How To Grow And Care For Golden Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureo-marginatus’)

If you want a plant that’s sure to brighten up your planting scheme, the golden euonymus is a good option. Its bright yellow and green leaves make a statement, but this plant can be a little unpredictable.

Interested in learning more? Here’s what you need to know.  

At A Glance: What You Should Know About Golden Euonymus

As a shrub that provides year-round interest, you could do worse than a golden euonymus, but there are a few things to be aware of.

For starters, it’s quite a vulnerable plant, susceptible to more than a few problems including several pests and diseases, so it may need more attention than you might think!  

However, it’s an easy plant to grow, and it will provide color throughout the year, especially during fall and winter when the majority of your plants will start to wind down, or die back completely.

It comes from the Celastraceae plant family, hailing from parts of Korea, China, and Japan. 

It does bloom during spring, and like many plants grown for their foliage, the flowers aren’t showy. You may not even notice them at all if you’re just walking past the plant! 

The foliage itself has a glossy sheen, featuring deep green leaves with lashes of pale yellow.

The variegation isn’t consistent or stable by any means. In some cases, you can get whole branches of pure-yellow or only green leaves.

This can be a dealbreaker for those who want consistency in their plants, or only want a hint of either.

Starting Off: How To Grow A Golden Euonymus

It’s worth knowing that these plants aren’t easy to raise from seed, as they need a period of cold stratification to start the germination process.

While you can mimic this by putting the seeds into the fridge or even the freezer for a while, it’s a lot easier to either grow this plant from cuttings, or to buy an established plant.

If you want to take cuttings from an existing plant, take stem cuttings, and pop them into damp compost, somewhere warm and bright. 

You can also buy a golden euonymus from garden centers and other plant retailers. The younger the plant you go for, the cheaper it will be.

It is worth noting, however, that younger plants overall are more susceptible to pests, disease, and cannot adapt nearly as well as established plants.

How To Care For Golden Euonymus

Golden euonymus plants are not hugely demanding, but there are some things you should know before you plant it and leave it, otherwise you may find the poor thing will start to suffer.

Sunlight And Position

To get the very best out of your golden euonymus, provide it with a sunny position.

It will withstand partial shade, but it can be more susceptible to fungal diseases and the variegation on the foliage may be less pronounced, or the colors less vibrant.

If you can, provide it with a sheltered spot in your garden, away from strong winds. You will also need to make sure that the plant has plenty of airflow around it to prevent disease.

Soil Requirements

In an ideal world, you should plant a golden euonymus in nutrient-rich soil which stays moist. This soil needs to drain well, to stop water from pooling at the roots for too long.

However, as long as the soil drains well, you can alter the rest with the right care. 

Watering Your Golden Euonymus

Largely, where you live and where in your garden you plant your golden euonymus will affect exactly how much watering you need to do. You also need well-drained soil in order for the plant to receive enough moisture.

To start off, you may need to water it as much as twice a week to introduce it into the soil.

If your garden gets enough rainfall, it should take care of itself once it has established its roots into the soil.  

Never let the soil dry out completely, as your golden euonymus will be weaker for it. 

If you find that the soil is quite wet on the surface, hold off on watering, otherwise you may cause the plant to rot. 

Should You Feed a Golden Euonymus?

Fertilizing a golden euonymus plant is not something you absolutely have to do. It is helpful, however, to give your plant a good feed if the soil doesn’t have a lot of nutrients.

If you feed your plant too often, this will cause more problems than it ever solved. You can cause a build-up of salt in the soil among other things, which will eventually kill the plant, and its neighbors.

Common Problems To Watch Out For

Unfortunately, with golden euonymus, there are many things you need to look out for. The quicker you catch any little villains terrorizing your plant or anything out of the ordinary, the better your plant will be.

Powdery Mildew

As this plant grows quickly, it’s important to provide it with the airflow it needs, otherwise powdery mildew will form on the stems and foliage.

It thrives in warm, humid environments. A lack of sunlight and not enough air circulating around the plant is the perfect environment for the fungus to spread. 

This fungus particularly loves growth, and will cover any plant without discrimination, so catch it quick. It’s not usually fatal, but it does weaken the plant, starving it of nutrients and water.

It also makes it prone to attack by other pests. If left unchecked, it can cover your whole garden.

Phytophthora Blight

The Phytophthora blight is another fungal disease that affects plants, but particularly this plant. It causes the leaves to turn brown and die back, leaving the plant looking very sickly, and its health isn’t far behind.

You’ll notice that the leaves become brittle and fall off easily.

There are no known cures for phytophthora blight, but it can be prevented through regular pruning and cutting back the plant when it starts to get leggy. 

Crown Gall

Another common problem for this plant is crown gall. Crown gall is caused by bacteria. It naturally exists in soil, and each strain has its own purpose.

It only causes problems when it enters the plant through injury in the stems or the roots, causing abnormal growth such as galls.

In the worst cases, the root system may be replaced by swollen tissue, which the bacteria feed off.  

How To Use Golden Euonymus in Your Own Garden

Golden euonymus plants make wonderful additions to any garden. They are quick to fill in gaps in your borders, and they are easy to grow. With their attractive foliage, they add a pop of color to any planting scheme.

Mature plants can reach about 10 feet tall, and anywhere from 2 to 4 feet wide, depending on how you prune them.

They are very versatile plants, and with the right training and care, you can use them for hedges, screening, bordering garden beds, and as topiary plants.

No matter the form you choose, the variegated foliage is bound to create a real focal point in your garden.

It’s worth only using them sparingly in your garden, however, as they are susceptible to many problems.

It is worth pointing out that the plant does naturalize itself very easily in places it isn’t native to, so there is a potential that you could end up with more of the plant than you’d ideally want.

You may want to keep an eye on this plant in your garden, especially if it starts to show signs of disease, as these can spread to other plants and wreak havoc. 

This evergreen shrub does provide sources of food for bees and birds, with both flowers and fruit being produced.

You should encourage wildlife to visit your garden where possible, as they will help pollinate the plants, but they will also boost the overall health within your garden, too.

Final Thoughts

There’s always a trade-off with growing plants, and you have to weigh up each plant individually to decide for yourself if the result is worth the effort or not.

This is especially true of the golden euonymus. While it makes a great feature plant, it isn’t the most robust plant.

It’s vulnerable to more than a few problems, and these can spread to neighboring plants, which can potentially harm the health of your whole garden if left unchecked. 

Some people can grow this plant without any problems at all, and it entirely depends on your garden and its own microclimate as to what will thrive and what will not.

The variegation isn’t even across the foliage, and this is another thing to consider.

While you may be attracted to the idea of this plant because of its variegation, you might notice that entire stems turn yellow or green, instead of being both. For some, this might defeat the point. 

Ultimately, the choice is yours. If you’re undecided, you could try out one or two of these anyway, and see if it works for you. After all, gardening is made up of a multitude of experiments. 

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