Viburnum Opulus

Unravel the mystery of cranberrybush viburnum, which goes by a host of names. Learn which one you want for your landscape.

By: Julie A Martens
Viburnum opulus ~Roseum~ (01) Spring

Viburnum opulus ~Roseum~ (01) Spring

Viburnum opulus ~Roseum~ (01)

Give your yard outstanding wildlife appeal by planting Viburnum opulus. This viburnum shrub is probably one of the most confusing, because it includes several different types known by the separate common names cranberrybush viburnum, European cranberrybush and American cranberrybush. Sorting out the cranberrybush viburnums can seem daunting even for gardeners with a botanical bent.

Viburnum opulus is European cranberry bush. This viburnum shrub grows roughly 10 feet tall and wide. Like many viburnum shrubs, it grows well in full sun or part shade and adapts to many different kinds of soil. Viburnum opulus grows even in consistently moist or wet soils. Once established, this viburnum also shows good resistance to drought, heat and pollution.

Multi-season interest is a hallmark of Viburnum opulus. White flowers up to 3 inches across appear in late spring and early summer and resemble lacecap hydrangea blooms. The blossoms fade to form pendulous berry clusters that ripen from green to bright cherry red by late summer. Typically berries remain on the shrubs through fall and winter until birds eat them the following spring. Green leaves turn shades of gold and red-purple in fall.

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ is a variety of European cranberry bush that forms spherical flower heads. The flowers resemble an old-fashioned snowball bush, but are not as large. The white blossoms fade to a pretty pink, which is why it’s called ‘Roseum.’ No fruits form on this Viburnum opulus because the flowers are sterile. Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ grows to 10 feet tall and wide.

Viburnum trilobum is a native plant known as the American cranberrybush, sometimes called cranberrybush viburnum. There has been so much confusion with the names of these plants that Viburnum trilobum was changed to Viburnum opulus var. americanum, which is commonly called American cranberrybush viburnum or American cranberry viburnum. The flowers resemble Viburnum opulus—flattened lacecap-like white blossoms. These blooms fade to produce edible berries that were prized by the early colonists for use in jams.

All of these viburnum shrubs make excellent hedges and enhance the wildlife appeal of any landcape. The shrubs are a boon to birds, with a twiggy interior that makes for excellent nesting sites. The berries provide a beak-pleasing food source. When Viburnum opulus blooms, the flowers beckon all kinds of pollinators, including many different beneficial insects.

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