How To Grow And Care For Chinese Snowball Viburnum

Like hydrangeas? Then you'll love the Chinese snowball, a classic viburnum that has graced Southern gardens for generations.

Planting Flowering Shrubs: Elegant Chinese Snowball Viburnum
Chinese Snowball blooms span 6 to 8 inches across. Photo: Van Chaplin

Chinese snowball is the plant for a savvy spring gardener. Statuesque in scale, one shrub is all you need to make a statement. Laden with hydrangea-like blooms, a single specimen can add oomph to the border or be trained into a small accent tree, blending beautifully into any yard.

The flowers are the draw here. From April into May (and even early June in cooler climates), you'll be rewarded with spectacular, 8-inch blooms. These flowers start out lime green and then open to pristine white. Because the blooms are sterile, this viburnum does not produce fruit. And while many viburnums are fragrant, Chinese snowball isn't—a bonus for those with sensitive noses. Once flowering is done, this dense, vase-shaped shrub blends into the background, allowing other plants to steal the show. Give it ample room. One or two in a suburban-size yard are plenty.

Now if you're a true frugalista, everything you own or do serves a dual purpose. Not only does Chinese snowball viburnum make a stunning garden plant, but it's also worth its weight in gold as a cut flower. With a pair of sharp clippers, snip branches to desired lengths, and place directly in a bucket of water. We love Felco Pruner Model 2 (available from and Okatsune pruning shears (available from To ensure water uptake, recut them at an angle prior to arranging. For a dramatic arrangement, group several long branches in a sturdy glass vase.

Plant Attributes

  • Common Name: Chinese snowball viburnum, Chinese snowball tree / bush
  • Botanical Name: Viburnum macrocephalum
  • Family: Adoxaceae
  • Plant Type: Perennial, Tree, Shrub
  • Mature Size: 6–20 ft. tall, 6–15 ft. wide (grows larger in warmer climates)
  • Sun Exposure: Full, Partial
  • Soil Type: Well-drained loamy, sandy, or clay soil
  • Soil pH: Acidic
  • Bloom Time: Spring
  • Flower Color: White
  • Hardiness Zones: 6–9 (USDA)
  • Native Area: Asia

Chinese Snowball Viburnum Care

Chinese snowball viburnum is hardy in most of the South and semi-evergreen in the warmest growing zones. Give it plenty of space, planting in fall at the back of the border as a large shrub or hedge or in your garden as a small specimen tree. This disease-resistant and highly ornamental shrub will happily adapt to most soils and lighting conditions, making it a popular planting in Southern gardens.


Plant in full sun (at least six hours of direct sunlight per day) or partial shade (two to six hours of sun). To discourage wilting on hot days, provide some protection from the afternoon sun in the Lower and Coastal South.


Chinese snowball viburnum prefers well-drained, loamy, acidic soil. However, this shrub is fairly adaptable to clay and sandy soils as well as neutral and slightly alkaline soils.


Viburnum prefers moist soil. This plant can handle some dryness once established, but is not drought-tolerant. Water regularly until established and weekly during hot, dry periods. Mulch around the base of the plant to help preserve moisture.

Temperature and Humidity

Chinese snowball viburnum may not tolerate drought, but this shrub can handle heat and humidity, especially if afternoon shade is provided.

This viburnum is not reliably hardy in zone 6. If you live in the Upper South, plant your shrub in a sheltered location that will protect it from winter winds.


Chinese snowball viburnum does well in soils with average fertility. Add organic matter if you are planting in a lean soil. Fertilize in spring with a slow-release, granular fertilizer.


Prune soon after flowering (March or April in the southernmost zones and May or June in the northernmost) to remove dead wood and shape the plant.

Propagating Chinese Snowball Viburnum

Because Chinese snowball viburnum does not typically produce seeds, this plant is propagated from cuttings. Take cuttings in the spring, when soft green stems have sprouted on your shrub:

  1. Using sterilized, sharp pruners, cut the green portion of a stem or stems into 4-to-6-inch lengths.
  2. Remove the bottom leaves from each cutting, leaving one set of leaves at the top.
  3. Dip the bottom tip of each cutting in root hormone.
  4. Stick the bottom of each section of stem into a pot filled with moistened potting mix.
  5. Cover each pot with a clear plastic bag to conserve moisture and humidity.
  6. Place pots in bright, indirect light. Spray with water as needed to keep soil moist.
  7. After two to four weeks, the cuttings should be rooted (a gentle tug can confirm that the plant is developing a strong root system). Remove the plastic bag and continue to water regularly, transplanting into a larger pot if needed.
  8. Begin to acclimate your plant to the outdoors, first moving it to a protected area. Once the plant is well acclimated and new growth is apparent, you can transplant the shrub. If you plan to move your plant into full sun, it may be best to wait and do so in the fall.


Plant Chinese snowball viburnum in an area protected from freezing winds in the coldest regions. Add a thick layer of mulch to help moderate soil temperature.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Chinese snowball viburnum is known for good disease resistance to bacterial leaf spots and powdery mildew. If your viburnum is under stress and develops leaf spots (light brown or reddish spots), powdery mildew (a white or gray, powdery coating on leaves) or downy mildew (green spots that eventually turn brown), these fungi generally don't harm the plant and can be controlled by avoiding overhead watering and reducing overcrowding. If you need to spray with a fungicide, avoid any products with sulfur, which is toxic to viburnums.

Stressed plants can be infested by soft green aphids, thin and dark flower thrips, or tiny spider mites. Spray foliage with a strong stream of water from the garden hose to remove insects and remove weeds or cut grass around the base of the plant. If the infestation becomes problematic, use an insecticidal soap.

Deer will generally leave this shrub alone.

How to Get Chinese Snowball Viburnum to Bloom

Chinese snowball viburnum flowers in spring, sometimes reblooming in late summer or fall. The flower buds are produced on the previous year's wood. Make certain to prune the plant just after flowering to avoid removing the next year's blooms.

Too much shade could prevent or reduce blooming. Consider increasing sun exposure if your plant is in a shady spot.

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