The American strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus) is a perennial deciduous shrub that grows in full/partial shade in deciduous woodlands, swamps, and sandy thickets in the southeastern US.
Its native range goes from Florida to Texas and from New York south along the Ohio valley.
These beautiful native shrubs are also known by their common name of Hearts-a-bustin’, wahoo, and Bursting Heart.
Plant type: Perennial, deciduous
Height: 6 – 12ft tall
Flowering: March to August
Gardening use: Ornamental, wildlife.
Native to: Southeastern US
Native habitat: Deciduous woodlands, swamps
Life History of American strawberry bush
Inconspicuous shrub when not in fruit. Even when it is blooming, its pale green flowers are small and hard to see. You almost have to remember to look for their spring flowers if you don’t want to miss them!
The bush produces warty capsules that resemble strawberries (hence the name). These capsules start pale green and turn a pinkish red by the end of summer. Inside these capsules, 4 to 5 orange-red berries wait for them to split open during September and October to reveal themselves.
During fall, the American strawberry bush leaves turn bright red, making this low-maintenance shrub a lovely addition to your fall yard. They can either grow in full shade or partial shade, but they’ll be fuller when planted in part shade.
Wildlife value of Hearts-a-bustin’
The small flowers offer nectar to pollinators like bees, butterflies, and also to hummingbirds. Songbirds like eastern bluebird, northern mockingbird, and wood thrush love the seeds. The red berries are also loved by wild turkeys and small mammals like chipmunks.
Eastern cottontails and white-tailed deer dine on the plant’s leaves, bark, and stems.
Deer seem to love this plant and they will browse the plant to the ground.
We have three American strawberry bushes in our yard and this past year we’ve had a deer a few times. We noticed the two bushes that were more reachable to the deer seemed to have been browsed on while the other one remained untouched. We put a trail camera to monitor the deer feeding on the strawberry bushes but while we got her walking and browsing by the bushes, we never caught her actually browsing on the bushes.
Speaking from experience, I’d say that deer don’t care about them, because it could’ve been the bunnies or the woodchucks who nibbled on them.
How to grow American strawberry bushes
You can find American strawberry bushes for sale at native nurseries, but you can also propagate them by yourself or grow them from seed.
From seed: Pick seeds just before their capsules begin to split. Air dry them and store them in sealed containers in the fridge. Seeds must be stratified (kept in the fridge) for 90-120 days at 32-50 degrees. Wrap them in a damp paper towel, then in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for stratification. I prefer to stratify them naturally; place the seeds just under the surface of the soil during winter. Of course, this won’t be 100% successful as little rodents might find them. They are also very difficult to germinate and propagation by cuttings is easier.
By propagation: Easy to divide and multiply, take semi-hardwood cuttings and root them. No need for root hormone treatment.
The American strawberry bush is a lovely native shrub that will bring color to your fall yard. Easy to maintain, these shrubs are a must in all native gardens in the southeast.