Viburnum Japonicum

Meet a viburnum with high gloss leaves that look great year-round. 

By: Julie A Martens

Discover the virtues of Viburnum japonicum, also known as Japanese viburnum. This evergreen viburnum shrub offers great looks with evergreen leaves. The leaves on Viburnum japonicum have a high gloss, as do the red fruits. Japanese viburnum has beauty that’s more than skin deep with an easy growing nature that versatile in the landscape.

Viburnum japonicum hails from Japan, a fact easily detected by the common name, Japanese viburnum. It’s a fast growing viburnum that grows well in full sun to part shade. Viburnum japonicum also holds its own in deep shade, although the growth might be a little lankier and loose. In Southern regions, select a planting site that provides light shade during the hottest part of the day.

One of the highlights of Viburnum japonicum is the shiny leaves, which look like they have been coated with leaf shine, a product professional growers use to give leaves a glossy sheen. In the landscape, the broad, shiny leaves are highly attractive and reflect light in shady locations. Leaves measure about 6 inches long. Japanese viburnum is trouble free and easy to grow. 

If you like the look of Viburnum odoratissimum or Viburnum ‘Awabuki’ but need a smaller version, look to Viburnum japonicum. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. Like these other viburnum shrubs, it opens white flowers that are highly fragrant. Viburnum japonicum blooms in late spring to early summer. The blossoms are followed by fruits that ripen to glossy red. Berry clusters usually persist on the plant into winter until birds discover them and gobble them up.

Viburnum japonicum tends to be underused in landscape situations, but it’s worth a second look because it’s really versatile. Use Viburnum japonicum as a specimen shrub, easy care hedge or evergreen backdrop for perennial plantings. Japanese viburnum also stages a solid performance as part of a mixed border, where it can act as a vertical accent or a background for lighter colored plants. Or use it for an evergreen privacy screen that’s dense and effective year-round.

In terms of hardiness, Viburnum japonicum is winter hardy in Zones 7 to 9, although many gardeners use it in Zone 6. If you decide to include it in a Zone 6 landscape, plant it in a sheltered spot. Provide mulch to help protect roots. In all locations, plant Viburnum japonicum where it’s protected from drying winter winds.

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