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How to Grow Wintercreeper, an Evergreen Ground Cover

Megan is a writer and mom of two. She enjoys cooking, running, and gardening.

Summer Sun Variety of Wintercreeper

Summer Sun Variety of Wintercreeper

What Is Wintercreeper?

Wintercreeper is a green, leafy, evergreen shrub-like ground cover plant that can also grow as a vine. It is used in many gardens to fill in spaces between other showy plants, suppressing weeds and maintaining a cool soil temperature. It can spread out as a ground cover or be trimmed into a mound shape, depending on the variety.

Although sold as a garden plant, in some areas wintercreeper is considered an invasive plant species because of its very fast growth that can interfere with natural vegetation habitats and kill trees. This is more of an issue in the Eastern United States.

Hardiness and Seasonal Appearance

It will grow in USDA hardiness zones 4–9, which makes up the entire contiguous United States. As a perennial evergreen, it will not lose its leaves when the seasons change. It will do just fine over both cold and mild winters.

Wintercreeper is an evergreen, and it will not lose its leaves in the winter, but some varieties do change color in the fall. Some turn deep shades of purple or red, adding interest to gardens in colder seasons when the other plants have faded.

Soil and Growing Conditions

This plant is not very picky about sun or soil conditions, which may be why it thrives as an invasive species in some regions. Full sun is preferred, but it will also grow well in shade or partial shade. For optimal results, wintercreeper shouldn’t be planted in an area that frequently becomes waterlogged or soggy.

When to Plant

Wintercreeper is hard to kill and will do fine planted any time between early spring and late fall. Fertilize a few weeks after planting, if you choose to use fertilizer. Grown in more moderate or warm climates, it can be planted any time.

As with many plants, it is best not to plant during the hottest part of the day. Wait for early morning or evening, so the plant has time to acclimate to its new location before it receives the full heat of the sun.

Fertilizer and Maintenance

Wintercreeper does not need fertilizer. Even without it, it will likely grow more than sufficiently and will need trimmed back from time to time.

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Pruning is best done at the end of the growing season. Prune a little farther back than where you would like the maximum growth to reach the following year. If you are pruning the plant to maintain its shape or to prevent it from climbing like a vine, that can be done any time.

If the plant is not overgrowing its “territory,” it really doesn’t need pruning at all—since it does not have showy flowers, etc. that need to be maintained.

What to Pair With Wintercreeper

As a ground cover, wintercreeper pairs well under or in front of larger, showier plants with bright flowers. It looks particularly nice when complemented with hydrangeas, roses, lilacs, or hibiscus. Depending on the variety you choose, it will add interest and soften the look of the bigger shrubs it’s paired with.

Varieties of Wintercreeper

There are countless varieties of this plant, many of which grow wild in Asia and in the U.S. as an unwanted invasive species. Some select varieties have been cultivated specifically for garden use, however.

These varieties are usually showier with more vibrant color patterns or stripes and do not grow quite as rampantly as the wild varieties. Below are some of the most popular varieties:

  • Purple Wintercreeper: This type has green leaves in summer, but deep purple leaves in fall and winter.
  • Coloratus: This type has purple leaves most of the year, but they're more vibrant in fall.
  • Emerald Gaiety: This variety has cream-colored edges, much like many hosta varieties.
  • Emerald N’ Gold: Similar to emerald gaiety, this wintercreeper has golden-yellow borders.
  • Summer Sun: This variety is the opposite of Emerald N' Gold, with yellow centers and green edges.
  • Minimus: This type has smaller leaves and does not grow as quickly.
Coloratus Wintercreeper (Purple leaf) at the Chicago Botanical Gardens

Coloratus Wintercreeper (Purple leaf) at the Chicago Botanical Gardens


Wintercreeper is native to Asia, with most varieties coming from China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. It was first identified and classified by Robert Fortune, a Scottish botanist—hence the plant’s botanical name, Euonymus fortunei.

Shortly after this in the late 19th century, the plant made its way to Europe and the United States, where it gained popularity as an ornamental ground cover plant.

Check Before You Plant

Wintercreeper is a very easy-to-grow ground cover that pairs well with larger plants in the garden or landscape arrangement. It is classified as an invasive species in some areas, however, so check before you plant that it is not considered harmful in your area.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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