Fragrant Viburnum

Learn about using viburnum shrubs to bring fragrance to your spring garden.

By: Julie A Martens
Snowball bush flowering

Snowball bush flowering

A springtime viburnum blossoming in the garden... lots of flowers in a snowball shape.

Add a viburnum to your landscape for multi-season interest, including wonderful scents. Many fragrant viburnums flower in spring, kicking off the season with aroma that can perfume an entire yard. Korean spice viburnum is likely the best known of the fragrant viburnums. Other beautifully scented bloomers include Viburnum bodnantense and Viburnum odoratissimum. By choosing fragrant viburnums that flower at different points in spring, you can bathe your yard with perfume all season long.

Korean spice viburnum, known botanically as Viburnum carlesii, opens its fragrant flowers in early spring before the leaves appear. The flowers are formed in clusters that are three inches across. Blooms start as red buds that unfurl to reveal pink flowers that fade to white. The aroma blends sweet and spicy. Korean spice viburnum grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. For a smaller version, look for Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum,’ which grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.

For the earliest fragrant viburnum flowers, find Viburnum farreri. Its flower bud and bloom colors echo those of Korean spice viburnum, but with Viburnum farreri, the show starts as winter ends. Late spring frosts can threaten Viburnum farreri buds and flowers, so it’s important to locate it where it won’t warm up too soon in spring. Avoid placing it along a southern wall, for instance, to reduce the chances of it getting zapped by frost.

Another early bloomer is Viburnum bodnantense, which opens pink flowers. Its blossoms release a fragrance that blends lilac and vanilla. Viburnum burkwoodii stages its floral show when spring is in full swing. Its leaves are evergreen in warmer zones. Both Viburnum bodnantense and Viburnum burkwoodii can be pruned to form a single stem small tree. Simply remove lower branches to create a single main trunk. Left unpruned, plants form nicely rounded shrubs.

Viburnum juddii opens its flowers in mid-spring, just in time to keep step with daffodils and tulips. This beauty opens semi-snowball type blooms, shaped like half spheres. Deer red buds burst open to reveal snow white flowers rich with fragrance. Viburnum odoratissimum is an evergreen viburnum popular in the South, Texas and Florida. It has very dense growth that makes it ideal for hedging.

In the landscape, place fragrant viburnums near walkways and entry doors so you can savor the rich scents as you come and go. They also make good additions to a shrub border or woodland garden. Fragrant viburnums can also be positioned to create informal hedges or, in the case of Viburnum odoratissimum, a formal hedge that takes well to pruning.

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