Spring’s Most Elegant Flowering Shrub
Like hydrangeas? Then you'll love the Chinese snowball, a classic viburnum that has graced Southern gardens for generations.
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. This semievergreen blends 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, softball-size 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, round 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 felcostore.com) and
Okatsune pruning shears (available from gardencityorganics.com). 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.
Botanical Name: Viburnum macrocephalum ‘Sterile'
Type: Large-scale shrub that is deciduous in the coldest areas, nearly evergreen elsewhere. Plant it at the back of the border to fill a large space, or use it as a small tree.
Size: Rounded habit, growing 12 to 20 feet tall and wide; blooms span 6 to 8 inches across.
Light: Full sun to part shade. Give protection from afternoon sun in the Lower and Coastal South.
Soil: Well-drained, slightly acid soil is best, but the shrub also tolerates alkaline conditions.
Prune: Soon after flowering to remove dead wood and shape.
Range: Upper South through the Coastal South. Plant in a protected area in the coldest regions.
Fertilize: At planting and then again each year after flowering.