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Euonymus as a climbing plant: General Info

Eunoymus fortunei (wintercreeper) is a shrubby plant that grows slowly and is easy to care for. It is an excellent choice for small facade-greening projects. Its flowers are not worth mentioning, but its leaves, usually variegated, are remarkable. Our assortment of wintercreepers features a wide palette of colours and patterns. The cultivars presented here are all frost resistant and are a good alternative to ivy, which grows too vigorously for some walls. With its unaggressive growth, there's not much risk of building damage here.
Also: spindle, wintercreeper, fortune's spindle. Latin: Euonymus fortunei

Euonymus fortunei on the wall
Euonymus fortunei on the wall

Classification

This is a genus with more than 170 species, but as a facade climber or ground-cover climber, only one is really interesting: the Chinese Wintercreeper "Euonymus Fortunei" introduced to Europe in 1862, of which there are many cultivars. How are there so many species? Probably because wintercreepers are highly adaptable. A wintercreeper reacts like a chameleon to external stimuli (like frost or poor soils) by changing the colour of its leaves, which take on a yellow, white, or even pink colour, and new patterns. By cutting branches from a plant that presents new properties and multiplying them, the new properties become fixed and can be propagated and sold as a new cultivar. Wintercreeper will take on a new shape when it is old enough to produce flowers and berries, from which new cultivars can also be cultivated. There are so many cultivars already that it prompted the author of a large compendium (Laurence C. Hatch: Cultivars of Woody Plants, 2017) to plead: "We need no more cultivars of this species. Stop! Please!"

Ground Cover or Climber?

All these cultivars are used as ground-covers and sold as such (hence the name "creeper.") They must be pruned regularly... when a wintercreeper is not pruned, it may lose its characteristics, and regain its aged, wild, or juvenile form. It might develop adhesive roots and climb walls and facades, or their leaves will lose their coloured pattern to take on a plain green colour. All "ground cover" cultivars of the wintercreeper can be used as climbing plants for facade greening, but it will be hard to tell from the description how they will actually look on a wall.

The Wintercreeper Assortment from FassadenGrün

FassadenGrün is more interested in wintercreeper as a climbing plant than as a ground cover; we want "winter climbers" and not "winter creepers." We have selected some of the best known cultivars so that our assortment has a variety of leaf colours and patterns as well as growth vigour. Several cultivars can be planted next to each other on a facade for more variety. Some types that do not change their appearance when planted on a facade as a climbing plant can be found here under the familiar name (like "Emerald Gold"). Others have been renamed (and can be found under this name only, like "Light Wintercreeper," in our online shop).

To Thrive...

Euonymus is as frost hardy as ivy and adapts well in urban climates, unafraid of dust, exhaust fumes, etc.. Wintercreeper likes sunny to semi-shaded locations. Can do well with any type of soil, even calcareous, but should not be too compact or dry. Sufficient soil moisture until late autumn and winter is necessary, and even in winter on frost-free days needs to be watered from time to time. Distance between two plants: 1 - 2 metres.

Characteristics and Pruning

Euonymus fortunei is a species of evergreen shrub that can climb (via rootlets) as a vine if provided with support ~ on walls, facades, or other supports. It can also be trained by pruning it and binding to a trellis. The leaves are long, thick, and frost hardy. Wintercreeper will seldom grow higher than 5 metres but can grow up to 20 m. It may grow into cracks or develop annoying stolos / runners. Depending on the cultivar, it will bear flowers and ornamental berries, much appreciated by birds. Pruning the long shoots ('spindles') in spring will promote branching.

Climbing Aids for the Facade

Without a supporting trellis, eonymus fortunei will grow as a shrub and take on a hedge shape. To keep the shoots flat on the wall, a wintercreeper must be grown as an espalier (shaped tree) with a climbing aid. See the table below for all suitable trellis designs. Choose a wire rope trellis in our easy or medium range.

 

Compatible wire rope trellises?

Click on the picture to see the table of all suitable trellis designs.

Wire Rope Trellises for Euonymus fortunei

Click on the graphics for more details!

 = suitable            = sometimes suitable              = not suitable