You’ve never noticed the shrub before. Its rounded green leaves and vase shape let it lurk unobtrusively in the background, where it may eventually grow to 15 feet tall and wide. Then, seemingly overnight, there’s a neon-fuchsia beacon glowing in the landscape. Fall has arrived, and the Burning Bush is on fire.

Both the species and a variety of named cultivars are widely available in garden centers. (Most of these cultivars are significantly more compact than the parent shrubs.) Deciduous leaves appear in mid-spring, accompanied by inconspicuous yellow flowers. Orange seeds are borne in orange-red capsules that mature at the same time as the spectacular fall foliage display.

The plants are fairly well adapted to this area, provided they receive regular (but not excessive) watering. They prefer full sun; shade is tolerated but plants are less vigorous and lack intense fall color.  Ideally, soil should be slightly acidic, but the chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) that occurs in high pH soils can be corrected with the yearly application of chelated iron fertilizer. Winged Euonymus Scale is more of a problem in the eastern US, but can occur here too. Spider mites may also be an issue. In general, Colorado plants are pest free.

Considered an invasive pest in the northeast, Burning Bush is a useful landscape plant in Colorado. Combine it with other shrubs for seasonal color in a foundation planting or use it in a border as an autumn focal point. The natural form is very attractive, but plants may be sheared for a more formal effect.

While some parts of the plant may be poisonous, deer and rabbits find them delectable. It figures.

Article and photo by Leslie Holzmann, Colorado Master Gardener.