Mapleleaf Viburnum

Discover the viburnum that thrives in shade and has great fall color.

By: Julie A Martens

Photo by: Svetlana Ileva

Svetlana Ileva

Give a shade garden or woodland area a pick-me-up with pretty mapleleaf viburnum. This native shrub thrives in shade and offers multi-season interest. White flowers in mid- to late spring fade to form pea-size berries that ripen to blue-black in summer. Mapleleaf viburnum is a great choice for hedging or wildlife gardens.

Mapleleaf viburnum is known botanically as Viburnum acerifolium. It’s a North American native plant, growing from Maine south to Florida and west to Wisconsin and Texas. This plant earns the name mapleleaf viburnum because its leaves often have three points on them, similar to maple tree leaves.

Like maple trees, mapleleaf viburnum also boasts strong fall color. In spring and summer, leaves are a cheery bright green, but as autumn arrives, they start showcasing pastel hues. A mapleleaf viburnum can display colors across a spectrum in fall, including creamy pink, rose, red, burgundy and deep purple. It’s well known for its fall color and often planted for that show.

In spring, mapleleaf viburnum opens flowers formed in flat clusters that measure up to 3 inches across. Like other viburnum shrubs, the blooms on this beauty also beckon all kinds of flitting pollinators, including native bees, European honey bees, bumblebees and a host of beneficial insects. If you’re gardening organically, this is a great plant to include in your landscape for its appeal to beneficial insects that prey on garden pests.

When flowers fade, they form berries that ripen to blue-black later in summer. Birds flock to the shrubs to gobble the berries. The shrubs also provide a nice roosting habitat for ground-feeding birds, like towhees, white-throated sparrows or brown thrashers.

Mapleleaf viburnum has the unusual attribute among its viburnum kin of requiring a shady spot to thrive. Native to woodland settings, it grows in dappled to deep shade. Left to its own devices, mapleleaf viburnum forms colonies because the shrub sends up suckers from its roots. If you don’t want a colony to form, simply inspect your mapleleaf viburnum every four to six weeks during the growing season and cut suckers at ground level.

This woodland native is a smaller viburnum shrub, growing roughly 3 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. It’s low maintenance and problem free, tolerates black walnut and grows in average soils. One tip for success with mapleleaf viburnum is to grow it where soil dries out between waterings. Consistently moist, boggy soil won’t work for mapleleaf viburnum.

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