Viburnums offer something for everyone. There are more than 150 species and they run the table on shrub and tree characteristics. Depending on the variety, Viburnums can be used as hedge or screen plants, foundation shrubs or specimen plants. They may be deciduous, semi-evergreen or evergreen, can live in dry or wet soils, full sun, or deep shade. Most varieties flower, some are fragrant, and some produce berries for wildlife. Viburnums are native to many parts of the world, and in North America will grow in USDA hardiness zones 2-9 (but more commonly 4-8). And if you’re in love with a Viburnum you planted, they’re easy to propagate so you can have a second at no cost. There’s really nothing not to like about Viburnums.
Viburnums are one of the most versatile plants
Depending on the variety your Viburnum may:
- Be a tree that grows to 30 feet or a shrub that hugs the ground at 1 foot.
- Be evergreen, deciduous or semi-evergreen with leaves that may be large or small, and of various shapes.
- Produces fragrant flowers in spring or fall.
- Produces colorful berries prized by wildlife.
- Be tolerant of wet soils or require dry soil only.
- Prefer heavy shade or full sun.
Please read the plant tag to learn the specifics of your Viburnum.
Viburnums offer year-round interest
Beautiful, showy flowers
Most Viburnums flower creamy white or pale pink in mid-late spring, but a few flower in autumn. The blooms appear in various shapes: flat, vase, lacecap, snowball or dome-shaped. Many Viburnum flowers are fragrant, some remarkably so, and some have no scent at all.
Most Viburnums produce berries that are prized by wildlife and persist until mid-fall or winter or until the birds snatch them. The berries may be red, pink, blue, black, yellow or orange.
Blazing fall foliage
Some Viburnums are deciduous, and others are evergreen or 3/4 evergreen (they only lose leaves for two months). Deciduous leaves turn blazing scarlet red, yellow, violet or purple in fall.
Are Viburnums native to North America?
Viburnums are native to many parts of the world, from Mexico to North America to China, Japan, India, and beyond. Please choose a variety native to your region for best success in your garden and to support local wildlife and pollinators. Check the plant tag or google the variety you’re considering.
Viburnums are easy to care for
When planting, test your soil to learn the pH. If it’s slightly acidic, between 5.5 and 6.5, your Viburnum should have no problems. Most prefer soil on the slightly acidic side, so aim for 5.5. If it’s alkaline – above 6.5 – acidify the soil with peat moss or elemental sulfur. But check the plant tag first or do some research on the variety you’re planting, because there are a few exceptions.
All viburnums require soil that drains well, as do most plants. If you have heavy clay, add organic matter like compost to loosen it up. Plant in the opposite season from flowering: if it’s a spring flowering variety, plant in the fall, and vice-versa. You can plant a spring-flowering variety in very early spring, but keep the plant well-watered through spring and summer to help it establish. I’ve successfully planted Viburnums as late as mid-June.
Follow basic planting rules:
- Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
- Set the plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the soil.
- Backfill the hole halfway with the soil you just removed. Do not add fertilizers or compost. Water in to settle the soil. Then fill the hole to the top, again with the same soil you dug out initially. Water again to settle the soil.
- On the soil surface, form a rim of soil around the outer edge of the hole. This will help keep water around the root zone for the first season.
- If planting more than 1 Viburnum, check the plant tag to learn the mature height and width and space appropriately.
- Add 2 inches of compost on top of the soil around the root zone.
- If mulching, use natural materials such as pine bark, pine straw, or cedar wood.
As with most shrubs, add 2 inches of compost around the root zone once or twice a year, and it will have no need for fertilizer in most soils.
Viburnums do not need regular pruning, except for dead wood or hazards, and in fact do best if you leave them alone. Height and spread can be regulated with selective pruning in early spring, but this will remove flower buds from the tips of branches. If the plant is growing beyond its space, prune appropriately to contain it, but don’t try to shape it with a hedge shear, or you’ll lose the flower buds. The optimum time to prune a Viburnum is just after it blooms.
Pests and diseases of Viburnums
Viburnums have very few problems with pests or disease. They may occasionally be bothered by aphids, powdery mildew, root weevils, spider mites, scale, thrips, or leaf spot, but none of these typically poses a serious threat to the plant.
15 Viburnums to consider for your garden (there are more than 175 species to choose from)
Please read your plant tag before buying or planting.
|Yam||flowers||foliage||Berries||Light||Height & Spread||USDA Hardiness Zones|
|Fragrant Snowball (Viburnum × carlcephalum)||Snowball-shaped, fragrant, pink-tinged white.||Dark oval green leaves turn red in fall.||Fruits start red and turn to black as they ripen.||Full sun, part shade.||6-10 feet.||6-8|
|Pink Dawn aka Dawn, aka Arrowwood (Viburnum x bodnantense)||Intensely fragrant, pink flowers.||Ovate leaves begin as bronze tinted in spring, then turn emerald green mid-season and burgundy red in fall.||Fruits start as scarlet red and mature to black.||Full sun, part shade.||H: 8-10 feet.
Spread 4-6 feet.
(Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Allegheny’)
|Fragrant white flowers||Textured, leathery, dark green foliage. Evergreen in some areas.||Red fruit matures to black.||Full sun, part sun.||10 feet tall and wide.||5-8|
|Redwing – American Cranberrybush (Viburnum trilobum)||Lacy white, intricate flowers.||Maple-shaped dark green leaves turn bright red in autumn.||Bright red berries can be eaten by humans and are frequently used in jams and preserves.||Full sun, part shade.||H: 8-10 feet
Spread: 6-8 feet
|Eskimo (Eskimo Viburnum)||Snowball, creamy white flowers.||Semi-evergreen foliage.||Fruits start as scarlet and mature to black.||Full sun, part shade.||4-5 feet tall and wide.||6-8|
|Mapleleaf Viburnum aka Maple-leaf Arrowwood, (Vibernum acerifolium)||Flat clusters, white.||Maple leaf-shaped leaves.||Berries begin as red, ripen to blue-black.||Full sun (with late afternoon shade), part shade, or shade.||H: 3-6 feet.
Spread: 2-4 feet.
|Cone Viburnum, aka Burkwood (Viburnum x burkwoodii)||Fragrant, flat-topped clusters of creamy white flowers.||Semi-evergreen, ovate, dark green foliage turns maroon in fall.||Red berries linger into fall.||Full sun, part shade||H: 4-5 feet.
Spread: 7-8 feet.
|Koreanspice Viburnum, aka Arrowwood (Viburnum calesii)||Highly fragrant, snowball shaped. Red flower buds turn to pink flowers.||Deciduous ovate leaves emerge as a copper colour, mature to dark green, then turn burgundy in fall.||Bright red berries ripe to black.||Full sun, part shade.||H: 4-8 feet.
Spread: 4-8 feet.
|Cardinal Candy aka Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum)||Lacy, fragrant, creamy white flowers.||Deciduous.||Lots of clusters of bright red berries fall through.||Fall sun, part shade||6-8 feet tall and wide.||5-8|
|Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)||Vase shaped clusters, flat topped, creamy white flowers.||Deciduous, ovate, glossy green leaves turn yellow, red, and then purple in fall.||Clusters of bluish-black berries with red stems. Can be used in jams and jellies.||Full sun, part shade.||H: 10-20 feet Spread: 6-12 feet||2-8|
|European Cranberrybush Xanthocarpum, European Snowball (Viburnum opulus Roseum)||Flat, creamy white flowers.||Deciduous, glossy green, maple-shaped leaves turn yellow or pink in fall.||Golden yellow berries.||Full sun, part shade.||6-8 feet tall and wide.||3-8|
|Summer Snowflake (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum)||Profuse numbers of large, snowy white flowers.||Deciduous dark green leaves turn burgundy in fall.||Bright red fruits ripen to black.||Full sun, part shade.||H: 5-8 feet.
Spread 8-10 feet.
|Compactum aka Koreanspice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)||Fragrant, large clusters of pink flower buds open to white flowers tinged with pink. Snowball shaped.||Deciduous, dark green ovate leaves turn burgundy in fall.||Bright red berries.||Full sun, part shade.||3-4 feet tall and wide.||4-7|
(Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’)
|Masses of large, pure white, snowball-shaped flower clusters.||Deciduous, glossy bright green leaves turn purple-red in fall.||none||Full sun, part sun.||H: 12 feet
Spread: 10 feet.
|David Viburnum (Viburnum davidii)||White, showy flowers.||Evergreen to semi-evergreen blue-green leaves turn orange, red or purple in fall.||Green fruit turns pink to red then metallic blue and black.||Full sun, part sun||2-3 feet tall, 3-4 feet wide||7-9|
sources: Gardenia, Compare ViburnumsFine Gardening, All About Growing ViburnumsNorth Carolina State Extension Gardener, Versatile Vibrant ViburnumsMonrovia, Five Ways to Use Viburnums in the Landscape.