Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tough Winter on Euonymus - Burned Leaves

This winter has been exceptionally tough on Euonymus foliage. I haven't seen a variety that was unscathed. Not to worry, winter burn and brown leaves will not be left on the shrubs for long.
Sections of this Euonymus, trained as a climber, has burned foliage dotted about.

This is a grouping of Sarcoxie Euonymus. Usually, its dark leafy green foliage is an attraction to plant as an evergreen hedge. Not this winter. Winter burn has caused the majority of leaves to fall off already, leaving this sample quite bare.
Euonymus are rather resilient shrubs and trailers. They will recover given time and adequate conditions. I'm actually quite pleased to see this damage happen. That may sound strange. As a gardener, I see Euonymus scale quite prevalent in the GTA and I believe it's because of our more recent, gentle winters. Scale insects nestle in and fixate tightly on remaining interior foliage and stems over winter and don't die off in large numbers due to protected warmer winter months. Now, I smile in gratitude - for more of these insects will have died off this winter, because of the harsher conditions.

This is Coloratus Euonymus - the ground cover variety. Even with adequate snow coverage, it too has signs of winter burn.

Healthy, soft buds are key to knowing the Euonymus will bounce back. Be sure to water your Euonymus in case we have a dry spring. Watering the plant will ensure the buds stay hydrated and will emerge as leaves during the growing season. In May, buds will unfurl to new leaves and the older burned leaves will eventually fall off. You can aid the process by shaking the bushes, or raking out the worst of the ground cover variety.
If Euonymus is grown as a climber and there's very little growth beneath, simply shake off dead foliage. If it is stubborn to fall off, then prune back to older buds.

Here, you can see healthy buds remain. Not to worry. They will refoliate the plant.
Once the leaves fall off the bush, examine the leaves on their underside. If you see white, flaky residue, it may be scale. Rake as many of the leaves as you can from beneath. It's likely they (not all do) have some overwintering eggs of Euonymus scale insects. Do NOT compost. Remove the leaves from your garden. Add compost or some triple mix to the soil below and be sure to water the plants if we have a dry spring. I caution adding synthetic fertilizers at this point, since scale insects favour stressed plants and love added nutrients. There are only so many healthy leaves to go around. You don't want scale to over-power the plant. For control of this insect, check out my post on Euonymus Scale.
If the leaves are remaining on a ground cover type, or you don't have patience to wait, you can cut back the stems on top, to reveal the green leaves that were protected beneath.Once the buds unfurl to new leaves, the plant should bounce back by June.


  1. Hi, my euonymus look exactly like this Sarcoxie Euonymus on your second picture. I am heart broken because they have been in my backyard for more then 10 years and they were beautiful and growing every year. This year they are all damaged heavily . I did not know what was the cause. Thanks for you note and picture. What can I do help them bounce back. Shall I prune the dry branches? I appreciated your help.

    1. The cause is most likely winter damage. If your sarcoxie's haven't flushed any new leaves by now, then pruning is required. Cut back to new growth, if any. If you don't have any - go towards the base of the plant and scratch with your finger nail - scratch off some of the bark. If it is hard and won't scrape off with your nail, try a pruner blade. If the plant is alive, you should see light green tissue beneath the bark. Cut the bush back hard mid-way or the base. If trying to remove the bark and you find it hard and dry, I'm sorry your bushes are toast.

  2. I got a question I trimmed my tree down a lot and now it’s turning brown I didn’t know exactly what I was doing but they were so big and ugly I am renting this property and I hate I did it now but they looked so much better everyone complimented on it


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