Content Detail

Burning bush is a popular large shrub common in yards and gardens throughout North America. This Asian shrub is known for its bright red fall color. It has invasive traits that enable it to spread aggressively. It is currently under observation and may be listed on official invasive species lists in the near future.

  • Family (English) Staff tree
  • Family (botanic) Celastraceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Clay soil, Occasional drought, Road salt
  • Season of interest early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Broad, Multi-stemmed, Oval, Round
  • Growth rate Slow

Native geographic location and habitat:

Northeastern Asia to central China. It attracts birds, pollinators and wildlife. Birds are attracted to its seed and spread it freely. It has invasive traits that enable it to spread aggressively. 

Bark color and texture:

Branches and twigs are green to brown with 2 to 4 corky wings along stems.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Its leaves are opposite to sub-opposite, 1 to 3 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide, with sharply serrated margins. They are medium to dark green and turn a brilliant red in the fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Tiny, yellow-green flowers in early May.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

It has a fleshy, 1/4-inch long, red to orange aril which is often lost within the foliage.

Plant care:

A popular dense, rounded shrub because of the bright red fall color. It is tolerant of a wide range of soil pH and shade, but does best in full sun. Well drained soil a must. Burning bush is not currently recommended because of its invasive tendencies.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Scale, root rots in wet soils, spider mites can all be problems for this plant. It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift