Like ivy, Euonymus fortunei creeps along the ground while juvenile, then climbs as a clinging vine where it finds support, and finally produces shrubby adult growth that can bloom and produce seed when it reaches the top of the support. Most cultivars (cultivated varieties) are juvenile plants that make good small scale ground cover that will eventually climb and mature to adulthood if not contained. As vines, they work nicely on concrete walls, but should not be allowed to climb wooden walls or painted surfaces that they can damage with their clinging rootlets. Cultivars that are grown from cuttings of adult growth are strictly shrubby.
The finely serrated, paired leaves are about three quarters to two inches long and about a quarter to one inch wide. The most popular cultivars of Euonymus fortunei that are grown for their variegated or yellow foliage do not grow too aggressively or get too large. Those with green, unvariegated foliage can slowly but eventually climb more than three stories high. Docile variegated plants can sometimes revert to unvariegated and become more aggressive. (Reversion is mutation to a more genetically stable state.)