All About Viburnums

Discover a must-have plant for your landscape.

By: Julie A Martens

Photo by: FomaA


Include viburnums in your landscape plans. These shrubs and small trees are one of the favorite plant groups of professional plant folks. Many types of viburnums bring multi-season interest, and you can find viburnum varieties to fit any landscape need. Viburnum hedges, specimen shrubs, privacy screens and entry garden shrubs are just a few of the roles viburnum species can play in a yard.

The hardest part about growing viburnums is choosing which viburnum species you’re going to plant. Winnow your selections by considering what you want from a viburnum. If you love birdwatching and drawing wildlife to your garden, focus on types of viburnums known for luring birds with their berries. Good candidates include European cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus) and American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum).

In warmer regions, if you want a viburnum species that will work as a privacy screen, consider evergreen Viburnum tinus or Viburnum odoratissimum. Both of these viburnum varieties bring flowers and fragrance to the garden. You can plant either of these to create a viburnum hedge simply by spacing them a little tighter than their mature spread. Check with your local nursery for the right plant spacing to create the hedge density you desire.

For beautiful flowers that steal the spotlight, snowball bush viburnum is tough to beat. Many different types of viburnums are known as snowball bush. The list includes Viburnum plicatum or Japanese snowball bush, as well as Viburnum macrocephalum or Chinese snowball bush. The Japanese viburnum opens flower 2 to 3 inches across, while the Chinese is the showstopper, opening flower clusters 8 inches across. 

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ is known as European snowball bush and opens flowers that measure 2 to 3 inches across. These blossoms unfurl in shades of apple green and slowly age to pure white. Viburnum carcephalum is known as fragrant snowball bush because it’s the one with perfumed blooms.

Viburnum davidii is an outstanding viburnum species to plant for colorful berries. The fruit on this viburnum changes color as they ripen, shifting from green to pink to red and finally to turquoise blue. Individual berry clusters often show several colors at once. Viburnum cassinoides also displays several colors at once in its berry clusters. Its color spectrum shifts through green, white, pink, rose and blue.

Whether you choose your viburnums for fragrance, berry production or fall color, you won’t have trouble finding different types of viburnums at most nurseries. If you’re looking for a specific native viburnum species, search for a local native plant nursery. Typically if they don’t carry a native viburnum, they can order it for you.

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