Growing more than 10 feet tall and featuring distinctive red-and-orange leaves in the fall, the burning bush (Euonymus alata "Compactus") is a colorful addition for shrub gardens. The burning bush shrub hosts several plant diseases, some borne by the insect pests that attack burning bush leaves. Some of these pests spread to other plants if not controlled.
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The most common pest plaguing the burning bush is the Euonymus scale, also known as the oyster shell scale. This tiny insect only grows to about 1/16 inch. It quickly reproduces and colonizes, inhabiting the leaves’ undersides. Once established, the scales feed on the liquids in the leaves and stems, causing yellow discoloration spots. An unchecked scale infestation can kill a healthy burning bush.
Spider mites feed on many plant species. Once established, they spread throughout an entire garden or landscape. These pests look for stressed plants, such as those with insufficient nutrients or water. They chew the stems, causing leaves to fall off and denying the plant’s core nutrients and sunlight. An uncontrolled infestation can kill a burning bush. Keeping the plant well tended and frequently watered helps avoid spider-mite infestation.
A burning bush weakened by infestations is also open to powdery mildew infection. White or gray powdery growth on the tops of burning bush leaves indicates this disease. Powdery mildew drains energy from the leaves, causing them to yellow and drop. Powdery mildew prefers shade and cannot stand full sunlight, so moving your burning bush into the full sunlight for more hours per day helps reduce and treat powdery mildew.
This soilborne bacterium infects the base and the roots, causing large, round wounds called galls to open up near the base of the tree. These wounds disrupt water passage from the roots to the rest of the plant. If left untreated, this can kill a burning bush, although the process may take years. This disease spreads to other plants, so remove a burning bush infected with crown gall and destroy it before it infects the surrounding soil.