Why Does My Burning Bush Not Turn Very Red?

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Burning bush, or euonymus alatus, originated in Asia, coming to the United States in the late 19th century. Burning bush thrives in USDA growing zones 4 through 9, its leaves turning a brilliantly clear red in the fall in both northern and southern regions. Growing in moist, well-draining soil on sites with full sun to light shade, the burning bush reaches 8 to 10 feet tall, with occasional specimens growing to a height of 20 feet or more. Under certain growing conditions, this plant fails to produce its normal red leaves in the fall.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruners
  • Fertilizer
  • Sulfate
  • Dormant oil spray
  • Insecticide

Increase direct sunlight levels to improve fall color in this bush. Trim back overhanging branches and nearby shrubs with pruners. This corrects any possible problems with excessive shade. Consider transplanting smaller, newly planted bushes to a sunnier location, Purdue University Extension suggests.

Take a soil sample to your local county extension office and have it tested to determine the pH level. Burning bush prefers slightly acidic soil, defined as a pH of 5.8 to 7.0, according to Clemson University. In more alkaline soil, burning bush colors poorly. Apply a fertilizer for acid-loving plants or a pH-lowering chemical such as sulfate, if needed, after reviewing the results of your soil test.

Examine the bush for possible diseases or pest infestations, especially if overall growth appears poor and leaves are discolored. For example, some scale infestations commonly found in burning bush cause symptoms such as leaf drop and yellowish spots on foliage. Prune affected branches to control small populations. Apply dormant oil spray or insecticides after eggs hatch in June to control more severe infestations.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep your bush well fertilized, especially in poor soil. This is unlikely to affect the fall colors of the burning bush, according to University of Purdue Extension.
  • Check the species of your burning bush to ensure it is the alatus species. The leaves of other euonymus species turn yellow in the fall instead of the well-known red of the burning bush.

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