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How to Care for the Burning Bush Plant

Lockridge is an avid reader who enjoys learning about beautiful garden plants. Among other things, she has worked with a florist.

A magnificent and unique plant, learn about planting, growing, and caring for a burning bush (Euonymus alatus).

A magnificent and unique plant, learn about planting, growing, and caring for a burning bush (Euonymus alatus).

Where to Plant a Burning Bush

As the name implies, the “burning bush” has fiery red foliage in the fall after being a steady dark green during the spring and summer months. Homeowners often use this shrub as a privacy screen or to help brighten dark spots in the yard. Consider planting a small section of burning bush as an accent piece, or planting a large grouping as a statement. The burning bush thrives in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8.

How to Plant Burning Bush (Euonymus Alatus)

  1. Dig a hole three to five times the width of the burning bush’s root ball. When placed inside, the top of the root ball should sit ¼ to ½ inch higher than the soil line.
  2. Mix organic compost with the soil removed from the hole. Don't worry too much about the specifics of your soil, the burning bush can grow in almost all soil types.
  3. Remove the plant from the container, gripping it by the base of the trunk. Loosen impacted soil by tapping the sides.
  4. Inspect the root ball; remove any rotted pieces with a sharp sterilized knife. Gently separate any encircling roots.
  5. Set the plant in the center of the hole, spreading roots around the base of the soil.
  6. Backfill around the roots, and press some of the amended soil around the root ball. When the hole is about ¼ full, press down the soil by hand. Continue filling in hole until about ½ full, press down the soil by hand.
  7. Water the plant when the hole is about ¾ full to help the soil settle down and remove any air pockets.
  8. Form a three-inch circular basin around the newly planted shrub. The newly formed “moat” will help retain moisture and direct water down to the roots.
  9. Spread a three-inch layer of mulch around the inside the basin to three inches away from the trunk. Use slow-degrading softwood mulch, such as pine straw or cypress to add nitrogen to the soil.
  10. Plant bushes five to six feet apart for a border, or about one foot away if you desire to form a hedge

General Care

  • Sun Requirements: Although the burning bush can tolerate a variety of soil and climate conditions, it must have full-sun for most of the day in order to have the massive show of colorful red
  • Water Needs: Water the shrub deeply and often during the first season to encourage an extensive root system.
  • Maintenance: Prune in the late winter or early spring to help the shrub stay healthy and looking neat. Cut the shrub narrower on the top and wider on the bottom to allow sun to penetrate to the interior of the plant.
  • Fertilizing: Apply fertilizer in early spring.

How to Prune a Burning Bush (Euonymus Alatus)

There are four types of pruning for burning bushes: light pruning, routine pruning, heavy pruning, and severe pruning.

  • Light pruning helps maintain the overall shape of the bush and can be completed at any time of the year. Cut back overgrown branches to keep the basic shape of the bush. Make cuts at a 45-degree angle to allow easy water run-off.
  • Routine pruning removes dead or diseased wood, and encourages healthy wood Routinely prune every year during the late winter or early spring.
  • Heavy pruning refers to pruning after the bush has been neglected, or if you wish to rejuvenate the shrub. Complete heavy pruning in later winter or early spring before new growth. Cut about 1/3 of the canes growing from the base of the bush. Cutting back so deeply into the bush opens up the shrub, allowing more light and air into the shrub.
  • Severe pruning should only be used when working with a plant after it has been “drastically neglected.” Cut back the bush to the ground level in early spring to help encourage plenty of growth in the season.

Common Problems With Euonymus Alatus

Like other plants, the burning bush isn’t immune to insects and other pests such as rabbit or deer. Periodically check the plant for fungal spots and mildew, and remove as necessary.

Helpful Tips

The burning bush makes a great statement, especially when displayed en masse. Consider planting the burning bush as a hedge for ultimate impact, or in front of larger evergreen shrubs. Select a nice contrasting color, one that won’t clash when your burning bush is in all its brilliance.

Due to their rapid growth and large size, some homeowners use this shrub as a privacy screen. The burning bush can reach 6 to 8 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide.

Helpful Resources

Fast Growing Trees: Burning Bush

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Read More From Dengarden

Monrovia: Dwarf Burning Bush

SF Gate: How to Plant a Dwarf Burning Bush

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: When is the best time to replant a burning bush?

Answer: Like other woody plants, the burning bush will do best by replanting (or transplanting) it in the fall.

Replant the burning bush early in the day when it is cool, and the sun isn't too high in the sky. (You'll want to limit the number of stressors to the plant for best results.) As always, water the plant thoroughly once you have moved it to the new location, and enjoy that beautiful fall color! I know I do!

Question: Why don't our burning bushes turn red in autumn?

Answer: It's all about the real estate, or rather location, location, location. If your burning bush doesn't receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight it likely won't turn a brilliant red color. Consider moving the location of the bush, or seeing if you can't trim back (or move) something blocking your bush from receiving adequate sunlight.

Question: My burning bush is afflicted with "black areas" in their red leaves. What is the cause? Dry ground or infected wth an organism/bugs?

Answer: Your burning bush may have been infested with aphids, whose secretions caused sooty mold. Although sooty mold isn't generally detrimental to plants, it is unsightly.

Try removing the cause of the problem, the aphids, then treat the leaves directly with neem oil, following packaging instructions closely.


Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 13, 2018:

I love the colour of the fall leaves. This would be a beautiful plant to have in a garden. Thank you for sharing the information.

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