Snowball Bush Viburnum

Unravel the confusion about this old-fashioned favorite with the big white flowers.

By: Julie A Martens

Can’t get enough of the gorgeous snowball bush? You can easily satisfy your desires because seven different viburnum shrubs go by the name snowball bush. European snowball bush, also known as Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’, is probably one of the most common ones. Other favorites include Japanese snowball bush, typically listed as Viburnum plicatum, and fragrant snowball bush (Viburnum carlcephalum). Chinese snowball bush (Viburnum macrocephalum) is another classic, as is the grand-flowering snowball bush (Viburnum plicatum ‘Grandiflorum’).

If you know you want a snowball bush in your yard, do a little homework before hitting the garden center, because there are many snowball bush viburnums available. European snowball bush is Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum.’ Sometimes it’s listed as Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile,’ which is commonly called Eastern snowball viburnum. European snowball bush blooms in spring opening flower clusters that are 3 inches across. The flowers start apple green and age to white. This is one of the oldest recorded viburnums, dating to the 16th Century, when it was called “sambucus rose.”

Japanese snowball bush is Viburnum plicatum. This viburnum snowball bush opens white flowers in mid-spring. The blossoms are 2 to 3 inches across and fade from white to pink as they age. Fall leaf color features shades of burgundy and purplish red.

Chinese snowball bush (Viburnum macrocephalum) opens some of the largest snowball blooms, with flower heads measuring up to 8 inches across. The flowers on Viburnum macrocephalum shift from pale green, to cream, to white. Within one snowball flower, individual blossoms can show different shades at the same time, giving blooms a tricolor effect.

Viburnum carlcephalum adds a sweet perfume to beautiful snowball bush flowers. It’s known as fragrant snowball bush and opens its blossoms toward late spring. The blooms start as pink buds that unfurl to reveal blush pink white flowers. Individual flower globes measure 5 inches across and are made of up to 100 individual blossoms. The scent is rich and pervasive with carnation clove overtones.

Introduced in the late 1800s, grand-flowering snowball bush (Viburnum plicatum ‘Grandiflorum’) can be harder to find, but it’s worth the search. This snowball bush opens flowers to 3 inches across that are white flushed with tints of pink or apricot. Leaf veins have a reddish tint on the underside, which give them eye-catching pizzazz during the growing season.

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