The Burning Bush is an autumn beauty loved by homeowners and despised by many naturalists. Although the USDA has labeled it an invasive species, many people cherish the large bush for its spectacular fall color.
The Burning Bush is formally known as Euonymus alata. The compact species "Euonymous alata compactus" grows up to 10 feet. Other varieties can reach 20 feet. They grow at a moderate rate and spread easily from their roots. Burning Bush prefers well drained soil in sun or partial shade. It is a deciduous shrub, losing its leaves in the winter to re-emerge in the spring. Leaves are medium green turning brilliant scarlet in the fall. The shrubs also produce small orange-red seeds in the fall.
Care and Maintenance
The Burning Bush is a hardy shrub that requires very little care. It needs little or no pruning, though you may want to prune it to contain its size. It is not susceptible to insects and and can thrive on little water making it a favorite with many homeowners. It can performs best in full sun but can live in shade. However, Burning Bushes planted in shady areas will never reach their full color potential, instead turning a pink in the fall rather than brilliant scarlet.
The Burning Bush is prolific across the Eastern seaboard from Georgia to New Hampshire and across the Northeastern United States from Tennessee west to Missouri and north to Michigan and Wisconsin. Montana is the only western state where the Burning Bush is found.
Because the Burning Bush is not native to North America (it was imported from Northeastern Asia in the 1860s), the USDA has listed it as an invasive species. It spreads by root suckers and by birds dispersing seeds. On its website "invasive.org", the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health warns, "... the winged burning bush can invade a variety of disturbed habitats including forest edges, old fields, and roadsides.... Once established, it can form dense thickets that displace native vegetation." The National Park Service also considers the Burning Bush a threat to forests, coastal scrublands and prairies because it can crowd out native plants. Despite these warnings, Burning Bush is sold in nurseries as a popular landscape ornamental shrub.
Alternatives in the Landscape
If you want the look of the Burning Bush in your landscape but acknowledge the warnings about its invasiveness, consider using viburnum or the native strawberry bush (Euonymous americanus). When you do plant Burning Bush, don't plant near a woodland or natural area.
The Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council advises Burning Bush can be controlled by hand pulling small plants up to 2 feet tall. Larger shrubs will require pruning to the ground and spraying the stump surface with glyphosate. The Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health suggests larger plants be controlled with several general herbicides including glyphosate, imazapyr or triclopyr.
Care for a Burning Bush Shrub
Burning bush (Euonymus alata), is an attractive shrub with dark green foliage that turns shades of pink to deep red in autumn,...
How to Plant A Burning Bush
The burning bush is a deciduous, ornamental shrub whose green leaves of summer turn a brilliant red creating a crimson ball of...
How to Plant a Dwarf Burning Bush
Dwarf burning bushes (euonymus alatus 'compacta') have the same cultural requirements as full-sized burning bushes. The only difference between the two types...