) use anti-transpirants to protect plants. But I still believe burlap does a better job.

    22. Patricia Says:

      Thank you.

    23. Rita Says:

      I have had Manhattan Euonymus at several different homes/yards. It’s a great, easy-care, fast-growing shrub. My only problem are the summer flowers that attract flies…hundreds of flies are attracted to the sticky sap on the flowers. This creates a fly problem in the rest of my yard and in the house.

      Question: Is there a time to prune the hedges that will eliminate the flower growth?

    24. Roger Says:

      Rita,
      Flowering on Manhattan Euonymus occurs on new growth — so to reduce the amount of flowering you would have to prune that new growth just before (and while) it’s setting flower buds. Here in the northeast I see the flower buds on Manhattan Euonymus right now (early July), and they’ll be opening through this month and into August. Therefore, you would have started pruning in mid-June or so and if you wish continue pruning as you see flower buds form. I don’t think this will totally eliminate flowering, but it should reduce it.

      I know that there are sprays that stop flowering, but I’ve only seen them used on ornamental flowering trees. They’re used to stop the trees from flowering so they don’t produce fruit (which can be a nuisance in certain circumstances). You would have to contact a plant health care specialist (or similar) to see if these sprays would work on Euonymus.

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