These shrubs and small trees, known as spindles, grow on all continents except South America and Africa. They are very varied and may be evergreen or deciduous. The foliage and fruits of deciduous species provide a dazzling display of colour in autumn. The finest is Euonymus alatus, the winged spindle. Two species that make very attractive bonsai are E.europaeus, the European spindle, with striking scarlet seed pods, and the Japanese spindle, E. sieboldianus. lts pale green flowers turn into pinkish-white fruits with red seeds.
Bonsai suggestions; Euonymus trees and shrubs suit every bonsai style, except broom. They can be grown in all sizes.
- Common name: Winged spindle tree
- Genus: Euonymus
- Higher taxon: Celastraceae
- Skill level: Beginner to advanced.
- Soil type: Medium rich, well draining, with 50% fine gravel added to the mix.
- Flowers and fruit: The green to purplish flowers are small and inconspicuous. The flowers are borne on the undersides of the branches at the nodes and are followed by open-capsuled, small orange fruit.
- Foliage: Elliptic to ovate or lanceolate. Tapered, pointed and finely toothed. It turns red in the autumn.
- Bark: Fascinating corky ridges of bark on its branches and twigs. The wings are very brittle and need very careful handling.
Easy to propagate from cuttings and by layering.
Needs good light, but do not scorch it or let it freeze. Provide light shade in hot weather.
Older branches: prune in autumn or before the new growth in spring. New growth is pinched back to two or three leaves. Always allow the growth to become well developed before pruning. Be careful not to prune too much Seal pruning cuts. Remove all suckers promptly.
As a young plant, repot the spindle tree yearly; every other year, or less often for ageing plants.
Water the spindle tree well. It is important that it never dries out, even in dormancy.
The winged bark makes the branches extra brittle, so great care must be taken in bending the limbs. Never wire directly over the winged ridges as this will fracture or break off the bark. The best period to wire is in June. Use aluminium wire.