Burning Bush, Stand Back


Submitted a year ago
Created by
Henry Homeyer

Fall Color: Red, purple, hints of orange

For three years now I have been enjoying a shrub that has the fabulous red leaf color that so many gardeners crave. Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is prohibited from propagation, sale or transport in most New England states, so unless you have one, you ain’t gonna get one. That red shrub has been deemed an invasive, but there are good alternatives.

Disanthus is an easy shrub that thrives in part shade and moist, rich soil

Disanthus is a lovely shrub that not only shows good color now, it shows red on new leaves throughout the summer. Its scientific name is Disanthus cercidifolius. Cercidifolius translates as “having leaves like the redbud (Cercis)”. The leaves are roughly heart-shaped and 2 to 4 inches long. The shrub itself can get to be 6 to 10 feet tall and wide. It is relatively slow-growing. I bought mine at EC Brown Nursery in Thetford, Vermont. It is described in the literature as a Zone 5 plant, but mine has survived Zone 4 winters with no harm. 

Lovely leaves are a big draw for this relatively scarce shrub.

The first winter I had disanthus it was one of the few things I had that was eaten by deer. But the next 2 winters I clipped on garlic spikes that contain garlic oils that repelled the deer. Those are sold by Gardeners Supply as garlic clips in bags of 25.

Garlic spikes are used to repel deer

According to my favorite tree expert and author, Michael Dirr, disanthus shows “Four-petaled dark purple flowers occur in October into December in Athens, Ohio, and are, at best, curiously interesting.” But I have never observed them. Given the other qualities of this handsome shrub, I don’t care.  

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