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Viburnum

Viburnum: The Four-Season Wonder that Beautifies Your Garden All Year Long!

Viburnum, Snowball Viburnum, Viburnum carlesii

Viburnum is a diverse genus of shrubs and small trees known for their attractive foliage, fragrant flowers, and colorful fruit. They are incredibly versatile in the landscape and can serve multiple purposes depending on the species or cultivar.

Exploring the Charm and Diversity of Viburnum Shrubs

Viburnum belongs to the Adoxaceae family, and the genus comprises over 150 different species, each with its own unique characteristics, such as leaf shape, flower color, and growth habit.

Native: Viburnum species are native to various parts of the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The native range varies by species, and they have been widely cultivated and naturalized in other parts of the world.

Growth Habit: Primarily, viburnum is a woody shrub, although some species can grow into small trees. They are deciduous, semi-evergreen, or evergreen, depending on the variety and climate. Their growth habit varies from compact and bushy to more open and spreading. Some are low-growing, making excellent ground cover, while others can reach towering heights.

Size: Viburnum species range from as small as 2 feet (60 cm) to as tall as 30 feet (9 meters), depending on the species. The spread can also vary widely, from 2 feet (60 cm) to 12 feet (3.6 meters).

Flowers and Blooming Season: Viburnum flowers are typically white or pink and can be sweetly fragrant to unpleasantly scented. They usually appear in spring, often clustered in flat-topped or rounded cymes.

Foliage: The leaves are generally oval or lobed and can be smooth or textured. Many species offer stunning autumn displays as their leaves change color.

Fruit: After flowering, most viburnums produce small, often bright-colored berries that can be red, blue, black, or yellow. The fruit is attractive to birds and can add winter interest to the garden.

Hardiness: Viburnum species are generally hardy and can tolerate a range of climates. Hardiness zones vary by species, but most are hardy in USDA Zones 2-10.

Uses: Viburnums are versatile in the landscape. They can be used as hedging, specimen plants, or as part of mixed borders. They are also frequently used in wildlife gardens.

Pollinators: The fragrant flowers attract a variety of pollinators, including bees and butterflies, contributing to garden biodiversity.

Toxicity: Viburnum species are generally considered to be of low toxicity to humans and pets. Many are used in traditional medicine and some types even have edible fruits. However, it’s always best to consult with a medical professional or veterinarian if ingestion occurs and symptoms develop. Always exercise caution when allowing children or pets to interact with any plant material.

Deer and Rabbit: Viburnum species have varying degrees of resistance to deer and rabbits, depending largely on the availability of other food sources.

Invasiveness: Not many gardeners are aware that certain viburnum species have become invasive in some regions and should be steered clear of. Among them are:

If you’re concerned about the potential for a specific species to become invasive in your area, it’s always best to consult with local experts or your local extension service to get the most accurate and region-specific advice.

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum Mariesii, Mariesii Doublefile ViburnumViburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ (Doublefile Viburnum)

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 10
Plant Type Shrubs, Trees
Plant Family Adoxaceae
Genus Viburnum
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 2' - 30'
(60cm - 9.1m)
Spread 2' - 12'
(60cm - 3.7m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Fragrant, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United Kingdom, United States, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Delaware, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Northeast, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Southeast, Pacific Northwest, Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Washington, Idaho, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders, Wall-Side Borders, Hedges And Screens
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow

What is Special About Viburnum?

Viburnum is a diverse genus of shrubs that offers a range of features that make it special and widely appreciated in gardens and landscapes. Here are some of the aspects that make it particularly noteworthy:

Variety: With over 150 species, these shrubs offers an extraordinary range of shapes, sizes, and features, accommodating varied gardening needs.

Floral Beauty: Most species produce stunning blooms, often in white or pink, that can be fragrant and attract pollinators.

Year-Round Interest: Beyond the flowering season, many Viburnums provide year-round interest with their foliage, which may be deciduous or evergreen and often changes color in the fall. The fruit that follows the blooms also provides ornamental value.

Wildlife Attraction: The berries produced by many species are a food source for birds and other wildlife, contributing to local ecosystems.

Ease of Care: Generally hardy and adaptable, Viburnums are often easy to care for, thriving in a variety of soil types and climate conditions.

Versatility: They can serve many purposes in the garden, from acting as focal points to providing privacy as hedges or screens.

Fragrance: Some species are prized for their intoxicating fragrance that can fill an entire garden.

Leaf Texture: Several varieties offer a unique texture in the garden with their unique leaf shapes and veining.

Disease Resistance: Many Viburnums are resistant to common pests and diseases, making them an excellent low-maintenance option.

Popular Deciduous Viburnum Species

Popular Evergreen and Semi-Evergreen Viburnum Species

Landscaping with Viburnum

Landscaping with viburnum offers a world of possibilities given the diverse range of species and their varying characteristics. Here are some ideas and benefits to incorporate these shrubs into your garden design:

Screening and Privacy: Tall species can be used as natural screens or hedges. Their dense growth can provide privacy from neighbors, shield unsightly views, or reduce noise from a nearby road.

Specimen Plants: Some viburnums, like the snowball bush, serve as stunning specimen plants thanks to their showy, ball-shaped flower clusters. Placing them in a prominent garden spot can create a focal point.

Border Plantings: Low-growing viburnums, such as Viburnum davidii, can be planted along pathways or garden borders. Their attractive foliage and flowers can help define garden spaces.

Attract Wildlife: Many viburnums produce berries that attract birds and other wildlife. Planting them can help bring a lively atmosphere to your garden with visiting birds.

Seasonal Interest: Choose varieties for sequential blooming or those with vibrant fall coloration to ensure interest throughout the growing season. Viburnum acerifolium, for instance, boasts a spectacular fall foliage display.

Ground Cover: Some viburnums have a spreading habit, suitable for ground cover. They can help reduce soil erosion and suppress weeds.

Container Gardening: Some smaller varieties can be grown in containers, making them suitable for patios or small gardens. Ensure the container has adequate drainage.

Woodland Gardens: Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood) or Viburnum nudum (Possumhaw) are ideal choices for a woodland or naturalized setting, blending in seamlessly with native trees and plants.

Companion Plants

Companion planting with viburnum can enhance your garden in multiple ways, whether it’s by creating a pleasing aesthetic or helping with pest control. Here are some suggestions for companion plants:

Perennials: Hostas, Ferns, Astilbe, Coral Bells (Heuchera), Foam Flower (Tiarella), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra), Forget Me Not (Myosotis), Columbine (Aquilegia).

Shrubs: RhododendronsHydrangeas

Trees: Dogwoods (Cornus)Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum)

Bulbs: Daffodils, Tulips, Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum)

When choosing companion plants, always take into account the specific needs of your species—such as sunlight requirements, soil pH, and moisture levels—to ensure a healthy and harmonious garden.

Companion Plants for Viburnum Shrubs

Hosta (Plantain Lily)
Astilbe
Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)
Aquilegia (Columbine)
Azalea and Rhododendron
Hydrangea macrophylla (Bigleaf Hydrangea)
Cornus (Dogwood)
Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple)

How to Grow and Care for Viburnum

Growing and caring for viburnum is relatively straightforward, as these versatile shrubs are often hardy and adaptable. Here’s a quick guide:

Light:

  • Most shrubs prefer full sun to partial shade. However, some species tolerate full shade.

Soil:

  • They are adaptable to a wide range of soil types but prefer well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. They like slightly acidic soil but many varieties will tolerate alkaline soil.

Water:

  • Usually, a thorough watering once a week—either from rain or manual irrigation—is enough. Established native species tend to be fairly resilient to drought conditions.

Fertilizer:

  • Apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring before new growth starts. Over-fertilizing can lead to excessive growth and fewer flowers.

Pruning:

  • Prune immediately after flowering to shape the plant and remove any dead or damaged wood. Some species may produce a second set of blooms after pruning.

Propagation:

  • Can be propagated through softwood cuttings in spring or hardwood cuttings in winter. Some species can also be propagated by seed.

Pests and Diseases:

By paying attention to these basic care requirements, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying these beautiful, versatile shrubs in your garden.

Viburnum, flowering Shrub, Fall color, shrubs with berries, Colorful Fall Foliage, Spring Bloom, Winter Interest, Deer Resistant shrubs, Drought Tolerant shrubs, Koreanspice, Arrowwood
Viburnum berries

Frequently Asked Questions

Do viburnum like sun or shade?

Viburnum generally prefer full sun to partial shade. However, their light requirements can vary depending on the species. Some can tolerate full shade but may produce fewer flowers and develop a less dense foliage. Overall, a well-lit spot with some afternoon shade often works well for most types.

Are viburnum low maintenance?

Yes, they are generally considered low-maintenance plants. They are fairly adaptable to a variety of soil types and environmental conditions. Regular pruning is usually not mandatory unless you are aiming for a specific shape. They are relatively disease- and pest-resistant compared to other plants, making them an easy-care option for many gardens.

What does viburnum look like in the winter?

Their winter appearance largely depends on the species. Deciduous varieties will lose their leaves, revealing a skeletal structure that can be quite ornamental. Many species have persistent berries that add winter interest. Evergreen species maintain their leaves, providing year-round foliage. Some varieties also feature textured or colored bark that can be visually striking in the winter landscape.

How fast do viburnum grow?

The growth rate varies by species, but many are considered medium to fast growers. In general, you can expect your shrub to grow 1 to 2 feet (30-60 cm) per year under optimal conditions.

What is the most fragrant viburnum?

One of the most fragrant viburnums is Viburnum carlesii, also known as Koreanspice Viburnum. This deciduous shrub produces clusters of pinkish-white flowers in the spring that are highly aromatic, filling the garden with a spicy, clove-like fragrance. Viburnum × burkwoodii is another fragrant option, known for its pink to white flowers that emit a strong, spicy aroma. Both of these species are often planted near windows or walkways where their pleasant scent can be easily enjoyed.

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 10
Plant Type Shrubs, Trees
Plant Family Adoxaceae
Genus Viburnum
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 2' - 30'
(60cm - 9.1m)
Spread 2' - 12'
(60cm - 3.7m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Fragrant, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United Kingdom, United States, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Delaware, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Northeast, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Southeast, Pacific Northwest, Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Washington, Idaho, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders, Wall-Side Borders, Hedges And Screens
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
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