How to Grow: Winter Creeper

Euonymous fortunei

Other Name

climbing euonymous


Sun Requirements

full sun, part sun, part shade


Bloom Period and Seasonal Color

Blooms are not significant. Mostly grown for the colorful foliage that’s variegated white, yellow and green with tinges of purple.


Mature Height x Spread

1 to 2 feet x 2 to 4 feet


Added Benefits

drought tolerant, fall color


Winter creeper is a versatile plant. It can be trained into an attractive low growing ground cover, mounded shrub or a vertical vine. It’s semi-evergreen so winter creeper is a good choice to cover a low wall, structure or unsightly object. I grew it once to cover the part of the foundation on my home. Winter creeper grows in full sun to part shade. While the white flowers in spring are insignificant, the succulent foliage can be very colorful. Varieties often have variegated green, white, and yellow leaves, sometimes with a tinge of red or purple. The leaves turn a reddish-purple in fall with cold weather and will stay evergreen in all but the coldest parts of our region.


When, Where and How to Plant

Winter creeper is hardy in the warmer parts of zone 4. In colder areas of our region it will need winter protection to survive. It may drop its leaves in colder areas, but still survive and regrow in spring. Purchase plants from a local garden center and plant from spring to early fall in well-drained, compost-amended soil. Winter creeper grows in almost any type of soil as long as it doesn’t stay permanently wet. Growth will be more vigorous in full to part sun locations. Space plants 2 to 4 feet apart.


Growing Tips

Keep the soil around winter creeper uniformly moist with regular waterings and adding a layer of bark mulch. Fertilize in spring with a layer of compost and an organic plant food.


Regional Advice and Care

When growing winter creeper as a vine, support the stems with a trellis or arbor. The stems won’t attach themselves, so will need to be tied to the supporting structure. In spring prune back any dead, diseased or broken branches and train the plant to fit the area. When grown as a ground cover, creeping stems root wherever they touch the ground, so annual pruning may be needed to keep it in place. Winter creeper may get euonymous scale insects. Controls this pest with sprays of horticultural oil or Neem oil. This vine has been known to set lots of seed and can become invasive in some areas of our region. Prune regularly to remove seedpods and select variegated cultivars that are not as invasive.


Companion Planting and Design

While winter creeper makes a good ground cover to cascade over a wall or bank and a nice mounded shrub, if pruned regularly, it is also an excellent vertical screen. Plant it to hide the foundation around your house, a utility box or old stump.


Try These

‘Emerald N’ Gold’ is a low growing winter creeper that has lustrous green leaves edged with yellow. ‘Ivory Jade’ is a 3-foot tall variety with deep green leaves, sporting a white margin. ‘Sarcoxie’ is an upright form that grows to 4 feet tall without training, but it sets lots of seeds, so may become invasive. ‘Emerald Beauty’ grows to 6 feet in height and has dark green foliage all year.

Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.