Fall in Love with This Native Shrub

October 11, 2011 | By | Comments (10)

I get a bit quarrelsome with native plant fanatics who insist no plant is any good unless it’s native. Plant the right plant in the right spot, I say. Yet there is a native plant my my yard that hardly anybody grows and most people ought to. Some folks know it as strawberry bush. Others call it hearts-a-bustin.’

Hearts-a-busting 005 

Native to the eastern and southern U.S., strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus) in the wild is typically found in the forest understory. This slowly suckering shrub grows about 6 feet tall and wide. It’s pretty nondescript in spring and summer, but fall and winter is another story. In early fall, showy, scarlet fruits appear in abundance. They open to reveal purple insides and bright orange seeds (that where ‘hearts-a-bustin'” comes from). Later in fall, the rich green leaves turn soft yellow suffused with pink. I can’t think of many plants that turn that color.

Hearts-a-busting 006
In winter, strawberry bush is easy to spot in the woods. In the midst of barren trees, just look for the cluster of bright, green stems.

Don’t Fear This Euonymus

Unlike most other species of euonymus (or “anonymous,” as people would ask for it when I worked in a nursery), this one isn’t a pain in the butt. It doesn’t spread all over, push out other species, or get covered up with scale. All it wants is good, well drained soil with lots of organic matter. Although in nature you find it in shady woods, in my yard it also tolerates full sun and drought. Birds eat the seeds, so you might find another one popping up here or there. I now have one in my front garden and one in the back.

Strawberry bush grows fine all the way from central Florida to the Great Lakes (or USDA Zones 5-9). Your garden center probably won’t have it (unless it’s an enlightened one), but you can order it by mail from Woodlanders. Don’t worry if you start with a small plant. It grows quickly.

The Great Cabbage Strikes Again

Cabbage
In 2002, Bonnie Plants initiated the 3rd Grade Cabbage Program with a mission to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people. Each year, Bonnie trucks more than one million free cabbage plants to 3rd Grade classrooms across the country. Teaches distribute plants with instructions, provided by Bonnie, to students to carry home and grow. At the end of the growing season, teachers select a class winner, based on size, appearance and maturity and that submission is entered in a state scholarship drawing. The state winners are randomly selected by each state’s Director of Agriculture, and Bonnie Plants awards a $1,000 scholarship to one student in each state.

The cabbages used for the 3rd grade program  are OS Cross (Over-sized), which is known for producing giant, oversized heads even bigger than that of Conan O’Brien, making the process even more exciting for kids. Some kids have grown cabbages weighing more than 50 pounds!

If you’re a 3rd Grade teacher or a parent of a 3rd grader and want to grow a giant cabbage and win big bucks, click on Bonnie Plants  right now for instructions on how to enter.

COMMENTS

  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Linda,
    I think it would do OK. Just make sure you dig a nice, big hole for it and loosen the soil before you plant.

    November 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm
  2. Linda

    That strawberry shrub seems like something I would like to have in my garden. But the soil on my land is heavy clay. Do you know if it would do all right in clay? I tend to go native up here a lot just because native will grow better in my soil than some of the more picky plants. One of my favorite trees up here is a yellow wood. Beautiful blooms in the spring.

    November 10, 2011 at 10:17 am
  3. UrsulaV

    Love the stuff! I’ve got a bunch in my yard. They’ll grow in the backyard under juniper cedar, which makes them seriously tough shrubs. One of the few shrubs (other than the hickories and the accursed autumn olive) that were here when I moved in, and I’m always thrilled. (The weird little star flowers laying atop the leaves are also a delight, albeit a subtle one.)
    Mine did get hit pretty hard by tent caterpillars this spring, but eh, it happens.

    October 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm
  4. Jim Long

    Strawberry bush is a great background shrub and with our drought summer, it was one of the plants that seemed almost unaffected. I’ve used this in landscape projects several times, it’s tough, hardy and easy to care for. Thanks for telling readers about this interesting plant!

    October 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm
  5. esh

    Deer resistant perhaps, but not deer proof! This is a nice native shrub that gets lots of attention this time of year due to the fruit.
    No native plant fanatic here, just an enthusiast for using native plants more than people generally do! Thanks for spotlighting this one.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:49 am
  6. esh

    Deer resistant perhaps, but not deer proof! This is a nice native shrub that gets lots of attention this time of year due to the fruit.
    No native plant fanatic here, just an enthusiast for using native plants more than people generally do! Thanks for spotlighting this one.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:49 am
  7. Freda Cameron

    Never knew the background info on that native. It’s so lovely in the woods around here.

    October 13, 2011 at 10:29 am
  8. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Yes, it is.

    October 13, 2011 at 10:16 am
  9. Barbara

    Grump, do you know if this shrub is deer-resistant? Thanks.

    October 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm
  10. David Spain

    Thanks for bringing this fantastic plant out into the light and your front yard Grumpy! Another thing to admire about this tough native is the smooth vivid green bark.

    October 12, 2011 at 7:12 am

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