Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’ in the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden, Shoreline, Wash.

During the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to visit two of the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful gardens. The Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Shoreline, Wash., and the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, Wash., are visually stunning gardens both by design, and by their exquisite horticultural diversity. There are several plants that I saw and photographed in both gardens, and one that made a big impression was Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’, a spreading Euonymus with dark green lanceolate leaves that are laced with distinct slivery veins. The plant was introduced into North America by Dan Hinkley who collected it on a trip to the Wolong Nature Reserve in China. It is useful as a dense groundcover and will thrive in full sun to deep shade.

While ‘Wolong Ghost’ is a bit uncommon, I have seen it growing in gardens around the U.S. What caught my eye in both the gardens mentioned above is that in both settings, it was also climbing. Richie Steffen, curator of the Miller Garden pointed out that as the tips begin to turn upward when they encounter a vertical object like a tree, they will eventually form aerial roots, which help hold them to the bark.

I am aware that several states list Euonymus fortunei on their invasive species list. I contend that the cultivar ‘Wolong Ghost’ is much better behaved. We have a planting of it for stock here at the nursery, and it has slowly spread to a diameter of 8 feet over the past 15 years. That being said, please consult your state’s invasive species list before you plant a crop of ‘Wolong Ghost.’

From a nursery production standpoint, there are couple important considerations to be aware of. ‘Wolong Ghost’ has a bit longer crop time than some other groundcovers. It’s not like growing Vinca minor, for example. I spoke with Mike Hicks, the head grower at Little Prince of Oregon, who said that all plugs of ‘Wolong Ghost’ are triple stuck to speed up the finish time in 4-inch pots. Even considering a little longer crop cycle, I think this plant deserves broader production. Richie Steffen also pointed out that ‘Wolong Ghost’ has been considered by Great Plant Picks over the years, but has not made the cut, primarily due to its lack of widespread availability. I think that needs to change.

Why grow Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’?

  • It’s a versatile groundcover that thrives in sun to deep shade.
  • It’s deer and slug resistant.
  • It’s hardy in most of the continental U.S., creating large sales opportunities.
  • It is an exceptional groundcover for complete weed suppression.
  • Its dark leaves with silver veining are beautiful.
  • It makes a great trailing component in containers.

Mark Leichty is the Director of Business Development at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery near Portland. He is a certified plant geek who enjoys visiting beautiful gardens and garden centers searching for rare and unique plants to satisfy his plant lust.