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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    96 Responses to “Manhattan Euonymus – Prune Selectively”

    1. Roger Says:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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:

      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.

    25. Mary Says:

      We just bought an old house that has a hedge of Manhattan euonymus completely blocking the view from the back porch. They were about 7!feet tall. The whole yard is really overgrown. Anyway, We sheared the euonymus down to about three feet high (in July in northeast.) They look awful, but at least we can find the porch now! My question: will they come back next year to look presentable?

    26. Roger Says:


      Odds are good the euonymus will push new buds and growth next season.

      By cutting back the plant(s) in July, rather than early spring, you missed the plants cycle to rejuvenate. I would also fertilize them next spring with Plant-tone.

    27. Lisa Mulch Says:

      Help. I have Manhattan Euonymus on my chain link fence that my neighbor planted. I just bought the house. It has totally taken over the fence and the lady that lived here before me literally had to cut out pieces of the vine out. It looks like pieces of driftwood.
      It is also growing under my wooden shed. I pulled out pieces of root that were 8-10 feet long. It was remarkable. It is causing the bottom of the shed to rot. What do I do?
      I also want to get it off the fence. Do you have any suggestions? My neighbors are going to have to build a privacy fence, but this plant is beautiful just too aggressive.

      Thank you for your help.
      Lisa Mulch

    28. Roger Says:

      It would be helpful to see the actual plant(s) and the situation to give advice. But here are a few comments:

      Ideally the euonymus (center of plant) should be at least 4′ away from the fence. And even at that distance it will become an exercise in diligent pruning to keep the euonymus from growing up against and through the fence (as it’s doing).

      If you intend to cut back and prune the existing plants before the new fence gets installed, than realize you can be very aggressive with that pruning and the plant will recover. Ideally you’d do this type pruning in the spring, but it’s OK to do it now if you must. Euonymus Manhattan is like a weed and will take whatever you dish out. :-)

      Beyond pruning there really is no other way to control this plant.

    29. LISA M Says:

      No one has mentioned how thick the vine gets. Like I said mine looks like big pieces of driftwood in my chain link fence. I did have the extension agent come over and he took a sample to KState. I also have Virginia Creeper mixed in there.

      I just can’t keep up with the pruning etc. due to back issues. That’s what I meant by my neighbor will have to get a privacy fence if that is what he wants. I don’t want it to ruin my fence and shed.

      Thanks so much for your advise and book. I am a novice so I found it very informational.


    30. Rleena Says:

      Over the weekend I bought 6 Manhattan Euonymus and I now wish I had read up on this shrub as I planted 2 of these as a privacy hedge along our driveway, not thinking or really knowing how huge in depth this can get. We may not be able to drive our car ! And its September but weather has been so unusuably warm and sunny so should this take well root ? And should I prune these next Spring ? And was this a mistake along our drive way ? I also planted a bush near my patio, one on each side for more privacy, but we love eating out there, and will we end up with ton of flies from the flowers ? My husband will surely never come out and eat again. Lol. Oh my help, now worried I may have created a monster ?

    31. Roger Says:

      Isn’t it amazing how each plant type has its own characteristics? With all the types and varieties out there, and with new introductions all the time, I’m looking up plant information constantly.

      Without seeing the particular situation you have, let me give you a few thoughts. First off, ideally euonymus manhattan should have at least 6’+ of space to grow in — and that will require pruning to keep it within those bounds. Now, you could grow it in less space, but it will need more and more selective pruning.

      Alternatively, you could re-locate them to an area with more room to grow (if you have it) — and choose a new plant better suited to the limited space you have.

      Euonymus manhattan will attract some bees while it’s flowering during the summer. It’s only for a couple of weeks and then the flowers fade along with the bees.

      September and the fall months are when plants produce their roots. Keep the soil moist, not wet, and they’ll do fine.

      Prune them in the spring if you wish. Frankly, euonymus manhattan is so tough you can (and should) prune them whenever you feel it’s necessary.

    32. Lynn Says:

      Hi Roger,

      What if the euonymus had already been sheered (previous owner) and I need to trim it back. Even with selective pruning it seems already to have mostly outer leaves and not many inside. It looks great but I really need to trim it and scared of it looking awful.

    33. Roger Says:

      You can still do selective pruning to reduce the size of the plant — and improve its look and overall health.

      You can reduce the size of the plant in stages. This way it won’t look so terrible during the process. Use your judgement and “selectively” choose stems & branches and following them down into the body of the plant. There you can make a cut at a branching juncture to remove that stem or branch. Yes, it will make a hole, but that will allow light & air into the plant so that it eventually will begin to bud lower down into the plant. Make these cuts and openings so that its dispersed over the plant. You can also keep the remaining growth pruned to a point so the plant doesn’t get any bigger, but foliage remains while new buds form internally.

      Once you see growth forming lower down, you can start to cut the remaining tall stems and branches down too. This process will, of course, take time. But euonymus manhattan is a vigorous grower, so it should recover quicker than many other woody shrubs.

      Alternatively you could just aggressively cut the entire plant down to where you want it. It will survive and recover, but in the meantime not look so good.

    34. Jim Says:

      Hello, I purchased 5 Manhattan Euonymus in July. It is now November and they look pretty good except for one which is not as dark green and has leaves turning yellow. It is about 2 ft from a gutter down spout. What could be the problem. They are about 2 – 3 ft high.
      Thank you

    35. Roger Says:

      It’s likely the one euonymus is struggling with the wet soil near the downspout. And the concentration of water runoff from the downspout is probably leaching nutrients from the soil as well.

      I have a project where we installed a hedge row of Euonymus Manhattan along one border of the property. The lawn is pitched towards this hedge row — more in one area than another. The euonymus hedge is noticeably more yellow and stunted where the higher concentration of runoff is.

    36. Susan Carr Says:

      I have a very old Manhattan Euonymus in the front garden of my house in Southern Colorado. The last few winters have been harsh, causing all the leaves to turn brown and fall off. However, the new growth this year is very pale and anemic looking. Could it be needing supplementation?

    37. Roger Says:

      It’s difficult to diagnose plant problems without being on-site.

      Euonymus Manhattan can usually recover from leaf loss after a severe winter. If the cold and wind was really severe the damage could go beyond just the foliage and stems could be damaged. In this case you’d have a percentage of die-back — and in some cases lose the plant entirely.

      As you may know, new emerging foliage is typically a light green and gradually turns darker as it matures.

      If you’re recognizing that the new foliage is clearly “pale and anemic,” and not gradually getting healthier looking over time, that could be a couple of things — even a combination of a few.

      Perhaps some of the plant’s struggle to regain color & vigor is associated with the “hard-hit” it took from the winter damage.

      There is the possibility that there’s a nutrient deficiency of some kind. To be absolutely sure and to know exactly what the plant is deficient in, you’d need to have the soil tested and even the leaf tissue analyzed. The simplest approach for this one plant would be to just feed it. It won’t hurt, especially if you use and organic fertilizer like Plant-tone.

      Also, the soil’s pH could be off and this could play a part. Again, a soil test would reveal this.

      And lastly, if the soil is or has been excessively wet, this could cause an anemic looking plant.

      You might be able to rule out or even consider some of these possibilities based on your knowledge of the site and the plant’s behavior over the years.

      Hope this helps.

    38. Melissa B Says:

      My EM have always been beautiful! Then this Spring they greened up and new sprouts, but there is a horrible brown hairy growth all over the limbs. I have big balls of limbs/vines at the base (because after reading above I know my hubby should not have cut them only from the top). He has now used a chain saw (sigh) to cut down most of the back of the bushes from our porch and I went in with clippers and trimmed out all the dead branches. Since his chain sawing of the back, I did a selective trimming from the top and sides as you suggested in comments above. There is lots of regrowth on the backside chainsaw parts, but the brown stuff is still there.

      It has been a rather cool, but really wet spring. And in March we had 80 degree days that probably made the bushes green up too early, because we then had horrible freezing days.

      What is the brown stuff? Is it what made parts of bushes die? My hubs wants to cut (chain saw, sigh) the bushes to their bases to get rid of the brown stuff. What do you think we should do.

    39. Roger Says:

      I’m not familiar with the “brown hairy growth” you’re describing on the euonymus. Could you cut a sample from the plant and bring it to a local garden center or nursery? The more professional garden centers and nurseries usually have at least one knowledgeable “plant-person” on staff that may be able to identify the condition.

    40. Maria Schmidt Says:

      I have 2 boxed espaliered euonymus on my sunny deck, one purchased 2 years ago, which is very yellow (in contrast to a new green one next to it), and the yellow one is shedding seeds like crazy.

      Is it sick? Dying? Over- or under- watered? Does it need fertilizer? (I gave it some already…)

    41. Roger Says:

      It’s difficult to accurately diagnose symptoms like you describe, especially without seeing the plant and the environment it’s in.

      The life of any container-kept woody plant (like your euonymus) can be a challenging one. A woody plant, evergreen or deciduous, is naturally accustomed to growing in the ground where it can expand it’s root system, have more consistent soil moisture and temperature (season to season), and more readily available nutrients.

      All the possibilities you list can be contributing to the problem. Make sure the container is large enough (soil volume) to support the plant long-term. And you should certainly continue to fertilize with some regimen. For example, if you’re using a liquid fertilizer, I’d feed every 6-8 weeks during the growing season.

    42. Marie Says:

      How fast doestrogen Manhattan eponymous grow. I have clipping and I rooted them.

    43. Roger Says:

      Once you have them rooted and can move them into the ground they’ll grow very quickly. Prune them a bit starting early so the plant develops a strong framework (and not get weak and leggy).

    44. Ryan Craner Says:

      Hey Roger, I planted 50 1 gallon Golden Euonymus over the spring and they were doing great up until Early November when temps went down to 20 degrees over a 3 day period. Right before temps dipped i staked around each 1 and stapled burlap to them but left the top open. I also put some dry shredded maple leaves around the base of each one. I didn’t keep such a good eye on them after this was done and I’d say a week or two later almost all of them had some browning leaves with leaf drop. I’m worried about them and wondering if I caused this or was it to do with the temperature and do you think they will rebound in the spring because the stems are still healthy although the unopened buds on them have browned. ☹️

    45. Ryan Craner Says:

      The leaves turned more yellow/pale. Some leaves had a black mark or two and seemed like mold. We’ve also had our fair share of rain during the summer, fall and going into winter. So they’re definitely not underwatered. Right after I noticed the plant damage I removed the shredded leaves but the burlap tents still stand. Some lost a lot of leaves, some have noticeable unactive scales on them. I have a 5 gallon plant in the ground with no signs of scale but that plant also experienced leaf drop and leave discoloration. Again just wondering what caused this and if you think they will rebound? Also do you recommend using Plant Tone on them in the Spring?

    46. Roger Says:

      I suspect the environment created with the leaves (for insulation) and surrounded by burlap may have contributed to the leaf drop. Frankly, I think the burlap by itself is more than enough protection — with that you’re getting air circulation. Do the euonymus have a normal layer of mulch? If so, that should provide the insulation for the ground and root system in terms of moderating changes in soil temperature and moisture.

      It’s likely they’ll recover in the spring. Give them time in the spring to show where stems and buds are alive and recovering. Then, later in the spring, you can prune out dead stems. Yes, I do think a feeding with Plant Tone in the spring would be helpful.

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