Looking for an evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous shrub that is low maintenance, deer resistant, and provides attractive foliage, abundant blooms, fall color and winter fruit for wildlife? Viburnums are the answer. With all of that going for them, it’s not hard to see why they’re one the best loved garden shrubs of all time. Learn more about viburnums and find one that fits perfectly in your garden.

On this page: Viburnum Basics | Planting | Care | Pictures | Design Tips | Companions

VIBURNUM BASICS

Snowball viburnum in bloom. Photo by Kazakov Maksim / Shutterstock.com.

Zones:

Zones 2-11, depending on variety.

Height/Spread:

There is a wide range of sizes, from a few dwarf varieties like Viburnum opulus ‘Nanum’ at just under 3 feet, to large species like V. seiboldii that may reach 20 feet tall. Most grow as shrubs and have a full-spreading habit; others can be pruned to medium-sized trees or standards.

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade.

Seasonal interest:

Viburnums offer year-round interest with spring to summer blooms, vibrant fall color (on deciduous types) and colorful winter berries.

Color and characteristics:

Viburnums bloom with two main types of flower heads: Flat-topped clusters similar to lacecap hydrangeas and rounded snowball types. Their sometimes fragrant flowers come in shades of white, cream, and pink and are usually tubular or salverform (long, thin tube that widens suddenly to a flat-faced flower) in shape.

Leaves are typically oval to lance-shaped, with entire or toothed edges, and oppositely arranged. They also vary in size, texture and color. Most deciduous varieties display fantastic fall colors of yellow, red or burgundy.

Viburnums are also prized for their showy ornamental fruits that add color and interest in winter, and are an important food source for birds. Fruits are usually spherical or ovoid in shape, and may be red, pink, purple, blue or black. Most viburnums aren’t self-pollinating and will need a little help to produce fruit. Plant 2 or 3 together for cross pollination to stimulate abundant production.

Toxicity:

Ingestion of the berries or fruits may cause mild stomach upset, but viburnums are not known to be toxic.

PLANTING VIBURNUM

When to plant:

Spring or fall are the best times to plant viburnums.

Where to plant:

Although the site requirements don’t vary too much between varieties, there may be subtle differences. As a general rule, full sun will produce the best blooms, berries and fall color. Some will do just as well in partial shade, like some of the thicker-leaved varieties, but keep an eye out for black spot and other foliar diseases. They like to keep their foliage dry, so avoid planting where they might be subject to sprinkler overspray. Good air circulation is important to keep them from developing fungal diseases, but do protect them from drying winter winds.

How to plant:

To transplant a container-grown viburnum bush, dig the planting hole just as deep as the rootball and 2 to 3 times as wide. Scarify the rootball if necessary to loosen impacted roots. Place the shrub into the hole so that the top of the rootball is even with the surrounding ground level. Backfill the hole halfway and water it in to settle the bottom layer of soil. Backfill the rest of the way, and make a soil ring to hold water. Water again to settle in the rest of the way. Space according to their mature size.

CARE TIPS

Summer snowflake viburnum blossom. Photo by Kate Besler / Shutterstock.com.

Pruning viburnum:

Not much pruning is required other than what is needed to maintain the shape and health of the shrub. For deciduous varieties, blooms are set in late summer, so any drastic pruning should be done immediately after flowering so next year’s blooms won’t be accidentally sacrificed. However, cutting back branches that just bloomed or deadheading spent blooms will decrease the amount of fruit produced in late fall and winter. For evergreen varieties, prune in late winter to early spring.

For either type, unsightly, dead or damaged branches can be thinned out any time of year. Don’t prune or do any thinning when frost is on the way, because the new growth that follows could be damaged.

Soil:

Viburnum shrubs are quite adaptable, but do prefer organically-rich soil with a pH of 5.6 to 6.6. They also like consistently moist, but well-draining conditions.

Amendments & fertilizer:

A general-purpose fertilizer can be added in spring before new growth emerges.

Watering:

During the first year, newly planted shrubs should be watered deeply and regularly, at least once a week, to help them establish a good root system. The frequency can be reduced once plants are established.

Diseases and pests:

Gray mold, rust, downy mildew, powdery mildew, wood rot, Verticillium wilt, leaf spots, and dieback can occur. Good air circulation and dry foliage are the best defenses against fungal diseases. Pests such as aphids, scale, insects, weevils, Japanese beetles, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, and tree hoppers are common.

Deer tend to steer clear of viburnum shrubs and it has an ‘A’ rating (rarely damaged) on the Rutgers deer-resistant plant list.

VIBURNUM PICTURES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Rock Giguere / Millette Photomedia

Viburnum dentatum ‘Christom’ Blue MuffinBuy now on Amazon
Arrowwood viburnum
Deciduous

Zones:

3-8

Height/Spread:

3 to 5 feet tall & wide

Exposure:

Partial to full sun

Color:

Glossy green leaves contrast with white flowers. Blue berries appear in late summer to early fall.

Bloom Time:

Early to mid-summer

A great selection for residential gardens, this more compact arrowwood viburnum fits well in shrub borders or as a hedge. Plant another arrowwood cultivar close by to cross pollinate the flowers and increase the fruit yield.

Photo by: APugach / Shutterstock.com.

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’Buy now on Amazon
Eastern snowball viburnum, snowball bush
Deciduous

Zones:

3-8

Height/Spread:

12 feet tall, 10 feet wide; moderate grower

Exposure:

Partial to full sun

Color:

Glossy green leaves turn purplish-red in fall, with bright white snowball flower clusters.

Bloom Time:

Late spring to early summer

Large, white snowball flower clusters put on a show in early summer. The flowers are sterile and do not produce fruit typical of other varieties.

Photo by: A.D.Fletcher / Alamy Stock Photo.

Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’Buy now on Amazon
Doublefile viburnum
Deciduous

Zones:

5-8

Height/Spread:

10 to 12 feet tall, 12 to 15 feet wide

Exposure:

Partial to full sun

Color:

Strongly veined, dark green leaves turn reddish-purple in the fall. White lacecap-like flowers produce red berries in summer that mature to black.

Bloom Time:

April to May

Doublefiles grow as a dense, multi-stemmed shrub with layered horizontal branches. Non-fragrant flower clusters bloom along the branches, giving way to small, berry-like fruits that provide a useful food source for birds in fall and winter.

Photo courtesy Hirt’s Gardens.

Viburnum carlesii Buy now on Amazon
Koreanspice viburnum
Deciduous

Zones:

4-7

Height/Spread:

4 to 6 feet tall, 4 to 7 feet wide

Exposure:

Partial to full sun

Color:

Pastel pink buds open to clusters of white to light pink flowers. Dark green leaves turn deep red to burgundy in fall.

Bloom Time:

March to April

The spice-cake-like scent of this shrub’s flowers is its main attraction. Plant near gathering areas or walkways where it can be appreciated when in bloom.

Photo by: HD Signature Co., Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

Viburnum awabuki ‘Chindo’
Chindo viburnum, sweet viburnum
Evergreen

Zones:

7-11

Height/Spread:

12 feet tall, 8 feet wide

Exposure:

Partial to full sun

Color:

Attractive green foliage, fragrant white flowers, and red fruit.

Bloom Time:

Late spring

‘Chindo’ is a fairly rapid grower and makes an excellent evergreen hedge with all-season color and interest. A good choice for warmer climates, this variety can tolerate mild drought conditions once established.

Photo by: Garden World Images, Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

Viburnum tinus ‘Robustum’Buy now on Amazon
Roundleaf Laurustinus
Evergreen

Zones:

7-11

Height/Spread:

6 to 12 feet tall, 3 to 6 feet wide

Exposure:

Partial to full sun

Color:

Attractive green foliage, white to light pink flowers, and dark fruit.

Bloom Time:

Late spring

A more erect variety suitable for training into a small tree by pruning the lower limbs. Also suitable in borders where its fragrant flowers can be appreciated. The dense, evergreen foliage also makes a nice hedge or screen.

Photo by: TMsara / Shutterstock.com.

Viburnum x rhytidophylloides ‘Allegheny’
Leatherleaf viburnum
Evergreen to 0°F, deciduous in colder climates

Zones:

5-8

Height/Spread:

10 feet tall & wide

Exposure:

Partial to full sun

Color:

Leathery dark green leaves, clusters of white flowers, and red fruit that matures to black.

Bloom Time:

Spring

Another great choice for a dense hedge or windscreen, this viburnum is cold tolerant and stays evergreen down to 0°F, although may be deciduous in colder zones.

Photo by: EMFA16 / Shutterstock.com.

Viburnum davidii
David viburnum
Evergreen to semi-evergreen

Zones:

7-9

Height/Spread:

2 to 3 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide

Exposure:

Partial to full sun

Color:

Glossy dark green leaves, white flowers and dark blue fruit.

Bloom Time:

April to May

Although an evergreen shrub, it may tend to be semi-evergreen or deciduous in more Northern climates. This compact grower is perfect along a walkway or as a hillside groundcover. For best production of the showy fruit, plant two or more together to ensure cross pollination.

LANDSCAPE DESIGN TIPS

With the range of variation and seasonal interest that viburnums bring to the garden, the uses are nearly endless.

  • Suitable for a woodland garden or mixed border.
  • Create a year-round focal point with the changing colors and blooms.
  • Plant a row of upright varieties, such as Chindo Sweet viburnum or Prague viburnum, to create an impressive hedge.
  • Use dwarf or more compact types, like dwarf cranberry bush, for container plantings.

COMPANION PLANTS

Viburnums can be paired and planted with a host of companions, including:

RELATED:
Expert Plant Picks for Your Fall Garden
Best Flowering Shrubs for Season-Long Color
Glorious Hedges

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