Burning bush is an invasive plant you should not put in landscapes, and for which there are many good alternatives. This is a common ornamental plant whose seeds are spread by birds and wildlife to natural areas where they invade, crowding out native plants. There are several alternative plants you can use instead of burning bush, or to replace it.
Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is an attractive shrub, often overused in landscapes, noted and named for its brilliant red foliage in the fall. It is deciduous, as are its alternatives, that is they lose their leaves in winter. It is easily sheared into hedges, or seen planted in masses. Left unpruned, it can reach 10 to 14 feet high and wide.
Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is a good native alternative to the burning bush, not quite as tall but also with red fall color on several selections. Its many burgundy, young twiggy stems give it winter interest too. This plant of course has edible berries for people and wildlife. Even though it is self-pollinating, you may get more fruit from using at least two selections. It can tolerate occasionally wet soils.
Fothergilla has species that can be used both for foundation plantings (F.gardenii) and for naturalistic settings (F. major), reaching 3 to 4 feet high, or 6 to 10 feet high, respectively. Their habit is dense and rounded. Both have fall leaves mixed in colors of red, yellow, and orange for an attractive effect. The lightly fragrant flowers (like honey) in spring are shaped like bottlebrushes. Fothergilla is hardy in the warmer parts of the north (USDA zones 5 and warmer). When looking for these shrubs, consider the lower cultivar Appalachia, or the taller Mount Airy.Both tend to sucker,or send up shoots on the sides.
Redvein Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus) has good red fall color on plants that can get 6 to 12 feet high, and a bit less wide, giving it an upright appearance.
Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) is a slow grower, eventually reaching 6 to 10 feet high, and half that wide. This native plant has an open and upright habit in landscapes, but with suckers will form a broad mound. Perennials and ornamental grasses in front will help hide the bare lower trunks. Once established this plant will tolerate drought.
Another alternative to the burning bush sometimes recommended is the American Cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum, often seen as V. trilobum). This native species, and its more brightly fall colored cultivars such as Alfredo and Redwing can be used where the viburnum leaf beetle isnt a problem. Once established, this shrub tolerates drought.
Our native winterberry (Ilex verticillata) provides brilliant red fall color from its berries on female plants. There is a difference in fruit color retention among cultivars. Best in trials at the University of Vermont were Jolly Red, Maryland Beauty, Winter Red, and the hybrid Sparkleberry. Keep in mind if planting these that youll need a male plant or two for pollination. The species of winterberry is often seen in natural areas in wet soils, although this plant tolerates dry soils as well, only grows less quickly there.