Winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei)
Winter creepers are shrubs native to China, which have ornamental importance in yards and gardens in the northern United States. They are variable plants, equally capable of growing as climbing vines or as low shrubby groundcovers. One of the hardiest of all evergreen climbers, winter creepers may reach an age of 75 years or more. They are available in many varieties and are easy to care for.
Size: Moderately fast growers, winter creepers serving as groundcover grow 2 to 3 feet high and 3 feet wide in 5 years. After 10 years they will measure 2 feet by 6 feet, and after years, 2 feet by 10 feet.
Foliage: Winter creeper leaves are evergreen, lasting through the winter. They have a narrowly oval shape and may be from 1 to 3 inches long and 1 to 1-1/2 inches wide. Because winter creeper has a habit of changing as it matures, its foliage is quite variable in size and appearance. Leaves are usually a glossy dark green and their edges may either smooth or gently toothed. There are variegated winter creepers whose foliage is edged with white or yellow. Some of the vine types have smaller, finer textured leaves.
Flowers: Winter creepers produce inconspicuous loose clusters of greenish white or yellowish flowers in the spring. Fruits are orange-red berries carried in a four-parted capsule that splits open in the fall. The fruits are considered to be poisonous to humans.
Winter Creeper Choices
Better Varieties: `Colorata': A groundcover growing to 12 inches high, its foliage turns purple in the winter;
`Sarcoxie': Upright shrub, grows to 4 feet high;
`Vegetus': Sometimes called evergreen bittersweet. A shrub growing to 4 to 5-feet tall.
Container Gardening: Try `Sarcoxie'as a tub plant. The best container size is 1 to 2 feet in diameter. Plant winter creeper in a well-drained, light, crumbly soil.
Winter creepers can be used to cover walls, as low hedges, or as low edging shrubs for a shrub border. As a groundcover, they form a dense mass that smothers weeds.