Thursday, May 12, 2016

Training Euonymus as a Climber

When you have limited space, dense shade and you want to cover a fence line which is rather unsightly - you have limited choices in what to use.

I wanted to have some evergreen coverage to look at during the winter. I've tried Hedera helix (English Ivy) in my situation, but with little success. Too much die-back overwinter and very little growth rate. So I gave up.

Two years ago, I started Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus' (Purpleleaf Winter-Creeper) out of sheer desperation. In garden centres, it comes in cell packs: tiny little plants to start off, but worth the wait. Used mainly as a ground cover, I decided to give it a go...

Positioning it close to the wooden fence in early spring (when there were no leaves on the above tree) it took and began rooting its way up. Today, it looks like this:

Given there is a bit of winter leaf scorch damage visible, it's turning out rather nicely. By the end of June, all the worst of the brown leaves will fall off and new growth will cover the rest.

Here, you can see I used a metal framed art (from Homesense) to help support the growth, although - this is not necessary. Euonymus can become self clinging with a little coaxing. I just lightly bound the stems as it inched upwards in mid-summer to the wood, with a little garden wire, forcing the growth to fix to one area. By the end of the first summer, it had stem rootlets fixing itself onto the cedar panel. Yay!

Last year, I planted an Emerald Gaiety variety (with white variegation).  This one is very slow to grow, compared to the Coloratus cultivar. I still leave the supportive wire here, as it's taking its time reaching the desired height.

My intention is to grow these as backdrops, adding perhaps clematis or some Lamiastrum galeobdolon argentatum weaved through.

Here's another example of Euonymus (Sheridan Gold) which grew amazingly well in full sun, on a trellis fence partition:

Because the lattice wood has so many gaps, this needs a little encouragement to fixate and grow on the partition. By gently taking new, pliable stems - you weave them between the gaps and it will fill in nicely.

Euonymus can grow rather woody, so bear that in mind when you decide on what it will adhere to. You want whatever it climbs along to be sturdy enough to bear the mature weight of the plant as it grows.

The best aspect about these as vines:
  • they are slow growing compared to most vines
  • evergreen (in Ontario, there are few choices that give you great winter coverage)
  • won't damage the fence too much, as you can easily control their growth habit
  • shade tolerant and...
  • drought tolerant
Try it yourself!


  1. We have a few kinds of euonymus growing around our house, and they do well just like you say. I love the idea of having clematis grow through it!
    Thanks for posting Heidi!

  2. Thanks! I had numerous unsightly mature euonymous growing under a maple tree and also what seems like miles of bare chain-link fence with no privacy on our corner lot. I have tried all sorts of vining plants but the soil is too dry from mature trees and high draining soil. I decided to uproot the euonymous from under the maple and try to grow it on the fence instead. Hoping this is a right plant wrong location situation and that they will give me some privacy soon!

    1. Great! Just give the Euonymus time and wind the branches through the chain link fence as it grows. If you can, spread some mulch at the base of the roots. This will just boost water retention. I also heap snow around the base of newly planted Euonymus overwinter. They have evergreen leaves, so the more moisture they get over the winter, the better the buds will thrive come spring. Good luck!

  3. Hei Heidi Hoe! Love that name! Say, I have a customer that bought a house that has the beginnings of an Emerald Gaeity planted at the base of the cedar fence. The back stems are growing and reaching. Would it make sense to prune the front of the shrub fairly hard to encourage long growth in the back? Thanks

  4. That's a good plan. Help the growth at the back lengthen by tying them to the fence. Don't remove too much at the front, or the innards may burn, since they are not used to the sunlight. Eventually, the plant begins to adhere and climb the fence naturally. A good covering of mulch or manure will kickstart the growth. Good luck - sorry for the delay, I was on vacation.

  5. Heidi, can I train my euonymus to climb a brick wall?

    1. I've seen them growing on brick walls and retaining walls. However - the exposure is key. If you have the Euonymus growing on a brick wall that faces south - the plant will bake and succumb to the intense heat of the summer. Broadleaf evergreen plants will desiccate when exposures are too extreme. However, I've seen some do really well. Just bear in mind, they root on the brick surface and can damage the mortar.

  6. I have a chain link fence at the back of my garden that I want to cover. It is pretty much full shade and I haven't had any success with anything so far. Purpleleaf Wintercreeper was recommended today at a nursery and I bought 4 large plants. However, when I looked it up at home it seems to be an invasive species. Since I already have to dig out false spirea which is going everywhere I'm a little concerned about planting purpleleaf wintercreeper and making the same mistake. Can I train it to climb the fence and not travel across my garden?

  7. Hello Heidi,
    I planted Canadale Golden Euonymus 2-3 years ago. It is spreading but extremely close to the ground. The branches are maybe 2-3 inches above ground. Is there a way to prop them up a bit? Force them to grow UP rather than so close to the ground? The leaves look healthy. Nice green with gold yellow. I would appreciated a reply. Have a good day. Today is May 23, 2021. Olga

  8. Hey Heidi. Thanks for sharing. I wanted an evergreen wine on the street light pole in my front yard. Do you know if this plant can grow on its own on the masonry pole ? If not, what would you suggest I put around the pole so that it starts climbing ? Thanks.


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