Wintercreeper: Fortune’s Spindle In The Garden

Ed Wike
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Winter Creeper Overview

Common Names: Wintercreeper, wintercreeper, fortune’s spindle, orange glorybower

Wintercreeper, wintercreeper, fortune’s spindle, orange glorybower Scientific Name: Interupted fern

Interupted fern Plant Form: Perennial vine

Perennial vine Foliage: Green, simple, lance-shaped leaves with prominent veins and toothed edges

Green, simple, lance-shaped leaves with prominent veins and toothed edges Flowers/Fruit: Flowers appear in late spring to early summer. The trumpet-shaped flowers are purple to violet on the outside and yellow within. Wintercreeper produces pink to scarlet fruits (berries) that mature in the fall.

Flowers appear in late spring to early summer. The trumpet-shaped flowers are purple to violet on the outside and yellow within. Wintercreeper produces pink to scarlet fruits (berries) that mature in the fall. Habit: Climbing vine grows 6 to 20 feet high and spreads equally as wide. Plants climb over wood, stone, mesh or other plants.

Climbing vine grows 6 to 20 feet high and spreads equally as wide. Plants climb over wood, stone, mesh or other plants. Site: Full sun to light shade.

All About Fortune’s Spindle

Named so for the look of its fall color, Wintercreeper is the genus name for Senecio longilobus. The species name, longilobus, refers to the elongated shape of the plant. Wintercreeper is a drought tolerant plant that will grow in various climates. It has long been grown as an annual in northern states, but with a little tender loving care it can be a perennial in the south. Grown from seed, this plant is quite easy to start and adds seasonal interest to the garden.

This twining vine can grow to 30 feet in length with a diameter of one foot. The plant itself blooms in midsummer with pinkish-lavender flowers with darker or maroon centers. These are followed by grape sized fruits that turn maroon in color as well.

As winter arrives, the leaves begin to turn red and form a beautiful mottled pattern against the other fall colors. The red color will grow deeper as the days grow colder. This coloration helps the plant survive the harsh winter months. The red pigmentation also serves as protection from the hot, summer sun.

Types of Winter Creeper

Winter creeper, is a runner or a vine that is similar to the day lilies. This plant is a perennial in USDA Zones 4 and lower. This plant is not afraid to grow upward and sideways. It can grow and climb along a trellis and produce gorgeous flowers throughout the winter months.

Your winter creeper vine is able to grow up to seven feet in a single season. This vine can potentially get to a height of twenty feet if you allow it. The flowers are grape-sized and they come in several colors including rose and blue.

Your winter creeper vine is a member of Caprifoliaceae. This plant is a native of Asia. Here are the different names that it has:

  • Japanese honeysuckle
  • True winter creeper
  • Euonymus fortunei
  • Japanese-ivy-vine
  • Wintercreeper
  • Ouonymus alatus

Winter creeper does well in a semi-shady area. This area should have good air circulation. You can also plant it in compacted areas or between shrubs and trees. It is also a useful ground cover. It is okay for you to plant it directly in the ground. It grows slowly, and requires less maintenance.

Winter Creeper Plant Care

This plant is highly appreciated by gardeners, especially in northern regions and in winter months. It is a evergreen vine with dark green leaves that are slightly lighter on the bottom.

It looks excellent as I hope you can see in the photo, thanks to the contrast of dark green on top of reddish-brown stems. The flowers of this vine are pinkish-white and small and definitely not the plant's main attraction.

However, wintersweet is a plant that will do very well, even if planted on a balcony or garden that is lacking in sunlight. How to grow this type of vine? It will do best planted against a wall in a shady to partly sunny spot, where it can grow with ease.

Fertilize your vine every spring, to ensure optimal growth and maximum flower and fruit production. You can even prune it if needed, for a more compact, rounded looking plant.

It can be allowed to trail over rocks and trellises or grown up a tall wall. This plant can also be planted as a ground cover, but ensures your soil is moist before setting out the plants around a week before your last frost.

Light & Temperature

The lighting needs of the wintercreeper are not readily given. The best gardeners, wanting success with a plant, do research before planting. Home gardeners, especially, need to know the light and temperature needs before experimenting. Even if you are not going to try to grow this plant in a home garden, you might see it in a local garden and want to know more.

When you conduct this research, you are going to want to know what the mercury levels are in your location for both winter and summer. Some plants require more light when the mercury is higher. Some are the opposite and do better with less. This information will be valuable in determining if the plant will survive your local environment.

The next thing you need to consider is the location where your wintercreeper will live in the garden. Some plants are not particular, but others do better In partial shade or full shade. When you have this information, you will be better suited to determine if the plant will grow and thrive in your location.

The last thing you will want to discover is the ph levels. You will need to know the average ph levels of your location for both the summer and winter. You want to discover what the ph levels generally are and then find out if the wintercreeper is the same in the different seasons.

Water

Wintercreeper is also known as Euonymus fortunei or ligustrum lucid.

It is a small, ornamental shrub native to China. The name “wintercreeper” comes from its clinging, vine-like twining habit. The plants benefit from ample water and moist soil. They are often grown as a ground cover or mulch.

In their native land, wintercreeper plants grow in cool, shaded areas near mountain streams. Here in Kentucky we are fortunate to have this plant. It was introduced into this country in 1885, and is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing ground covers in home landscapes in the southeastern United States.

Wintercreeper plants best uses include foundation plantings, in solariums or lightly shaded patios, on an arbor or pergola, as a hedge or barrier plant, along walks, paths or the edge of flower beds, and to cover a chain-link fence.

Wintercreeper plants is well-suited for poor, gravelly, or rocky soils and can withstand full sun or partial shade. It does best in well-drained, acidic soils but will thrive in alkaline soils.

Soil

The Wintercreeper is Native to the United States. This plant gets its name from the fact that it is non invasive and won't take over. It will grow up a trellis or other structure then turn a bright red and orange in the winter.

Wintercreeper resembles a vine more than a plant, but it does need good soil for proper growth. Most of the time, the Wintercreeper makes its own soil, but it will work better if provided the nutrients already in the soil. It will also grow by seeds and cuttings.

Soil Requirements:

A Soil that has organic matter, well-drained, composted soil. Keep soil moist.

Sun:

Full Sun to Partial Sun

Water:

Keep soil moist until established, although the plant thrives with less water in the winter.

Fertilizer:

Fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer in the spring once growth begins.

Pruning/Training:

You can train this vine over a structure or trellis. If you use a trellis, it is best if it is a round one, because the plant circles around itself.

Pests or Diseases:

No known diseases, but aphids and spider mites may be a problem.

How to Propagate:

Fertilizer

There are several types of fertilizer you can add to the soil in wintercreeper. As with any plant, it is best to start with the best stuff, and humus is that. Compost or compost tea is a good choice. The release of nitrogen will feed the plant, and other nutrients in comost and compost tea keep the roots healthy and help prevent disease. The best product for this is tea made with compost. The tea will supply a plethora of nutrients to the plant and the cells of the soil to be used when the plant needs them.

For the second choice, fertilizing with aged manure would be a good choice as well. This should be added again when the bloom is finished.

A slow release pellet would be a good choice as well.

When using pellets, too much or too little can be a problem. Too much will leach from the soil, harm your drain pipes, and harm your neighbors, and will leach more than the amount that is needed. Too little will result in a plant that is stunted and not growing well.

Timing is another key. Too early in the year and the plant will direct the nutrients into the roots and not bloom. Too late and the plants will store it in the trunk and the roots will not be as healthy.

Propagation

Wintercreeper is a quick growing vine that can ascend tree trunks and supports. It can also spread across the ground in the space of one season. The vines reproduce “stems” that are shoot-like and green.

The stem clusters will root and grow into new baby wintercreeper vines. In a favorable climate, the vine can have four to five stems per foot in one growing season.

The stems have tri-foliate, heart-shaped leaves that are four to six inches across. Wintercreeper leaves are a shiny brown, green or copper colored.

Its flowers have five petals and are white or pink. It makes them suitable as indoor plants in winter. But throughout the winter, they will be bright wrappers for the stump until the flowers produce berries.

The berries are red and about one-half inch long. They can be eaten by birds and will remain on the vine through winter. Some young vines have berries or some fruit still on them in spring.

The stems bear clusters of flowers in the spring. The flowers are showy, about three inches across, with five white to pink petals with yellow anthers.

The clusters of berries from the flowers are an important source of food for wildlife and birds in late summer and fall.

Pruning

Crape myrtles are pretty pretty plants with a little bit of decoration in them. You can certainly keep your plant decorated by pruning Creepe Myrtle plant. You can also change the color of the flowers buy pruning. Pruning wintercreepe is not only done to look better but it also helps the weak branches of the plant. Pruning when its dormant can be a good idea. It wouldn’t be difficult if you follow the proper steps.

How do you prune a Christmas creeper?

The weak branches are removed using a pruning saw. The dead wood and twigs are removed using clippers. The stronger branches are left to grow.

When you prune the lower branches, you should leave about a foot of it on the branch that’s on the ground.

If you are not sure whether to prune it or not, you can wait for a few more weeks and then prune so you can see all the new buds that have emerged since the last pruning.

You can prune your crape myrtle plant up right after it flowers or even in the winter. But you should prune the branches in the winter, if you want to remove any weak growth from the previous year.

Problems With Your Creepers

The wintercreeper vine is a member of the Honeysuckle Family—a category which includes more than 100 species. While many jasmine and honeysuckle vines are lovely additions to your landscape, wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) is considered a scourge.

This loveless plant, which sets small greenish white flowers on bare brown branches in the winter, has garnered a reputation for being invasive and extremely difficult to kill.

Like many invasive varieties, this species began its invasive journey when someone collected it in the wild and decided to take it home. There it was planted, allowed to reproduce, and encouraged to spread. Today it grows in the United States and Canada, and rapidly spreads in areas made hospitable by natural disasters such as flooding, storms, and tsunamis.

When the wintercreeper vine takes over your garden, the first thing you notice are the tiny, greenish white flowers which appear in the winter months. In the spring, small, spiked, brown fruits are formed.

It is the brownish-green leaves however, that are the most noticeable characteristic of this vine. These leaves are shaped like daggers, and they grow in opposite pairs, with both pairs growing from the same node. In the fall, the leaves of the wintercreeper vine turn brilliant colors of amber and scarlet before falling to the ground.

Growing Problems

Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) is a species of Euonymus native to East Asia, where it is one of the most commonly cultivated ornamental plants. Specimens exist in the wild across China, Japan, and Korea, where it is typically found along streambanks, in moist forests, and in limestone areas.

The plant’s popularity is a perfect example of why we should never plant something just because it looks good. Wintercreeper is a good-looking plant. The bark is stunning, the flowers are pretty, and the fall color is striking. There are better choices for gardens and once established, it is hard to eradicate.

The problem with wintercreeper is that it’s a weak climber. It does not climb well on its own and it grows and spreads quickly by underground runners. The vines can range from 6 inches to 20 feet in diameter and will go anywhere and climb anything they reach.

They don’t attach to the surface they are climbing, so they come off, taking a piece of whatever they are attached to. They’re not poisonous but are considered invasive in some areas. Wintercreeper is tough to eradicate when trying to control it can be extremely toxic.

Pests

Wintercreeper, also called Coral Honeysuckle, is a fast growing woody vine with annual stems that have small, ivy-like leaves. Very attractive, the plant spreads by adventitious (or aerial) roots. Twining around trellises and other structures, Wintercreeper ends up on neighboring buildings and giant trees. Wintercreeper is a dense vining plant, and can obstruct sunlight and visibility of native plants.

Wintercreeper attracts many pests, including aphids, lacebugs, mites, and plant bugs. Aphids and lacebugs prefer to munch on Wintercreeper's foliage, while mites and plant bugs prefer to feed on the plant's sap. Wintercreeper can be a host for downy mildew, which can cause misshapen or small leaves, and black knot, which can lead to cankers and dieback.

In the event of severe infestation, the plant must be removed (by hand, if necessary) in order to control the spread of the destructive organisms. The remains must be burned.

Diseases

Wintercreeper is, well, a creeper of the winter. It has trailing vines that you can train over arbors, wooden fences, and rock walls. It’s related to Wisteria, although it’s a bit more temperamental.

Wintercreeper vine (Euonymus fortunei) is quite beautiful in the spring and summer months, but in winter you'll need to keep it maintained by spraying it down with a mixture of a full-strength liquid soap (for a few minutes) and water.

This will help eliminate all the dead leaves that may have formed during the cold season and protect the plant. Be aware that the vines may be covered in some kind of spider mites or white flies during the cold season, so diligently inspect it to make sure no problems exist.

The dark-colored berries may develop seeds and possibly attract birds, so keep a protective netting. You'll need to apply protection to the plant, and this can be slippery, so be sure you're using a non-slip cover. This means tying it down as the wind may blow it away or the berries may cause an issue with birds, so a net may help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about Wintercreeper.

How wintercreeper affects wildlife?

Most wildlife find wintercreeper to be an invasive species to the north. However, there are those that might find it to be an important food source.

Which animals eat wintercreeper?

Wintercreeper might be a source of food for some foraging animals but it is unlikely to be a good one. No animals have ever been known to eat wintercreeper specifically.

How wintercreeper affects insects?

Insects do not seem to be affected by wintercreeper all that much.

Is wintercreeper bad for bark trees?

Wintercreeper has no adverse effects on bark trees. It is not toxic to them and does not really have an adverse effect like some invasive species of plants do.