golden euonymus

How To Grow and Care For Golden Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureo-marginatus’)

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The golden euonymus makes a bold statement wherever it is planted. This evergreen shrub has a number of uses in the landscape, but sadly it is prone to a few serious pests and diseases and may change color over time. Read on to find out whether the golden euonymus is the right plant for you. 

What Is A Golden Euonymus?

The golden euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureo-marginatus’) is a variety of the Japanese spindle tree of the Celastraceae family. Just in case you were wondering, euonymus is pronounced yoo-AW-nim-us.  

Golden euonymus is a dense, rounded but upright, and multistemmed evergreen shrub with variegated leaves. The parent plant, the Japanese spindle tree, is native to Japan and has been reported from Korea and China as well. 

This variety generally grows to around 5-10ft (1.5-3m) tall and 2-4ft (0.6-1.2m) across. Being a long-lived species, this plant may reach ages of 150 years in the right environment. 

The brightly colored leaves of this variety are what it is most popular for. These variegated leaves are a combination of glossy yellow and green. 

The leaves of this plant are simple and oppositely arranged, growing 1-3 inches (2.5-7.5cm) long with smooth margins.

Unfortunately, the variegated leaves of this plant may revert from variegated to plain green, sometimes resulting in plants that are half green and half yellow, which isn’t a great look. 

Golden Euonymus Flowers

It’s definitely the foliage of this plant that is its most showy characteristic. The flowers and fruits of this variety are pretty inconspicuous. 

This plant produces small greenish-white flowers with 4-5 petals. The brightly colored shrub blooms in spring, with its blossoms making way for pink capsules that mature in the fall. 

How To Grow A Golden Euonymus Shrub

Golden euonymus plant can be grown from both seeds and cuttings. Seeds require cold stratification before they will germinate so cuttings are likely to be the quickest and easiest option for growing new plants. 

This plant is pretty adaptable as far as soils are concerned. A wide variety of soil pHs and textures are suitable, but as with most plants, it prefers a well-drained substrate.

These plants are not particularly drought tolerant and will do best if grown in a substrate that is kept moist. Applying mulch to the soil surface will be helpful in keeping the soil from drying out, just remember not to mulch right up to the plant’s crown. 

Grow this plant in an area that gets full sun to dappled or partial shade and space these plants so that there is good airflow between them. USDA Hardiness zones 6-9 are ideal for this plant but make sure to choose a site that is protected from harsh winds.

Care and Maintenance

Golden euonymus bush has a medium to fast growth rate and can be pruned in any season.  

Unfortunately, this boldly colored bush is known to be quite susceptible to a number of pests and diseases. This otherwise low-maintenance plant can become quite needy if affected by one or more of these conditions, something to consider before planting this shrub in your yard.

Euonymus scale is a tiny insect that causes the appearance of white spots on the leaf surfaces. Unfortunately, this plant variety is prone to infestation and this pest can be very difficult to control. Affected plants will lose a large number of leaves in the winter months and suffer from significant leaf drop.

Euonymus scale can be controlled to an extent by the use of horticultural oils and pesticides but unfortunately, the most effective means of controlling this pest might be to not plant E. japonica at all. (1) 

Fungal leaf spot caused by Cercospora fungi is another common and serious disease of this plant. Leafspot usually isn’t fatal to the plant but the dark brown spots covering the leaves are not pretty. Spraying the foliage (especially new growth) with a fungicide and raking up and removing all fallen leaves from below the plant are your best means of managing this condition.

A bacteria known as Agrobacterium tumefaciens causes quite a serious disease in these plants known as crown gall. This infection causes unsightly swelling of the lower stem of the plant which usually results in a slowed growth rate or even death of the plant. 

Cut these swellings off of the stem and take extra care not to spread this bacteria to other plants by direct contact or by using the same tool without disinfecting. 

Other pests and diseases that may affect this plant include:

  • Powdery mildew
  • Mealybugs
  • Mites
  • Aphids


Horticultural uses

Golden euonymus shrub is most often used for foundation planting, hedges, and screening. This plant is perhaps better suited for use as a bold specimen that can even be used for topiary shaping. 

Considering how prone these plants are to some pests and diseases, mass planting may not be a good idea. This plant has good tolerance for salinity and can be grown in coastal areas. 

Human uses

Unfortunately, this plant has become naturalized in parts of the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, where the seeds have been spread widely by birds. All parts of this plant are reported to be toxic if ingested. (2)

Wildlife uses

The flowers are visited and pollinated by bees and flies, and birds enjoy the fruits. Unfortunately, deer enjoy browsing on this plant, which may be a problem if they have access to your yard.  



The bright yellow look of the golden euonymus bush might not suit everyone’s tastes. This bold-looking shrub is prone to a number of serious pests and diseases and its habit of becoming partially green can create a less attractive and more high maintenance plant than you may have hoped for. 

For more shrubs to grow, check our shrub list.


Reference list

(1) University of Maryland Extension. Euonymus Scale- Shrubs

(2) Parker, C. & Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. CABI Invasive Species Compendium- Euonymus Japonicus (Japanese Spindle Tree)


*image by hecos/depositphotos

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