"A garden without a viburnum is akin to life without music and art." - Michael Dirr, Leading American Horticulturist
Viburnums connect us to the natural world in a special way by providing a unique and spectacular show in celebration of each new season. With the arrival of spring the diverse viburnums awaken from winter naps by shaking the snow off of their evergreen coats or sprouting rich green foliage in a variety of unique textures. As the temperatures rise, the viburnums' branches become filled with pink to white, sometimes fragrant flowers that come in many shapes and sizes. While some viburnum flowers resemble small pieces of delicate lace, others look more like fluffy snowballs.
Many viburnums inaugurate the cool crisp days of autumn by turning their leaves to cranberry red, burnt orange and sometimes clear yellow. Most viburnums also bear long stemmed clusters of brilliant red and black berries on which furry and feathered friends will feast before long cold winters. When snow begins to fall, some viburnums drop their leaves to become living sculpture while others hang on to leathery boughs of emerald greens.
Viburnums are not only beautiful they are versatile. Most viburnums are happy in sun or part-shade in well-drained soil. They require little pruning and prefer small amounts of fertilizer. They work well in mass and foundation plantings and also make beautiful specimens. Because viburnums are available in so many shapes and sizes, selecting one is probably the most difficult part of adding one (or many) to your landscape. Below we've listed a few of our favorite viburnums to help make choosing the right one for your yard a bit easier. We have grouped the varieties into one of three categories: fragrant flowers, showy flowers and fabulous fruit and/or fall foliage color, using the plant's most striking feature as our guide.
Viburnum x carlesii
The Koreanspice Viburnum is popular due to its sweet, spicy fragrance and three inch bundles of pink flower buds that open white blossoms. Viburnum carlesii is also admired for its crimson to burgundy fall foliage. This versatile shrub makes a great specimen, foundation or hedge plant, and is best planted near windows and walkways where its fragrance can be enjoyed. Viburnum carlesii grows four to eight feet tall and wide at full maturity. It becomes a dense, rounded shrub with upright-spreading branches.
"Cayuga" is in the carlesii family and is distinct in producing a greater abundance of pink buds that open to white flowers than other varieties. Its form is more compact, growing 5 feet tall. The leaves of Cayuga are darker green than carlesii.
Viburnum x burkwoodii
Like the Koreanspice Viburnum, the Burkwood Viburnum's white, fragrant flowers open from pink buds. This plant is particularly hardy and has lustrous dark green leaves which are late to drop in the fall. Older plants may have a burgundy fall leaf color. Red berries turn black as they mature. Plant in full sun or partial shade. There will be more flowers in full sun. Burkwood Viburnum is a wonderful addition to any shrub border. It grows 8 to 10 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide.
"Mohawk" is a popular Burkwood Viburnum variety and has dark red buds which open to white flowers, retaining some of the red color on the back of the petals. The brilliant red buds appear several weeks before the flowers actually open, which has the effect of extending the flowering period. It has a strong spicy clove fragrance and has a compact growth habit. The glossy, dark green leaves turn brilliant orange-red in the fall.
Viburnum x carlcephalum
Also known as Fragrant Viburnum, this shrub is looser and more open in habit then the other viburnums in this group. It grows 6 to 10 feet high and almost as wide. The leaves are dark green and change to reddish purple in the fall. The leaves are the largest in size of the fragrant group. These flowers also have pink buds which open to semi-snowball shaped white flowers. A lovely addition to any shrub border.
Viburnum x juddii
The Judd Viburnum is a slightly less fragrant version of Koreanspice, but is better suited for hot sunny locations. It's growth habit is full and round with a mature height and width of 6 to 8 feet. The dark green, almost bluish, leaves make a nice contrast to other shrubs in the border.
Viburnum plicatum var.tomentosum
This large shrub also known as Doublefile Viburnum is considered by many to be the most beautiful of all flowering shrubs. In late spring Doublefile's horizontal branches are blanketed with white blossoms even in shady locations. During the latter part of summer Doublefile Viburnum bears cherry-red fruit that is a favorite of birds. The deeply veined leaves of Doublefile Viburnum turn to blushing burgundy in fall. This shrub makes a spectacular specimen, border or understory planting. It grows 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The tomentosum viburnums should be watered during summer droughts.
"Mariesii" is the most popular variety and is truly spectacular in bloom. The leaves may turn reddish purple in fall. "Summer Snowflake" is another desirable cultivated variety of Viburnum plicatum tomentosum with a less dense display of flowers, but which continues to bloom all summer long. Another wonderful feature is that "Summer Snowflake" doesn't grow as tall as other viburnums - generally to 4 to 6 feet. "Shasta" is a variety which grows particularly wide (10') and grows 6 feet tall. Its large abundant 4-6" flowers are followed in July by bright red fruit that matures to black.
The Chinese Snowball Viburnum is one of the showiest flowering shrubs. It grows in a rounded form 6 to 10 feet tall. This is perfect for large shrub borders and is spectacular when in bloom. The Chinese Snowball can be cut back severely to maintain its size, but the plant will not bloom the following season.
Fall Fruit and Foliage
"Winterthur" is a new variety of the Witherod Viburnum family and was selected from Winterthur Gardens. This handsome, dense, compact shrub grows to 6 feet. The emerging leaves are often bronze or purple tinted. The flowers are creamy white. The fruit is the most impressive attribute of this plant, changing from green to pink, then from red to blue before becoming black in the fall. Often all of these colors are present in the same fruiting cluster. This shrub is lovely in a border or naturalized in masses.
Arrowood Viburnum has classic seasonal characteristics with spectacular, but sometimes unreliable, fall color that changes from yellow to spicy orange to crimson. Pair this warm fall coloring with blue-black clusters of berries and you have quite a spectacular show. Even when Arrowood does not color fantastically, it produces beautiful white flowers in spring and carries handsome deep green foliage. It is noted for durability and adaptability and is most attractive planted in mass. Arrowood Viburnum is generally six to ten feet tall and wide.
The Linden Viburnum is a wonderful three-season plant which is valued in the landscape when planted in mass, as a border plant and even as a specimen. Creamy white flowers profusely cover the plant in the spring. "Erie" is one of our favorite varieties which has good consistent fall color with leaves changing to hues of yellow, orange and red. Clusters of red fruit turn to shades of coral and pink after the first frost and persist throughout the winter. It grows 6-10 feet and has a rounded shape.
Viburnum lantana 'Mohican'
Mohican Viburnum is prized for its abundant red orange berries that contrast beautifully with its leaves that tend to remain green until falling. It bears lacey white flowers in late spring. At full maturity Viburnum 'Mohican' reaches approximately eight feet in width and height and has a distinctly dense, round form. It is considered one of the best viburnums for planting in heavy clay soil. Mohican is most effective when planted in groups or hedges.
The snowball-like flowers of the European Cranberrybush make it a popular favorite. This large shrub grows 8 feet by 10 feet often with arching branches making it a lovely rounded shrub. The leaves are dark green in the summer and may turn yellow-red and purplish in the fall, although fall color can be inconsistent. The fall fruit is magnificent with bright red berries that ripen in September - October and persist through the winter. This is a superior plant to add winter interest in the garden.
Viburnum x pragense
The Prague Viburnum is an attractive evergreen shrub that has lustrous dark green leaves year round. It is an extremely hardy plant. In the spring the shrub is covered with pink buds which open to white, slightly fragrant flowers. This shrub is fast growing and produces a lovely 10 foot screen, grouping or accent plant.