Photo by Denise Pugh.


Story by Denise Pugh

February is the month of valentines and hearts, and a great month to add the native shrub hearts-a-bustin’ to your landscape.

Hearts-a-bustin’ (Euonymus americanus) is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub native to the Southeast. This shrub is found growing naturally in light shade as a woodland understory plant. However, I have found it performs quite well in full sun if given good soil and supplemental water during prolonged periods without rain. 

It takes about three years for this shrub to begin to form a clump and increase in height up to 6 feet. This plant is not invasive (unlike other Euonymus).  

Hearts-a-bustin’, also known as strawberry bush, should be planted so that the seedpods can be enjoyed in the early fall. If you have a friend with a hearts-a-bustin’ take greenwood cuttings in the summer or semi-hardwood cuttings in the fall and place in damp sand. They root easily. Seed propagation requires that the seeds go through about three months of cold before they germinate. 

Bees are attracted to the tiny flowers in the spring, and birds are attracted to the day-glow orange seeds in the fall. This shrub is known to be a favorite of deer, so plant it where you don’t mind them grazing or close enough to your house to discourage them.

Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Botanical Name: Euonymus americanus
Common Names: Hearts-a-bustin,’ strawberry bush
USDA Hardiness Zone(s): 5b-9 
Size: 4-6 feet tall
Light: Light shade to full sun
Type: Deciduous shrub  
Color: Small greenish-yellow blooms in May or June followed by warty red seedpods in the fall.
Soil: Well-drained, organically enriched soil
Planting Instructions: Adapts easily to the landscape when planted in early spring or fall. Enrich the soil with organic matter before planting and plant at the same level as in the container.

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