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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    49 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.

    24. Rick Says:

      We live in Northwest Ohio. We have a Manhattan bush in the center of our front garden. The plant is the center piece, it also gives some privacy to all season front room. It is approx. 4ft across the bottom tapering due to trimming at the top and stand apptox 10ft high against the house.We just had a very cold snowy winter. The leaves on the whole pant except for the very bottom all turned brown and are now falling off. How do I determine if this plant is dead or will bloom shortly.

    25. Roger Says:

      The Manhattan Euonymus took a real beating this winter. Everyone of them in our area was damaged. The question is to what degree is the winter damage.

      This plant is generally very tough and can rejuvenate quite well. Give it time this spring to show clearly what is dead on the plant. By mid-May you can prune any of the deadwood back to new leaves.

    26. Cristy Says:

      I live in Wichita, KS and mine looked horrible and brown after this winter. Just in the last couple of weeks, they have REALLY greened up and new growth has just shot up!

    27. Rick Says:

      Thanks for the reply. However, the plant is dead down to about a foot off the ground and not much there. We have shopped around and can only find bushes a foot or two high, Can anyone direct me to a NUSERY IN northwest Ohio THE MAY CARRY OR CAN GET US A PLANT IN THE 3, 4. FOOT RANGE OR LARGER.

    28. Cristy Says:

      I’m not sure how big it would be (you can call and ask) but you can order a 3.6 gallon plant from for $45.00.

    29. Rick Says:


      Thanks I will give it a try.

    30. Lisa sneed Says:

      I just purchased Two good sized manhattan’s they were formed on a trellis at the nursery so I assumed that they were a climber, I want to put them on a 4 foot chain link fence separating the front yard from back yard the space is about 10 feet across with lawn on each side, do you think two is too many? And can I trim them thinner?

    31. Pamela Says:

      I have Manhattans that got a fungus last year. This year they are full and beautiful. Lots of new growth. Now the problem. The leaves are dropping off. There seems to be no sign of last years fungus. The new growth stems are now sticks without leaves. The leaves are on the ground. I have sprayed them this year and I clean up all the dropped leaves etc. I pruned so that there was plenty of air circulation.

      Any ideas?

    32. Roger Says:

      I’ve used Manhattan Euonymus as a trellis plant. It’s a vigorous grower that naturally wants to revert back to its shrub form, so it’s difficult to maintain as a “tight to the fence” climber.

      You’ll have to keep at it with hand pruners to keep it as a climber. 2 should fill that 10′ width without a problem.

    33. Hilaree Says:

      I have a unfinished backyard and was going to plant some Manhattan Euonymus along my back fence. As I have been reading about this plant does it really attract a lot flies? My kids swing set is located along this back portion of my fence as well. I am new to planting and landscaping so any suggestions you have would be great.

    34. Roger Says:

      Hard to say what’s bothering your Manhattan Euonymus. Is the leaf dropping occurring on all that you have?

      It almost sounds like a root problem. Perhaps the soil is too wet. Or it’s entirely possible there is a soil born fungus that has affected the roots and the vascular system of the plant(s).

      And certainly there are other possibilities. Is there a garden center or nursery nearby that can look at the plant or a sample you bring them?

      When I’m not sure of a problem with a plant or turf, I’ll send a sample to the lab associated with my state’s Agricultural Extension Service. They give me an accurate diagnosis and recommendations on what to do.

    35. Roger Says:

      Manhattan Euonymus flowers later in the summer and attract bees at that time.

      If you’re OK with a deciduous plant, try looking at Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) or some of the other Viburnums. Also, you might like Compact Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’)

    36. Alice Says:

      Hi Roger,
      I help my neighbor by keeping her long aged line of Manhattan Euonymus in their space and shape. I understand what I do is called shearing. That is I use my hedge trimmer to cut back the tops & sides; I have occasionally cut thick inner branches as well.
      I generally trim when their growth becomes a bit unruly 1-2 times yearly. When is the appropriate time for pruning? I last trimmed in May and they are currently quite tall and wide again. I’d like to trim now to avoid a tougher job in spring but worry doing so may cause winter damage. If I wait I worry I’ll deter their spring flowering. We are in Kentucky, zone 6.

    37. Carrie Says:

      How tall and wide will a Manhattan grow in full shade? If I have plants that are about 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide now, how long will it take for them to grow 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide? Is there anything I can do to encourage quick growth in full shade? Thank you!

    38. Roger Says:

      My friends and I in the trade affectionately refer to Manhattan Euonymus as an “ornamental weed”. All kidding aside, this plant seems to never stop growing – no matter what you do to it.

      My recommendation is to prune the euonymus whenever you think it’s necessary.

      Technically speaking, this euonymus flowers on old wood (last year’s growth), so you will sacrifice some flowering if you prune severely in spring before flowering. Therefore, if flowering is very important, then the more aggressive pruning soon be done after flowering.

    39. Roger Says:

      Here is a picture of Manhattan Euonymus in the shade. When it was planted it was approximately 30″ high. In this pictures it’s about 7′ high. It took maybe 6 or 7 years to get to 7′ (with some selective pruning done occasionally to grow the plant full & strong). That works out to about 8″ per year.

      This plant has not been fertilized and there is no irrigation on the property. If you were to fertilize once/year and water during dry spells, you should get more growth.

    40. John Says:

      I cut my Manhattan eu off at e
      The ground. Will it grow back?

    41. Roger Says:

      I would not be surprised if the euonymus rejuvenates from the remaining base of the plant. We affectionately refer to E. ‘Manhattan’ as an ornamental weed. :-)

    42. Tom Says:

      Hi Roger – thanks for all the great Euonymus info here!

      I have a large Euonymus hedge, along the side of our yard, that is becoming a bit unkempt for the space. It’s pretty bare on the lower half and the top needs to be taken down on top and in on the sides to make a clearer path along the side of our house. Also, for ease of future maintenance, I’d like to maintain them around 6′ tall or so as a screen. I’m thinking I’d just like to start over and rejuvenate them – cut them close to the ground and maintain them as they fill in again to that ~6′ height. Just wondering if you think that’s the best approach. Something needs to be done with them and I’m leaning toward a major cutback, instead of selective hand pruning. It seems like a fresh start might be the way to go?

      Please check out the photos on my site to see these Euonymus (right side of house):


      Also, check out the left side [Euonymus] around sun porch. This photo is old, so it looks a little more overgrown now. I think this might benefit from starting over as well, since it’s too wide on one side (and would allow us to clean the windows;) Do you think it would it take a long time for them to grow back?

      Any thoughts on these is much appreciated!!


    43. Roger Says:

      Hi Tom,
      It’s so helpful to have pictures (from your site) to go with the description.

      In the more recent picture of the euonymus along the side yard, it looks as if the plants are being grazed by deer. Is that why the bottoms are bare? If that’s the case, you’ll have quite a problem getting them to rejuvenate. If so, perhaps you’d be better off replacing with something deer resistant.

      If deer are not a problem, then I’d go ahead and cut them back severely. They’ll rejuvenate from the base of the plant, but it will take 2-3 years before you have a presentable shrub. You’ll want to selectively prune the new growth every now and then to encourage lateral branching for fullness and structural/stem strength.

      The same strategy would apply to the euonymus around the sun porch. Is privacy an issue with regard to the sun porch? If not, the plants around the porch should be kept low. From a design standpoint it would be nice to see the porch as part of the home.

    44. Carrie Says:

      Hello Roger!
      I live in Ohio and I planted several 1 gallon manhattan euonymus last summer. The leaves of many of them turned brown over the winter and some plants lost many leaves. There are new buds on the plants now. How can I tell whether this is just winter burn or whether some of the plants have mildew that caused the leaf discoloration and drop? Also and most importantly, when is the best time to fertilize them and what formula of fertilizer should I use? The plants are in the shade. Thank you for all of your help. Thank you!

    45. Roger Says:

      What you’re seeing on the euonymus is very common right now (early spring). In all likelihood it’s winter damage. The fact that you see new growth is great. My experience with this euonymus is they’ll recover completely.

      Later in the season you can begin to look out for mildew problems. This is another common occurrence for euonymus, especially for those planted in the shade and with poor air circulation. I have euonymus ‘Manhattan’ on the east side of my house, and frequently get powdery mildew on them. It’s never that bad that I feel I need to treat with a fungicide. Quite frankly the fungicides rarely seem to help (IMO). Also, it’s not helpful to feed the plants because that supports the mildew problem.

      If you feel you need to fertilize, I’d use a general, organic fertilizer such as: Plant-Tone or Milorganite. Now (spring) would be a good time to fertilize.

    46. Rudy Says:

      Hello Roger!
      I have a few questions. I plan on planting various Manhattan Euonymus to create a hedge in my front yard on the side of my house dividing my property and the neighbors.
      The length of the area I would like to cover is 28ft and when the hedge forms I would like to maintain it to about 3ft wide and 4-6ft high.

      My first question is, is this too large of a plant to keep at that desired size?

      How far apart should the plants be planted from each other to cover 28ft (plants are currently in 3.58 gal. pots and about 2ft high) and how far away from the property line should I plant them?

      My neighbor is pretty awesome and I don’t think he’ll mind if the hedge starts to grow onto his side, but I would like to keep it in consideration and try not to have it do so.

      I’m very new to all this so thank you for all the info already and thank you in advance to your reply.

    47. Roger Says:

      It’s going to be a challenge to keep Euonymus Manhattan 3′ wide. If you’re fixed to that width, you might want to search for a substitute that naturally will stay closer to that 3′ limit.

      Your best bet would be to visit a local nursery/garden center with knowledgeable staff and explain the characteristics you’re looking for in a plant. They should then show you your options.

      When I plant Euonymus Manhattan as a hedge on a property border, I would space them 4′ apart (i.e. center of plant to center of plant) and 4′ from the property line (again, center of plant to property line).

    48. Mike F Says:

      Hi Roger,
      I have a Manhattan Euonymus that is at least 30 years old. it was growing magnificently and then hurricane sandy flooded my area. Part of the plant died. Its been a couple years and just this past month (april) I removed every dead branch and piece that I could find. there were a lot. Now that spring is starting I am getting some very good new growth but only on the top, which is about 6 foot or taller. the mid scection to the ground is bear with only a few little new buds here and there. I asked my landscaper to take a good amount off the top to try and encourage new growth at the bottom. He did not want to do it but I suspect he just didn’t want to. do you think that doing prunning and cutting back the top will help force new growth in the bottow area of the plant?

    49. Roger Says:

      Go right ahead and prune back the uppermost growth the plant is producing.

      You’re exactly right that it will encourage lower growth.

      In fact, it’s likely the plant will push more growth at the top this season. Feel free to continue the campaign of pruning back that growth too.

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