Euonymous fortunei, a Portrait of an Invasive

Have you ever wondered why some plants are considered invasive? It’s usually because if the growing conditions are even slightly favorable they take over. Invasiveness can be due to a number of traits like rapid growth, prolific reseeding, and rooting vine habits. Euonymous fortunei is one such plant in which I have observed to have at least two of these traits. It demonstrates rapid growth which by itself doesn’t doom it to the invasive list, but it also shows the ability to root anywhere, anytime, and anyhow!

It’s variegated leaves make it attractive to plant in foundation gardens but if you look closely you will see a patch of aerial roots. These roots are capable of making a new plant where ever they may find suitable soil. Many plants that tend to have vine-like growth have the ability to root like this. The roots can help anchor them to other surfaces which aids them in their quest to conquer walls, fences, and other solid surfaces. Think ivy. This particular Euonymous is ‘Emerald Gaiety’ which is “supposed” to be a shrub form. Guess what? Someone forgot to tell it that! We have two in our sidewalk garden that I must keep well trimmed or else they will take over the world! Maybe not in the way kudzu will, a little slower perhaps, but you get the point.

This is one of those plants that is probably better left on the store shelves. It looks nice, but sure doesn’t play that way!

Pictures with tulips are from Spring of 2008

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About Dave

Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 4 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave has a side business growing and selling heirloom vegetables and herb plants through Blue Shed Gardens and works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.


  1. Will you find a place where it can do it’s thing or will you leave it among the tulips?

    It’d be hard for me to toss it in the compost heap with such pretty variegation.

  2. That’s interesting to know. The aerial roots – seem similar to the adventitious roots of Mums

  3. In my uncle’s garden that I (loosely) tend each year, there is a huge, sprawling Euonymus that would literally take over the garden if not kept trimmed back. And I do mean a severe haircut! Your tulips are lovely. :)

  4. I am about to pull mine. I think you just helped me to decide.

  5. It’s a big surprise for me! Mine is sitting in the same place already for 5 years and behaves! Maybe, the soil is not good enough for spreading. Good, then, I will keep him!

  6. I have 5 little ones planted on a small bed next to a path on my side yard. This year they’ve been sending out all kinds of shoots, and have done the same thing–although there isn’t much there that they can smother or take over. I didn’t realize they would do this when I put them in. We have some larger euonymous bushes on the side of the house itself that just stay put and don’t put out travelers. Hmm. Perhaps a slightly different variety?

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