Korean Spice Viburnum

Discover the sweet smelling viburnum that fits in any landscape.

By: Julie A Martens

Viburnum carlesii 'Aurora'

Meet the fragrant viburnum that’s the star of spring: Korean spice viburnum. As the name suggests, this beauty is native to Korea and opens exceptionally perfumed blooms. Known botanically as Viburnum carlesii, you may also see this all-star shrub listed as Koreanspice viburnum or Carlesii viburnum. One variety of this shrub that’s popular because it grows to a smaller size is Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum.’

If you only have room for one viburnum shrub, make it Korean spice viburnum. When this gem flowers in spring, the fragrance permeates and hangs in the air. One famous plant expert describes it as “reaching out and enveloping you.” There’s no doubt when a Korean spice viburnum is in bloom.

Flowers unfurl in 3-inch-wide clusters in early spring, well before there’s much else blooming. On Korean spice viburnum, red flower buds open to reveal pink blossoms that fade to white. In early spring’s cooler air, the flowers and fragrance linger up to two weeks. The scent they release is a combination of spicy and sweet that’s truly intoxicating. To savor the fragrance, plant Korean Spice viburnum near windows, along walkways or beside entry doors.

Korean Spice viburnum grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. It forms a rounded shrub that’s dense. Branches tend to grow up and out, giving this shrub a nicely rounded feel. Site Korean Spice viburnum in a spot that receives full sun to part shade. In part shade, growth tends to be more open.

You can find several different types of Korean Spice viburnum for sale. Plant breeders have crossed this beauty with other viburnums to create spring bloomers with highly scented flowers. Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’ is a smaller variety of Korean Spice viburnum. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide with flowers colored the same as Korean Spice viburnum.

To grow Korean Spice viburnum or Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum,’ select a spot with soil that’s well-drained with average fertility. Both of these Korean Spice viburnums are hardy in Zones 4 to 7, which makes them great plants for welcoming spring in northern gardens. Color tends toward red in fall. Sometimes the color shifts toward wine-red and burgundy, which is very attractive.

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