fbpx Wintercreeper | The Morton Arboretum


Wintercreeper as a ground cover.

Wintercreeper is a fast-growing, versatile ground cover, shrub or vine.  Many different cultivars are available.  Wintercreeper should be used with care as it is considered invasive in some locations.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Euonymus fortunei

All common names:

Wintercreeper, Wintercreeper euonymus

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Ground cover,
  • Shrub,
  • Vine

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Container,
  • Foundation,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk

Size Range:

  • Medium plant (12-24 inches),
  • Small plant (6-12 inches),
  • Low-growing plant (under 6 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • early spring,
  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Creeping,
  • Mounded,
  • Vining

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:

Size and Method of Climbing (vine); method of spreading (ground cover)

6 to 12 inches high as a ground cover; up to 2 to 3 feet high as mounded shrubs; spreads 10 to 20 feet as a vine. 

As a ground cover it is a trailing-rooting ground cover.  Trailing-rooting ground covers have trailing stems that spread out from a central root system.  These stems spread out horizontally over the ground and can root where they come in contact with the soil.  New shoots will be formed at the point where rooting occurs.

As a vine, it is a clinging vine.  Clinging vines attach themselves directly to a surface by means of holdfasts (adhesive discs) or by small aerial roots.  This type of vine grows best on a flat surface, such as stone, masonry walls and wood.

Tree & Plant Care

Grows in full sun to dense shade. Tolerant of most soils except extremely wet.
This species has become invasive in some areas.

Disease, pests, and problems

Euonymus scale is a common and serious insect problem.
Crown gall (bacterium) , anthracnose, leaf spots, mildew, and aphids.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, opposite, evergreen leaves; oval shape with toothed margins; 1 inch long.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous and occurring only on adult forms.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Pinkish-red capsules that open to reveal seeds with an orange coating (aril).

Cultivars and their differences 

Baby Wintercreeper  (Euonymus fortunei ‘Minimus’):  1 to 1½ feet high and 6 feet wide; leaves are smaller that those of the species (1/4 to 1/2 inch long).

Wintercreeper cultivar Candale Gold

Big-leaved  wintercreeper  (Euonymus fortunei ‘Vegetus’):  2 to 4 feet high and up to 6 feet wide; creeping form with bright green leaves; very cold hardy but also very susceptible to scale.

Canadale Gold wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Canadale Gold’): Compact, irregular, mounded form with spreading stems;  leaves are glossy green with golden-yellow margins.

Emerald Gaiety wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’):  3 to 4 high and 4 to 5 feet wide; dark green leaves with white margins; leaves take on a reddish tinge in winter.

Wintercreeper cultivar Emerald Gaiety

Emerald ‘n’ Gold wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’):  3 to 4 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide; bright green leaves with broad golden margins; leaf color is best in full sun; leaves take on a reddish tinge in winter.

Glossy wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Carrierei’):  Can grow 6 to 8 feet high and wide; irregular, mounded form with spreading stems; deep green leaves and abundant, showy fruits are about 1/3” in diameter, with greenish-red covers that open up when ripe to expose yellow-orange seeds.

Gold Prince wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Gold Prince’): 3 feet high and wide; bright green young leaves variegated with bright golden tips, aging to solid green; very hardy cultivar.

Wintercreeper cultivar Moonshadow

Moonshadow little-leaved wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Moonshadow’):  2 to 3 feet high and 3 to 5 feet high; variegated leaves,  glossy green margins and bright-yellow centers.

Purple leaved wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’): 1 to 1½ feet high and 6 feet wide;  leaves are  glossy green (with purplish undersides), but turn purple in late autumn and winter.

Sarcoxie wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Sarcoxie’): 4 to 5 feet high and wide; dark green leaves with whitish veins.

Wintercreeper cultivar Coloratus


Location of Euonymus fortunei (Wintercreeper) at the Arboretum