How to grow burning bush

Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in autumn. Getty Images

The burning bush or fire bush (Euonymus alatus) is a robust shrub that’s inconspicuous for most of the year but spectacular in autumn. The foliage turns vivid shades of scarlet and crimson, making it one of the best plants for autumn colour. The summer flowers are insignificant, but they result in attractive purple and red fruits which split open to form four winged lobes with a bright orange seed at the centre. These are a good source of food for birds over winter. The shrub is also known as the winged spindle as its branches sometimes develop corky ‘wings’, visible after the leaves have fallen.

All parts of the plant can cause discomfort if ingested – wear gloves and wash hands after handling. The shrub is considered invasive in some parts of the USA but there are no such problems in the UK.

Read about the 10 best euonymus plants.

How to grow burning bush

For the best autumn colour, grow the fire bush in moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Prune out damaged, dead or crossing branches in late-winter to spring, and mulch annually with well-rotted manure or compost.

Burning bush: jump links


Where to grow a burning bush

Euonymus alatus
Euonymus alatus

The fire bush is perfect for growing as a specimen shrub in a mixed border, woodland edge or front garden, where its magnificent autumn colours can be fully appreciated. You can also grow it as a hedge. Grow in full sun or partial shade. The burning bush is a good plant for an exposed or coastal location.


How to plant a burning bush

You can plant pot-grown plants at any time of year, but spring and autumn are the best times, when the soil is warm and moist.

  1. Water the plant thoroughly before planting. Dig a hole at least twice the width of the rootball and the same depth. Use a fork to break up the sides and base of the hole
  2. Remove the shrub from its pot and tease out any spiralling roots. Place the plant in the hole with the roots spread out and the top of the rootball level with the ground
  3. Partly backfill around the roots with the excavated soil and firm gently to get rid of any air pockets, so the roots are in good contact with the soil. Then top up with more soil if necessary and firm down
  4. Water in well and keep watered during dry spells

Read more about planting shrubs.

Where to buy a burning bush online


Caring for a burning bush

Burning bush does not need regular pruning but you could prune out damaged, dead or crossing branches from late winter to spring. Mulch annually with well-rotted manure or compost.


Growing a burning bush: problem solving

Burning bush is generally problem free. Powdery mildew may be a problem – minimise the risk by mulching the plant to conserve moisture in the soil and keeping well watered.


Advice on buying burning bush

  • You may find a burning bush plant at the garden centre in autumn, otherwise look online
  • Check that you have the right spot for a burning bush – for the best autumn colour, grow in full sun

Where to buy a burning bush online

Varieties of burning bush to grow

Euonymus alatus 'Compactus' just before the leaves change colour in autumn
Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ just before the leaves change colour in autumn

Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ – a compact variety suitable for smaller gardens, also with vibrant autumn colour. Height x Spread: 1.5m x 1.5m

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Accessories

Flower Seeds

Composting

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