How To Grow Types of Spindle Tree, Planting and Care Tips (ID Charts)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | May 1, 2024

Man wondering if there is a spindle tree growing guide that explains how to plant types of spindle trees for awesome fall foliage, the spindle growing zones, and landscape garden tips for spindle trees.

Although not the most outstanding tree that you can incorporate into your landscape, the Spindle tree can still be planted where it can show off its leaves as they change colors each autumn.

As the leaves fall away and the bright red berries become the main focal point, you will be amazed at just how appealing this understated tree still looks and what it can bring to your backyard landscape.

This guide explains how, why and where to plant a Spindle tree and some surprising benefits they offer when they are strategically planted around your home.

Spindle Tree Growing Zone and Spindle Tree Growth Rate

Native to Asia and Europe, the Spindle tree grows best in woodland areas and needs at least four to six hours of sunshine per day, preferably more if you can plant it in the right location.

Apart from its daily sunshine needs, ensuring that the soil drains properly and retains moisture will ensure that it stands a better chance of growing into a healthy tree or shrub and is free from any growing pains that will demand your time and attention to rectify.

Graphic of Spindle tree growth rate, showing various stages from seedling to full maturity over time, with size markers ranging from 1-3 feet in 1-3 months to a fully grown tree of 12-20 feet after 5 years or more, including a flowering sapling and a mature tree in bloom.

Just remember that if you live in a warmer region and plant your tree in a spot that has full sun and little shade, you can expect to water it more often.

A rule of thumb is that as soon as the top few inches of soil get dry, soak the base of the plant so the earth is nice and damp but not overly soaked.

When it is properly cared for, although it is a low-maintenance plant, the Spindle tree is a fairly fast grower that is capable of adding on up to 40 cm a year in height. This makes it ideal for growing as a hedge around your property to naturally mark your property line and give you some privacy.

Best Growing Conditions for Spindle Tree Planting

When you’re considering the site to plant your Spindle bush or tree, it’s good to know that these plants really aren’t that picky about where they set down roots, as they are adaptable and quite durable.

You don’t even need to think about growing zones for Spindle trees, where to grow, or when to plant Spindle trees for the best yield, as they can be planted at any time of the year.

Their versatility and hardiness enable them to grow contentedly in different soil conditions, from moist to dry for short periods of time as long as the pH levels are neutral. If you’re unsure about the pH level of your front or back yard, purchase a pH level meter to give it a quick check.

It’s really quite common to see Spindle trees growing along the periphery of a forest, and this is one of the reasons why they are often used as hedges, as well as making excellent landscaping trees or bushes.

Growing a Spindle Tree From a Seed, Cutting, or Seedling

Spindle trees are easy to cultivate from seed, a cutting from a branch, or seedlings, and if you’re in the market for a plant to spruce up your surroundings, this plant will definitely do the job.

To start the process, you first have to germinate the seeds by breaking the dormancy period.3 This involves undergoing a stratification process that involves storing them in a cold, damp environment to make them act as they would in the ground during winter when scattered naturally by birds, the wind, and small animals.

It’s crucial, though, to wait until the actual capsules have opened up so you can remove the seeds before placing them in a clear plastic bag containing damp vermiculite.

For the first 10 weeks, keep them fairly warm, and then refrigerate them for a further 16 weeks for them to begin to sprout. Once that has occurred, they are ready to be sown into pots.

Choose a recommended seed compost that can be purchased from your local nursery, and over the next year or two, ensure that it gets enough sun and water until it’s ready to migrate outdoors.

If that process seems a touch arduous and long-winded for you, another option is to take a clipping from a Spindle tree in the late summer and use it to propagate the tree.

To do so, use a clean pair of shears to snip a stem at an angle that’s about six inches long. After dipping the cut end in a rooting hormone, push the cut end into a small container filled with damp soilless potting mix.

Be patient at this stage as it will take a few months for it to grow its first leaves. Once that has happened, it won’t be much longer before you’ll be able to plant the new sapling outdoors.

Before planting into the ground, however, just as with seedlings, give the plant plenty of water and dig a hole that’s twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep. Be careful when transplanting not to damage the roots to reduce the shock the seedling may experience when being moved from the container to a new location with unfamiliar soil.

Plants can quickly become acclimatized to the compost they have been surrounded by for months, so the transition from the old into the new has to be handled well to make the move as painless as possible.

Types of Spindle Bush

Sought after not only for their blazing autumn red foliage, Spindle trees, of which there are over 175 species, are very adaptable to their environment and can be grown in USDA hardiness zones three to seven.

It is important that before you purchase a random Spindle tree from your local nursery, you verify that it is suitable for your planting zone as some varieties may not be able to thrive or even survive for very long, depending on where you live.

A Japanese Spindle tree, with its dense green leaves with bold, creamy white edges.

(Image by: Markus Winkler7)

The Japanese Spindle Tree (Euonymus japonicus)

Generally, Euonymus japonicus Spindle trees are able to withstand temperatures as low as the teens,2 making them very cold-hardy, but this species and its varieties, Mareike, Grey Beauty, and even the Microphylla Variegata, do not have the same level of resistance to cold.

The Winter Creeper (Euonymus fortunei)

This species is the opposite of the Japanese variety and is cold-hardy down to temperatures of -4 °F, and that includes its varieties, Emerald Gold, Harlequin, and Coloratus.

A patch of Winter Creeper, a vigorous ground cover plant with glossy green leaves, growing over a stone surface.

(Image by: Eric Schmidt8)

Used mainly as ground cover or to decorate trellis and garden walls, it is extremely low-maintenance and a very decorative addition that displays golden or bright red leaves, depending on which type you opt to drape in and around your landscape.

A Winged Spindle tree in a forest, showcasing its distinctive wing-like extensions along the branches and small, delicate flowers.

(Image by: mefisher9)

Winged Spindle (Euonymus alatus)

Japan and China are where the winter hardy winged Spindle originates from. Also known as “The Burning Bush” because of its brilliant red fall foliage, this variety will emblazon your landscape to another level with its fiery foliage.

European Spindle Tree Planting and Care Tips

How long it takes to grow Spindle tree will vary depending on the initial method of propagation employed.4 Regardless of which route you decide to take, there are a few simple planting tips for Spindle trees that you can follow to facilitate an easier growing situation.

What Are the Watering Needs for Spindle Plants?

When a harsh sun is looming overhead more often than usual, your plant will need more watering than usual. Frequently feel the surface around the base, and if it feels too dry to about an inch deep, just add water.

How Far Apart To Plant Spindle Trees?

If you are going to plant a few Spindle trees in your front yard, always keep in mind the potential width of the canopy and allow about three feet if you’re growing a hedge or a few feet more if you’re growing a taller tree.


It isn’t strictly necessary to prune Spindle trees, but doing so can help to control the size, shape, or promote additional growth. The best time to do it is in the spring or fall, but avoid doing so in the winter as the freezing temperatures can prove detrimental to the health of your plant.

Companion Plants for Growing Spindle Trees

The idea behind incorporating different plants alongside your Spindle tree or bush is to improve its health or just to make it look even more spectacular in your revamped landscape.

Many gardeners use different companion plants to either add contrast in terms of height, to add texture to avoid a monotone look in your flowerbed, or brighten up the landscape with additional colors that you will get from the leaves, flowers, and fruits.

Always begin this process by evaluating all the plants in your garden area, including the Spindle trees to avoid any clashes with the watering schedules, sunshine, and nutrient requirements of the new companion plants you would like to add.

It can’t be stressed enough that finding Euonymus companion plants that thrive in your region is essential so they don’t suffer under the colder conditions that your Spindle shrubs can experience.

Choosing the right plants can attract beneficial insects to help with pollination,5 such as different types of bees and butterflies. An added advantage is that there are some common pests of the Spindle tree that can be warded off by the scent emitted by some companion plants.

Some of these plants can also act as a natural pest control for Spindle trees, not from any noxious smells but from the insects they attract that actively hunt down any pests looking to cause harm to your plants.

Here are a few options to choose from:

  • Begonias
  • Geraniums
  • Nemesia
  • Lantana
  • Spotted laurel
  • Honeysuckle
  • Clematis montana
  • Viburnum
  • Rhododendrons

Spindle Tree

(Euonymus europaeus)

Spindle tree in an oval frame on a green background
  • Family: Celastraceae
  • Genus: Euonymus
  • Leaf: You will notice that the leaves are dull green in the summer but will go through several color changes in the fall.
  • Bark: The bark has a greenish tinge that vanishes as the tree gets older when the vertical stripes become more pronounced and the color turns a lighter gray.
  • Seed: The seeds are tiny and frequently eaten by birds.
  • Blossoms: Only ½ inch wide, the small yellowish flowers bloom in early spring.
  • Fruit: The berries are reddish and should not be consumed by humans, even if they do look tempting.
  • Native Habitat: Wooded areas where the soil is moist and well-draining.
  • Height: You can expect this tree to grow between 12 feet to about 20 feet tall.
  • Canopy: The canopy will grow wider as the tree matures, often from 10 feet up to 16 feet in width.
  • Type: Deciduous
  • Native Growing Zone: Europe and Asia are where this tree originated, but you can find it in the eastern regions of both Canada and the United States.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Least Concern


How To Identify Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus)

There are characteristics of the common Spindle tree that make it instantly recognizable. Let’s start with the leaves and the flowers.1

Spindle Leaves and Spindle Flowers

The leaves are not particularly large, measuring from three to eight cm in length and about one to three cm wide, with finely toothed edges. As autumn closes in, the dark green leaves first adapt a yellow hue and then finally morphs into an impressive purple before tumbling away.

Graphic showing how to identify spindle tree, featuring a map showing average annual extreme minimum temperatures in the U.S., images of pink Spindle fruits, yellow Spindle flowers, and Spindle leaves, along with a close-up of a Spindle bark.

(Spindle Bark Image by: WikimediaImages11)

The annual flowers emerge at the same time as the leaves in the early days of May. If you look closely, as they are not very large, you will notice that they are actually very attractive.

With four yellowish-green petals, there are also four green stamens that are complemented nicely by a flash of yellow antlers. They may not be the main focus of the plant, but they are nevertheless an attractive feature.

Spindle Tree Facts

A Spindle tree can either be a tiny tree, a shrub, or a creeping plant that can be used as ground cover or a climbing plant, and some of the species can be either deciduous or evergreen.

But what else is this fascinating tree known for?

  • The plant’s name is actually derived from a time when the lumber was used to make Spindles that were used to spin wool.
  • The wood, which is yellow, is ideal for making musical instruments.
  • In years gone by, the fruit when dry was used as an insect repellent.
  • These trees can live for over 100 years.
  • The berries are eaten by birds, mice, and other small animals, but they are highly poisonous to humans.

During the autumn is when the leaves are at their showiest, accentuated by the pink or red berries, and this is when you will fully appreciate the decision you made to plant and nurture a Spindle tree in your landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions About Spindle Tree

How Much Sunlight Does Spindle Tree Need Each Day?

Three to six hours a day are necessary for Spindle trees to maintain a healthy disposition.

Spindle Tree Symbolism?

One of the things that these types of trees symbolize is inspiration.

Do Spindle Seeds Need Stratification?

Yes, as the seeds are dormant, they require stratification to break that dormancy so they can start the germination process and start to grow into trees.


1VanDerZanden, A. M. (2023, January). Flowers and Their Meanings: The Language of Flowers. Iowa State University. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from <>

2N.C. Cooperative Extension. (2024). Euonymus japonicus. NC State Extension. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from <>

3Bennett, M. B. (2021, February 1). Germinating Seeds. West Virginia University. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from <>

4University of Maine. (2024). Plant Propagation. University of Maine. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from <>

5Royer, T., Arnold, D. C., & Grantham, R. (2022, July). Beneficial Insects. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from <>

6Pollard, A. C. (2023, June 22). Addressing Downy Mildew and Powdery Mildew in the Home Garden. Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from <>

7Plant Euonymus Japonicus Leaves Photo by Markus Winkler. (2022, March 8) / Pixabay Content License. Resized and changed format. Pixabay. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from <>

8Winter Creeper Plant Photo by Eric Schmidt. (2022, June 6) / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Resized and changed format. iNaturalist. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from <>

9Winged Spindle Photo by mefisher. (2019, April 26) / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Resized and changed format. iNaturalist. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from <>

10Spindle Species Image Photo by Yoksel 🌿 Zok. (2021, February 14) / Unsplash License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Unsplash. Retrieved January 30, 2024, from <>

11Euonymus europaeus Spindle Photo by WikimediaImages. (2015, August 2) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and added image, text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved January 30, 2024, from <>