Durability under harsh conditions, excellent shade tolerance and year-round shade make wintercreeper “Sunspot” (Euonymus fortunei “Sunspot”) a flexible border tree or compact climber in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8. As with other wintercreepers, “Sunspot” has two major shortcomings: It’s potentially dangerous, and its colorful fall berries are poisonous to pets and people if eaten in large quantities.
Yellow-stemmed, shiny foliage variegated with irregular, dark green borders and bright yellow centres account for “Sunspot’s” usefulness as a shade-garden ornamental. Its green, late-summer berries split to show seeds covered in bright orange pulp. Birds and wildlife consume the pulp and then spread the undigested seeds to new places, where they may crowd out native vegetation. The tree’s modest, greenish-white flowers bloom from late spring to early summer.
Dimensions and Form
“Sunspot” is a curved, spreading cultivar, typically reaching 3 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide if it is fully grown. In numerous plantings, space them 4 to 6 feet apart. The tree’s main stems produce tendrils that allow it to climb nearby trees, shrubs or structures.
“Sunspot’s” variegation is most powerful in part sun to part shade, with from two to six hours of daily sun. In hot summer climates, it will better at the lower end of the range. A young plant in an exposed spot benefits from burlap wrapping to protect it from winter wind. Once established, “Sunspot” tolerates cold down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant it in any soil but a consistently wet one.
Basic Care Tips
“Sunspot” prefers moist soil and takes deep weekly watering during dry spells. Spreading a 2-inch layer of ground bark mulch out of its own drip line to over 6 inches of its base preserves dirt. Working a 1-inch layer of organic compost and to the top 6 to 8 inches of soil before planting helps it be establish. Replenishing the compost each spring and concurrently spreading 4-3-4 organic wide leaf evergreen fertilizer around the drip line retains it vigorous. A “Sunspot” less than 3 feet broad gets 1 cup of fertilizer for each 1 foot of height, while bigger plants get 2 cups for each 1 foot of height.
For the tidiest kind and most vibrant shade, “Sunspot” needs trimming in early spring. Pruning the berries until the birds get them lessens its invasiveness. Any shoots that revert to strong green ought to be pruned once they look. Pruning tools wiped down between cuts with a cloth dipped in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts alcohol are not as likely to spread infection.
Disease and Pests
Diseases seldom bother “Sunspot,” but euonymus scale insects do serious damage by feeding its sap off. The scale colonies look like white or grayish powder sprinkled along the stems or on the corners of their leaves. Even tiny numbers destroy its appearance, and a heavy infestation can make it lose its leaves or kill it. Scraping scales off or pruning badly infested branches helps, but the best control method is to saturate the dormant plants in winter or early spring with a pressurized spray of 10 tablespoons of olive oil each 1 gallon of water. Wearing safety goggles, a respiratory mask, waterproof gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks, shoes and a hat and also adhering to the label’s instructions is vital when spraying. Keep children and pets out of the region when you’re using garden chemicals.
“Sunspot” has created two widely grown organic mutations, or sports. “Blondy’s” (Euonymus fortunei “Blondy”) yellow-stemmed, yellow-centered leaves are edged in green. “Moonshadow’s” (Euonymus fortunei “Moonshadow”) deep-green leaf margins enclose bright-yellow centres which fade to white as they age, and it never reverts to solid green. Both sports grow in USDA zones 5 through 8.