Large, diverse group of plants with generally oval, often handsome leaves and clusters of typically white, sometimes fragrant flowers that attract butterflies. Blossoms are usually followed by single-seeded, often brilliantly colored fruit much appreciated by birds. Many viburnums are grown for their flower display, a few for their showy fruit. In general, heaviest fruit set occurs when several different named selections of seedlings that bloom at the same time are planted together. Many evergreen types are valuable as foliage plants. Several species (noted below) can be grown as small trees. Viburnums are somewhat resistant to deer damage.
V. acerifolium. MAPLE LEAF VIBURNUM. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native throughout the Southeastern states in its hardiness zones, this colony-forming shrub grows 46 ft. tall and equally wide in a decade. Ideally in a naturalistic planting scheme and tolerant of shade, it offers late-spring flowers in flat clusters of greenish white. Fruit begins red and turns purple and black, set against fall colors of pink, red, and even dark purple.
V. x bodnantense. BODNANT VIBURNUM. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. To 10 ft. (or more) tall, 6 ft. wide. Dark green, 112- to 4-in.-long leaves are deeply veined, turn dark scarlet in fall. Loose clusters of very fragrant, deep pink flowers age to paler pink; blooms in winter, but buds often freeze. Red fruit is not showy. Best known is 'Dawn' ('Pink Dawn').
V. x burkwoodii. BURKWOOD VIBURNUM. Deciduous in cold areas, nearly evergreen elsewhere. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. To 612 ft. tall, 48 ft. wide. Glossy leaves to 312 in. long are dark green above, white and hairy beneath; turn purplish red in cold weather. Dense, 4-in. clusters of pink buds open to very fragrant white flowers in late winter or early spring. Blue-black fruit is not showy. Early growth is straggly, but mature plants are dense. Can be espaliered.
'Anne Russell' is compact and rounded at 67 ft. high and wide; good red-purple fall color. 'Chenaultii', to 10 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide, is dense, slightly later blooming, and more deciduous in mild climates than the species. 'Conoy' tends to be evergreen, with dense growth to 5 ft. high and wide; slightly fragrant flowers are followed by long-lasting red berries. 'Mohawk', to 7 ft. tall, 5 ft. wide, has red buds that are showy long before they open into white flowers; orange-red fall color. 'Park Farm Hybrid', 810 ft. high and wide, sports glossy, narrow leaves and large, long-lasting flowers that open from deep pink buds.
V. x carlcephalum. FRAGRANT SNOWBALL. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. To 610 ft. tall and wide. Dull, grayish green, 2- to 312-in.-long leaves are downy beneath; turn reddish purple in autumn. Long-lasting, waxy, sweetly perfumed spring flowers in dense, 4- to 5-in. clusters. No fruit. As showy as V. opulus 'Roseum' but has the bonus of fragrance. 'Cayuga' is a compact grower to 5 ft. tall and wide.
V. carlesii. KOREAN SPICE VIBURNUM. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Korea, Japan. Old Southern favorite. Loose, open habit to 48 ft. tall and wide. Leaves like those of V. x carlcephalum; inconsistent reddish fall color. Pink buds in 2- to 3-in. clusters open to sweetly fragrant white flowers in spring. Blue-black fruit is not showy. Does best with part shade during hottest months. 'Compactum' grows slowly to just 34 ft. tall and wide. 'Aurora' is a bit larger at 45 ft. tall and wide (possibly to 8 ft. in ideal conditions); its dark red buds open to large pink flowers that slowly fade to white, and it shows good red fall color. Flowers of 'Spice Girl' have a spicy-sweet perfume.
V. davidii. DAVID VIBURNUM. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to China. This species undoubtedly has the most handsome foliage of all viburnums: glossy, dark green, deeply veined leaves 36 in. long. Forms a compact mound to 34 ft. high and wide. White spring flowers aren't especially showy, but the display of metallic turquoise-blue fruit that follows is definitely eye catching. Unfortunately, David viburnum seldom sets fruit unless growing conditions are perfect and several genetically distinct plants (not sibling seedlings, but individuals from different parents) are grouped together for cross-pollination. It's better suited to the mild climate of the Pacific Northwest than the extremes of the South. Here, it requires very well-drained, moist, acid soil and afternoon shade.
V. dentatum. ARROWWOOD. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from New Brunswick to Minnesota, south to Georgia. To 610 ft. or taller, equally wide. Cream-colored flowers in late spring are followed by blue-black fruit. Dark green, oval to rounded, 4-in. leaves turn yellow, orange, or deep red in fall. Plants tolerate heat, cold, and alkaline soil. Use as screen or tall hedge. 'Cardinal' has reliable brilliant red fall color. 'Blue Muffin' is a compact selection reaching only 57 ft. high and 4 ft. wide with intense blue fruit.
V. dilatatum. LINDEN VIBURNUM. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From China, Japan. Grows to 810 ft. tall and not quite as wide. Nearly round, 2- to 5-in. gray-green leaves; inconsistent rusty red fall color. Tiny, creamy white, somewhat unpleasant-smelling flowers in 5-in. clusters, late spring or early summer. Showy bright red fruit ripens in early fall, hangs on into winter. Outstanding named selections include the following.
'Asian Beauty'. To 810 ft. tall, 68 ft. wide. Profuse show of cherry-red fruit that stays in place for a long time.
'Cardinal Candy'. To 45 ft. high and wide. Extra-hardy selection; has survived 25F. Bright red fruit. Leaves turn bronze and burgundy in fall.
'Catskill'. Compact growth to 58 ft. tall, 810 ft. wide, with smaller leaves than species. Dark red fruit. Fall color is a combination of yellow, orange, and red.
'Erie'. Rounded habit to 6 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide. Red fruit. Leaves turn yellow, orange, and red in autumn. Highly disease resistant.
'Iroquois'. To 9 ft. tall, 12 ft. wide. Selected for heavy production of larger, darker red fruit. Orange-red to maroon fall foliage.
'Michael Dodge'. Compact and rounded growth to just 56 ft. tall and wide. Bright yellow fruit stands out beautifully against the scarlet fall foliage.
V. hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. These spring-blooming viburnums all have complex ancestries.
'Chesapeake'. Semievergreen. To 8 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide, with glossy, wavy-edged, 312-in. dark green leaves. Two-inch clusters of fragrant white flowers open from pink buds; dull red fruit matures to black.
'Chippewa'. Semievergreen to deciduous. To 89 ft. tall, 9 ft. wide. Dense plant with glossy, dark green leaves that turn maroon and red in fall. Big show of creamy white flowers; glossy, deep red fruit. Cold hardy.
'Eskimo'. Semievergreen. Dense, compact habit to 5 ft. tall and wide. Shiny, dark green leaves to 4 in. long. Unscented flowers in 3- to 4-in., snowball-like clusters; dull red fruit ages to black.
'Huron'. Semievergreen to deciduous. Dense grower to 89 ft. tall, 910 ft. wide. Glossy, dark green leaves with good fall color in rich red and maroon tones. Flowers virtually cover the plant at bloom time. Dark red fruit. Cold hardy.
V. japonicum. JAPANESE VIBURNUM. Evergreen. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-10. From Japan. Grows 1015 ft. tall, 812 ft. wide; can be trained as a small tree. Leathery, glossy, dark green leaves to 6 in. long. Sparse spring show of fragrant flowers in 4-in. clusters. Red fruit is likewise sparsebut very attractive. Best with some shade.
V. x juddii. JUDD VIBURNUM. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. To 48 ft. tall, 610 ft. wide. Bushier, more spreading, and more heat-tolerant than V. carlesii but similar to it in other respects, including fragrance.
V. luzonicum. LUZON VIBURNUM. Evergreen; deciduous in cooler zones. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Native to Taiwan and the Philippines, this large shrub or small tree is a gift to gardeners in the Lower South wanting fall color. Even where evergreen, the foliage turns red and persists. Grows to 20 ft. tall and 15 ft. wide. Flat clusters of white flowers are followed by sparse red fruits.
V. macrocephalum. CHINESE SNOWBALL. Deciduous in coldest areas, nearly evergreen elsewhere. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Rounded habit to 1220 ft. tall and wide. Dull green, oval to oblong, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves. Spectacular big, rounded, 6- to 8-in. flower clusters bloom in spring (or any time during warm weather); they are composed of sterile flowers that start out lime-green, change to white. No fruit. Can be espaliered.
V. nudum 'Winterthur'. WINTERTHUR SMOOTH WITHERROD. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to Southern states, this shrub grows 610 ft. tall and wide. The sheen on the dark green leaves gives the fall foliage more impact as it turns red. The flat-topped, creamy white flower clusters in early summer are followed by fruit that progresses through pinks and reds on its journey from green to black. Tolerates occasionally wet soil but grows in average garden soil as well.
V. odoratissium awabuki. AWABUKI VIBURNUM. Evergreen. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Native to Taiwan and Japan, growing to 12 ft. tall with upright form. Foliage is glossy and dark green, the perfect setting for early-summer white flower cluster followed by red fruit that turns black. 'Chindo' has large, red, pendant fruit clusters.
V. opulus. EUROPEAN CRANBERRY BUSH. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From Europe, North Africa, central Asia. To 815 ft. tall and wide, with arching branches. Lobed, maplelike dark green leaves to 24 in. long and as wide or wider. Fall foliage color may be yellow, bright red, or reddish purple. Blooms in spring; flower heads have a lace-cap look, with a 2- to 4-in. cluster of small fertile blossoms ringed with larger sterile blossoms. Large, showy red fruit persists from fall into winter. Takes moist to boggy soils. Control aphids. Selections include the following.
'Aureum'. Golden yellow foliage. Give some shade to prevent sunburn.
'Compactum'. To 45 ft. high and wide.
'Nanum'. To 2 ft. high and wide. Needs no trimming as low, informal hedge. Cannot take poorly drained, wet soils. No flowers or fruit.
'Roseum' ('Sterile'). COMMON SNOWBALL. Resembles the species but has snowball-like flower clusters 2212 in. across, composed entirely of sterile flowers (so bears no fruit). Aphids are especially troublesome.
'Xanthocarpum'. Rounded growth to 68 ft. tall and wide, with glossy, apple-green foliage. Showy yellow fruit matures to translucent golden yellow.
V. plicatum plicatum. JAPANESE SNOWBALL. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From China, Japan. To 815 ft. tall and wide. Horizontal branching pattern gives plant a tiered look, especially when in bloom; flower clusters are held above the branches, while leaves hang down. Strongly veined, 3- to 6-in.-long, dull, dark green leaves turn purplish red in autumn. Showy, 3-in., snowball-like clusters of sterile flowers look like those of V. opulus 'Roseum', but this plant is less bothered by aphids. Midspring bloom. No fruit. Tolerates occasionally wet soils. 'Newport' is compact and dense, to 5 ft. tall and wide. 'Popcorn', 58 ft. tall and nearly as wide, is an early bloomer with a profusion of small, rounded flower clusters.
V. plicatum tomentosum. DOUBLEFILE VIBURNUM. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. This truly beautiful viburnum is native to China and Japan. It resembles V. plicatum plicatum, but midspring flower display consists of small fertile flowers in flat, 2- to 4-in. clusters edged with 1- to 112-in. sterile flowers in lace-cap effect. Fruit is red aging to black; it is showy, if not always profuse. Needs good drainage and moist soil. Excessive summer heat and drought often result in leaf scorch. Selections include the following.
'Cascade'. To 10 ft. tall, 12 ft. wide. Wide-spreading branches bear large, sterile flowers.
'Copper Ridges'. To 10 ft. tall and wide. Heavily textured leaves emerge with copper highlights, then age to deep green in summer before turning shades of maroon and wine-red in fall. Profuse flowers and fruit.
'Mariesii'. Grows to 10 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide. Has large flower clusters, large, sterile flowers.
'Pink Beauty'. To 9 ft. tall, 12 ft. wide, with white flowers that age to pink.
'Shasta'. Horizontal habit (to 12 ft. tall, 15 ft. wide), with large, sterile flowers. Considered by many to be the finest selection.
'Shoshoni'. To 5 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide.
'Summer Snowflake'. Reaches 58 ft. tall and wide. Blooms from spring to autumn.
V. x pragense. PRAGUE VIBURNUM. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Fast-growing, rounded plant to 10 ft. tall and broad. Shiny, dark green, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves. Faintly fragrant white flowers in 3- to 6-in. clusters open from pink buds in early spring.
V. prunifolium. BLACK HAW. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from Michigan and Connecticut south to Texas and Florida. Upright to 15 ft., spreading as wide. Can be trained as a small tree. Common name comes from dark fruit and from plant's resemblance to hawthorn (Crataegus). Oval, finely toothed leaves to 3 in. long turn purplish to reddish purple in fall. Many clusters of creamy white flowers in spring; edible blue-black fruit in fall and winter. Use as dense screen or barrier, attractive specimen shrub. Best in full sun. Tolerates drought. 'Ovation' grows slowly to form a compact, upright column to 10 ft. tall, 6 ft. wide; leaves emerge pink, aging to bright celery-green and finally to rich burgundy in autumn.
V. x rhytidophylloides. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. These are hybrids between V. rhytidophyllum and V. lantana, a deciduous species from Europe and Asia Minor. Among the best is 'Allegheny', a dense, rounded plant 68 ft. tall and broad; it is evergreen in most winters. Leaves resemble those of V. rhytidophyllum but are broader and less wrinkled. Flowers and fruit are also similar. 'Willowwood' resembles 'Allegheny' but has a more arching habit.
V. rhytidophyllum. LEATHERLEAF VIBURNUM. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From central and western China. Upright grower to 815 ft. tall, 612 ft. wide. Narrow, 4- to 10-in.-long leaves are deep green and wrinkled above, fuzzy beneath. Yellowish white spring flowers come in 4- to 8-in. clusters; scarlet fruit ages to black. Leaves droop in cold weather, and plant looks tattered where cold winds blow. Tolerates deep shade. Some find this plant striking; others consider it coarse.
V. rufidulum. RUSTY BLACK HAW. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from Texas to Florida and north to Virginia. Large shrub or small tree growing 1220 ft. tall and spreading a little wider. Blossoms come in 5-in.-wide clusters in late spring; they're followed by handsome dark blue berries. Oval, 2- to 4-in., glossy, dark green leaves; young shoots, leafstalks, and leaf undersides are covered with rust-colored hairs. Fall foliage color ranges from orange and yellow through red and purple shades. Vigorous grower 'Emerald Charm' ('Morton') is slightly more upright.
V. setigerum. TEA VIBURNUM. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From China. To 812 ft. tall, 68 ft. wide. Multistemmed, rather erect; often bare at base (plant lower-growing shrubs around it for concealment). Leaves were once used for making tea; they are 36 in. long, dark green or blue-green turning to purplish in fall. Spring flowers in 1- to 2-in. clusters are not striking, but heavy production of scarlet fruit makes this the showiest of fruiting viburnums. 'Aurantiacum' has orange fruit.
V. suspensum. SANDANKWA VIBURNUM. Evergreen. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. From Japan. To 810 ft. tall and broad. Leathery, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves are glossy, deep green above, paler beneath. Blooms in early spring, bearing flowers in loose, 2- to 4-in. clusters; some people find the scent objectionable. Red fruit ages to black, is not long lasting. Serviceable screen or hedge; very popular in Florida. Watch for thrips, spider mites, aphids. Little to moderate water.
V. tinus. LAURUSTINUS. Evergreen. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-10, except as noted. Mediterranean native. To 612 ft. tall, half as wide. Leathery, dark green, 2- to 3-in.-long leaves with edges slightly rolled under. Wine-red new stems. Blooms in winter; tight clusters of pink buds open to lightly fragrant white flowers. Bright metallic blue fruit lasts through summer. Dense foliage right to ground makes it good for screens, hedges, clipped topiary shapes. Can be trained as a small tree. Susceptible to mildew, mites. Selections include the following.
'Bewley's Variegated'. Upright grower to 35 ft. tall and wide. Deep green leaves edged in creamy white.
'Lucidum'. SHINING LAURUSTINUS. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Less hardy than the species, with larger leaves. Less prone to mildew.
'Spring Bouquet' ('Compactum'). Upright to 46 ft. high and wide; good for hedges. Leaves are deeper green, slightly smaller than those of the species.
V. trilobum (V. opulus americanum). AMERICAN CRANBERRY BUSH. Deciduous. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to Canada, northern U.S. To 15 ft. tall, 12 ft. wide. Leaves look much like those of V. opulus; they emerge reddish tinged, mature to dark green, turn yellow to red-purple in fall. Blooms midspring, bearing lace-cap flowers to 4 in. across. Fruit is similar to that of V. opulus but is used for preserves and jellies. Less susceptible to aphid damage than V. opulus. 'Wentworth' has larger berries and bright red fall foliage. 'Compactum' is a smaller form, to 6 ft. high and wide.
V. wrightii. WRIGHT VIBURNUM. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From Japan. Similar to V. dilatatum except for its larger leaves, which may turn a good red in fall. Useful tall hedge.
V. davidii needs acid soil, but the other viburnums are very soil tolerant, accepting even heavy or limy soils. Many have a wide range of climate adaptability. Where summers are long and hot, most evergreen viburnums look better with some shade. Prune to prevent legginess; some evergreen kinds can be sheared. Nematodes can be a problem, and aphids, thrips, spider mites, scale, and root weevil are potential pests in many areas, but plants are not usually seriously troubled by them. Powdery mildew sometimes afflicts viburnums, but don't treat it with sulfur sprays, which will damage the leaves.