Roots provide plants with water and nutrients.

How to Eliminate an Euonymus

by Amelia Allonsy

While appearance is a major factor in landscape design planning, the top requirements for plants on any busy mom's list are low maintenance and suitability for use around children and pets. Euonymus plants have attractive foliage, but they can crowd out other plants because of their aggressive root-suckering habit. Additionally, these shrubs and vines produce berries that are toxic in large doses and might be tempting for children to resist. You may decide the best option is to eliminate euonymus so you don't have to worry about your kids' safety each time they slip out of view.

Cut the plant back to the ground, leaving only a few inches of the trunk protruding above ground. Cut straight through the trunk and remove the whole plant, if possible, or cut the plant one branch at a time if you can't access the base. Use a pruning saw and lopping shears to cut the branches.

Dispose of the branches in a green materials waste bin. Woody plant material won't compost quickly enough in your regular compost pile, but if you have a large property, you can create a brush pile from the branches to provide a habitat for natural wildlife while it slowly decomposes.

Measure 12 to 18 inches out from the trunk and trace a circle on the ground around the plant. Use a digging spade to cut along the traced circle. Measure out 4 inches and cut a second circle. Dig a 4-inch-wide trench about 12 inches deep around the plant, using the traced circles as a guide. Pull back on the handle after inserting the spade along the second circle to pry up the soil. Use a round-point shovel to remove the soil from the trench, if needed.

Cut any roots in the trench with lopping pruners to separate them from the root ball.

Dig under the plant -- inside the circle trench -- using a variety of digging tools, such as a shovel, hoe or mattock. Rock the trunk back and forth, using the tools for leverage, to loosen the roots from the soil. Cut any roots that continue to anchor the trunk in the ground. Pull the trunk and roots out of the hole when the roots are completely free.

Fill in the hole with clean fill dirt and use a rake to spread the soil evenly.

Monitor the area for root sucker growth for up to one year. Cut the tip of root suckers and brush on a 2 to 3 percent solution of glyphosate herbicide. Mix 41 percent glyphosate at a rate of 2 2/3 ounces glyphosate to 1 gallon of water. Label the mixture and reserve it for later use on root suckers. Cut the root suckers back to the ground a few days after herbicide treatment.

Items you will need

  • Pruning saw
  • Lopping shears
  • Spade
  • Round-point shovel
  • Hoe
  • Mattock
  • Rake
  • Glyphosate herbicide
  • Small paintbrush


  • If desired, you can brush the 2 to 3 percent glyphosate on the cut stump as soon as you remove the bulk of the euonymus plant. This kills the plant roots, but is unnecessary because you must still dig out the root ball, and root suckers can sprout even after cut stump herbicide application.
  • Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei), both hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, are the most common of the 175 Euonymus species.


  • Wear gloves whenever you work with soil to protect against soil-borne pathogens.

About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.

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