American Euonymus: Strawberry Bush, Hearts a Bustin

Eunonymus Americanus Strawberry Bush
Shady Gardens Nursery
It would be hard to find a more unusual and interesting shrub than the American Strawberry Bush. A native plant of the Eastern US, Euonymus Americanus is a thin little shrub with narrow, opposite leaves, green stems and tiny, inconspicuous flowers that give way to peculiar crimson red fruits that look like strawberries. As the fruits mature, they burst to reveal bright orange seeds, which is the reason for the common name Hearts a Bustin.

The Strawberry Bush usually reaches about 6 feet tall, and has a loose, sprawling habit with thin, wiry, spreading branches and an open, airy form. There are usually several main upright stems arising in a stoloniferous clump. The twigs are distinctive green stems that stay green in the winter too.   The springtime flowers are very inconspicuous, with five greenish yellow petals.

The fruit is a warty red capsule about 1 inch across that resembles a strawberry. When ripe, the capsule splits open to reveal four or five bright orange seeds that really stand out against the deep red capsule. Strawberry Bush is an important food source for white-tailed deer, turkeys, many songbirds, and other wildlife.

Strawberry bush prefers a rich, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. This shrub does well in shady situations, even tolerating deep shade. Drought tolerant once established.

Euonymus Americanus can be grown in most of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

American strawberry bush is best used in naturalistic settings, in the shade of larger shrubs and trees. But be sure it's close to the path where the interesting (and beautiful) fruits can be appreciated! 

A specimen covered with hundreds of bursting red hearts is a remarkable sight. In autumn, the leaves turn shades of orange and red before falling. In the winter, the leafless green twigs and stems are structurally interesting. Strawberry bush will naturalize under ideal conditions, forming loose, open clumps of sprawling green stems, but it would never be considered invasive or even moderately aggressive.

You might want to plant more than one, since deer will graze not only on the fruits and leaves but also the green stems.