Can be grown either as a small tree or as a shrub depending on how you prune it. Its very cold hardy from zone 3 -7. It does not do well in hotter areas especially if they are moist so it wont grow in the southern United States. It has two attractive features the bright pink and orange fruits that form in later summer and early autumn that stand out strongly against the foliage and bring lots of interest and the bright orange to red foliage when autumn sets in. However the whole plant, like all other Euonymus shrubs are poisonous especially the fruits which look so attractive. This plant should not be grown near domestic animals, dogs or small children. Mostly used as a focal point due to its impressive bright fruits.
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The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs along the square shaped stems and are ovate to oblong-lanceolate meaning they are ovalish and pointed at both ends. Leaves are dark green in color with a lighter almost yellow central vein and tiny serrations along the outer edge. They can reach about 3 inches (7.6cm) in length with short stalks and turn various shade of red, orange or purple in autumn.
The flowers are fairly small and unnoticed. They consist of four skinny greenish petals arranged in a cross shape surrounding a globular green center with a thin green style and tiny light green stigma surrounded by four equally small stamens. The whole thing is about 1/2 inch (1.2cm) across and they grow in small groups of 3-5. Flowers are followed by the far more interesting fruits. the capsules are bright pink in color with a distinctive four lobed shape in a bulbous cross shape that look like mini pink pumpkins from the side. These bright capsules are about 3/4 inch (1.8cm) long and split open to reveal bright orange fruits. The seeds themselves are a light beige color but are encased in a fleshy orange coating or aril that dries and sticks to the seed. Split fruits tend to stay attached to the shrub/tree with the orange seeds dangling from the pink carapace for a considerable time providing an bright and interesting late summer show. This is then followed by the splendid autumn leaf color.
Soaking the seeds for 24 hours before beginning moist stratification allows the seeds to soak up water and reduce the amount of water they need once 'planted' this can hasten the whole process but seeds can be planted without it they will just need more moisture in the soil to ensure they can take in the water so extra will be needed in your potting soil. However do not make it too wet.
Seeds need about 3 months (12-14 weeks) of moist stratifying before they will germinate. After this they can be placed with other seeding trays but only at regular temperatures. Do not place on heat pads or in very warm locations. These seeds are used to cold conditions and germinate poorly in warm ones.
Once seeds have sprouted allow them to grow to at least their first pair of true leaves (the second pair to emerge) before transplanting them to larger pots. deeper tree pots are recommended but not totally necessary for spindle which has more shallow roots. Nurse trees on to at least 6-10 inches (15-25cm) in height before planting out. Ensure they are well hardened off before planting.
It needs a well drained soil and will not grow in wet or even overly moist conditions. While it can tolerate some dryness it does prefer to have slightly moist soil most of the time. Not fussy about soil type provided it is well drained and not too acid. Will tolerate alkaline soils much more.
Provide some organic material when the tree is planted and mulch around it every year is mostly enough fertilizer but for stronger growth and very good color feeding in early spring especially on poor soils is suggested.
As a shrub
Each spring prune out any dead stalks and cut others that slant too much and cross other branches. This will ensure good airflow through the plant and prevent any branches from rubbing together. Take care not to remove more than about one third of you overall plant material.
As a tree.
When the plant is young choose which stem you want to be the main tree trunk and cut down all the others. Choose the strongest shoot that is mostly straight and upright. Stake the chosen stem and nurture this. Once it has passed the height at which you want the tree foliage to begin pinch off any growth that appears below that point and continue to trim the plant at least yearly often more often to achieve the desired growth pattern.
For most other animals the seeds are poisonous.
Diseases, Insect Pests, and Other Plant Problems of European Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus)
Has not major issues with any pests or diseases. May occasionally attract scale or aphids but its not common. However birds can spread the seeds and in the right conditions it can grow well in the wild and possibly become invasive. Please ensure your plants are well controlled.
Medicinal uses of European Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus).
The fruits were baked and powdered, then used to treat head lice in humans and mange in cattle. Eaten in very small quantities the berries have a strong laxative effect but should only be used in emergencies.
Due to its density it makes an excellent charcoal.
The plant also yields a volatile oil that some have reportedly used in soap making.