How To Grow And Care For Viburnum

This diverse and versatile garden shrub is a landscape star.

Viburnum Opulus. Photo:

Southern Living/Debbie Wolfe

Viburnum is a large, diverse group of plants with generally oval, handsome leaves and clusters of typically white and sometimes fragrant flowers that attract butterflies. Blossoms are usually followed by single-seeded, often brilliantly colored fruit that will bring birds to your landscape. Many viburnum are grown for their flower display and a few for their showy fruit. In general, the 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.

Plant Attributes

Common Name Viburnum
Botanical Name Viburnum spp. 
Family Adoxaceae 
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size  3-20 ft. tall, 3-12 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color  White, pink
Hardiness Zones  Zones 2-9 (USDA)
Native Area North America
Viburnum Opulus.

Southern Living/Debbie Wolfe

Viburnum Care

Most viburnums are very soil tolerant, accepting even heavy or limey soils. (V. davidii needs acidic soil.) 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.


These plants prefer full sun but tolerate partial shade. 


Plant viburnum in slightly acidic soil. Many types will do well in alkaline soil. Be sure to read the plant tag to learn about the variety you want to grow. Most viburnums prefer moist soil that drains well. 


Put your viburnum on a regular watering schedule if they aren’t receiving enough through regular rainfall totals. Once established, native varieties will be relatively drought tolerant.

Temperature and Humidity

Viburnum is a large and diverse group of plants, but most prefer moderate temperatures and humidity. Protect viburnum through extreme heat with extra watering and through extreme cold to prevent dieback.


Add a time-release fertilizer to the soil every spring, following the directions on the product label, until the plant is established.

Types of Viburnum

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 4–6 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, 11⁄2- 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 6–12 ft. tall, 4–8 ft. wide. Glossy leaves to 31⁄2 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 6–7 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 cli- mates 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’, 8–10 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 6–10 ft. tall and wide. Dull, grayish green, 2- to 31⁄2-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 4–8 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 the hottest months. ‘Compactum’ grows slowly to just 3–4 ft. tall and wide. ‘Aurora’ is a bit larger at 4–5 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 3–6 in. long. Forms a compact mound to 3–4 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 6–10 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 a screen or tall hedge. ‘Cardinal’ has a reliable brilliant red fall color. ‘Blue Muffin’ is a compact selection reaching only 5–7 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 8–10 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, and hangs on into winter. Outstanding named selections include the following. ‘Asian Beauty’. To 8–10 ft. tall, 6–8 ft. wide. Profuse show of cherry-red fruit that stays in place for a long time. Cardinal Candy’. To 4–5 ft. high and wide. Extra-hardy selection; has survived –25°F. Bright red fruit. Leaves turn bronze and burgundy in fall. ‘Catskill’. Compact growth to 5–8 ft. tall, 8–10 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 5–6 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, 31⁄2-in. dark green leaves. Two-inch clusters of fragrant white flowers open from pink buds; dull red fruit matures to black. ‘Chippewa’. Semi evergreen to deciduous. To 8–9 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’. Semi evergreen to deciduous. Dense grower to 8–9 ft. tall, 9–10 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 10–15 ft. tall, 8–12 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 sparse but very attractive. Best with some shade.

V. x juddii. JUDD VIBURNUM. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. To 4–8 ft. tall, 6–10 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 12–20 ft. tall and wide. Dull green, oval to oblong, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves. Spectacularly big, rounded, 6- to 8-in. flower clusters bloom in spring (or any time during warm weather); they are com- posed of sterile flowers that start out lime-green, change to white. No fruit. Can be espaliered.

V. nudum ‘Winterthur’. WINTERTHUR SMOOTH WITHER- ROD. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to Southern states, this shrub grows 6–10 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 an early-summer white flower cluster followed by red fruit that turns black. ‘Chindo’ has large, red, pendant fruit clusters.

Viburnum Opulus.

Southern Living/Debbie Wolfe

V. opulus. EUROPEAN CRANBERRY BUSH. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From Europe, North Africa, central Asia. To 8–15 ft. tall and wide, with arching branches. Lobed, maple-like dark green leaves to 2–4 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. a 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 4–5 ft. high and wide. ‘Nanum’. To 2 ft. high and wide. Needs no trimming as a 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 2–21⁄2 in. across, composed entirely of sterile flowers (so bears no fruit). Aphids are especially troublesome. ‘Xanthocarpum’. Rounded growth to 6–8 ft. tall and wide, with glossy, apple-green foliage. Showy yellow fruit matures to translucent golden yellow.

Viburnum Plicatum.

Southern Living/Adrienne Legault

V. plicatum plicatum. JAPANESE SNOWBALL. Deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From China, Japan. To 8–15 ft. tall and wide. Horizontal branching pattern gives plants 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. Mid- spring bloom. No fruit. Tolerates occasionally wet soils. ‘Newport’ is compact and dense, 5 ft. tall and wide. ‘Popcorn’, 5–8 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 mid spring flower display consists of small fertile flowers in flat, 2- to 4-in. clusters edged with 1- to 11⁄2-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 5–8 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 the 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 a 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 6–8 ft. tall and broad; it is evergreen in most winters. Leaves resemble those of V. rhytido- phyllum 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 8–15 ft. tall, 6–12 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 plants look 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 12–20 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 8–12 ft. tall, 6–8 ft. wide. Multi-stemmed, rather erect; often bare at base (plant lower-growing shrubs around it for concealment). Leaves were once used for making tea; they are 3–6 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 8–10 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 6–12 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 3–5 ft. tall and wide. Deep green leaves edged in creamy white. ‘Lucidum’. SHINING LAURUS- TINUS. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Less hardy than the species, with larger leaves. Less prone to mildew. ‘Spring Bouquet’ (‘Compactum’). Upright to 4–6 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 mid spring, 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.


Viburnum blooms on old wood, so plan to prune the plant after it has bloomed. If you prune before it blooms, you’ll miss the show. Remove leggy shoots and damaged branches. Some varieties of viburnum have a tree form and might require pruning to maintain its shape.

Viburnum Plicatum.

Southern Living/Adrienne Legault

Propagating Viburnum

Viburnum can be propagated from new soft wood or established hard cuttings.

  1. For soft cuttings, cut a 4 to 6 inch branch and remove leaves from the lower third of the wood. For hard cuttings, cut a 10 inch branch and remove leaves from the lower half. 
  2. Dip the stem in rooting hormone. 
  3. Plant the cutting in a pot with a mixture of peat and perlite.
  4. Cover the cutting to keep the soil moist and set the pot in indirect light. Soft wood will root in a few weeks. Hard wood will root in a few months.
  5. Once roots are evident, remove the cover and put the pot in bright, indirect light. 
  6. When you’re ready to plant your propagated starts, acclimate the plant to the outdoors by putting it in a protected area for a few hours each each day to help it transition to the elements. After about 10-14 days, plant it in the garden.

 Common Pests & Plant Diseases 

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. 

How to Get Viburnum to Bloom

If your viburnum is not blooming, consider its location. It needs a lot of sunlight to develop the best blooms. If possible, move the plant or make changes to the garden that will allow more sunlight to reach the plant.

Viburnum Plicatum.

Southern Living/Adrienne Legault

Common Problems With Viburnum

Powdery mildew can sometimes affect viburnum, but don’t treat it with sulfur sprays which will damage the leaves. Instead, use a fungicide on the affected parts of the plant. Moving forward, water the plant from above to prevent the fungus.

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