Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 777 Euonymus fortunei

Common Names: wintercreeper, wintercreeper euonymus Family: Celastraceae (bittersweet Family)
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Here wintercreeper climbs up the side of the house and is sculpted to frame an entryway.


Wintercreeper is an evergreen, often vinelike, shrub that trails along the ground or climbs by attaching itself with aerial rootlets, like ivy. It can sprawl and scramble 50 ft (15.2 m) or more. As a groundcover, wintercreeper forms a mound up to 2 ft (0.6 m) tall and grows outward indefinitely. With support, it climbs vigorously. The young branches are green with little warts, and the opposite leaves are oval, 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm) long, usually with prominent silver veins and sometimes variegated with yellow or white. Flowers are small and insignificant, but the fruits are showy. They are pale orange, about 1/3 in (0.8 cm) in diameter, and split open when ripe to reveal a bright red-orange fleshy covering (aril) surrounding the seeds. The fruits often persist well into the winter.

Several botanical varieties and forms have been named, but most gardeners just use cultivar names. 'Coloratus' (purple-leaf wintercreeper) has leaves that turn dark purplish red in winter. 'Emerald 'n Gold' is a small, bushy cultivar with leaves that have wide yellow margins. 'Kewensis' has very small leaves and grows in a dense mat only 4 in (10.2 cm) high. 'Vegatus' (bigleaf wintercreeper) is a vigorous and cold-hardy selection that fruits abundantly. 'Erecta' is non-climbing and more shrublike with dark green leaves. 'Silver Queen' is also upright but has leaves margined with silvery white turning pink in autumn. An old-time favorite with American and European gardeners, and still the commonest form in cultivation, is usually offered as Euonymus fortunei radicans; it is very cold-hardy and has vigorous, trailing stems and dark green leaves.

variegated wintercreeper
'Silver Queen' is an erect variegated form of wintercreeper that can be trimmed into compact shapes.


Wintercreeper, Euonymus fortunei, is native to China, Korea and Japan.


Wintercreeper often is attacked by scale insects that can be controlled with horticultural oil. Light: Wintercreeper will grow in full sun to fairly deep shade. In the south, wintercreeper seems to perform best in partial shade; it does best in full sun up north. Moisture: Wintercreeper does best with regular watering. It is not drought tolerant, and thrives in all but soggy soils. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. Few broad-leafed evergreens are as cold-tolerant as wintercreeper. Propagation: Wintercreeper tip cuttings taken in summer are easy to root. Cuttings taken from lateral shoots tend to produce low, spreading plants, suitable for ground cover, and cuttings taken from vertical shoots tend to produce more upright plants.
The glossy dark green mature leaves of wintercreeper make a striking backdrop for light green new leaves and flower buds.


Wintercreeper is a fast-growing evergreen that has many uses in the garden. Some cultivars make good, sturdy groundcovers. They can be used to control erosion on slopes. Wintercreeper is very tolerant of coastal conditions. Train wintercreeper on a trellis or wall. They seem to love to scramble up stone or brick walls. Their ivy-like aerial rootlets hold fast to tree trunks without damaging them. Many cultivars can be pruned as hedges, and some want to be shrubs all by themselves. Be careful with some of the yellow-leafed forms; they can be just too much color in many garden settings!


You just don't see many broad-leaf evergreens that can take temperatures down to -20ºF (-28.9ºC)! Wintercreeper is perfect for adding a touch of green to dreary winter landscapes.


The fruits of wintercreeper are said to be toxic to humans.

Steve Christman 8/4/00; updated 5/27/04

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Euonymus species profiled on Floridata:

Euonymus alatus

( winged euonymus, winged spindletree, burning bush )

Euonymus americanus

( American strawberry-bush, hearts-a-burstin', bursting heart )

Euonymus fortunei

( wintercreeper, wintercreeper euonymus )

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