Viburnum Dilatatum

Meet a native viburnum that keeps the beauty coming in every season.

By: Julie A Martens

Set your sights on a viburnum shrub that combines good looking leaves with a heavy fruit set. Viburnum dilatatum is also known as linden viburnum because its leaves strongly resemble linden tree leaves. The leaves have highly visible veins that yield an almost puckered look that’s puncutated by serrated edges. Plant breeders have developed a host of Viburnum dilatatum hybrids with various fruit colors, including red and yellow.

Viburnum dilatatum is a shrub that grows 5 to 7 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. It’s native to areas in China, Japan and Korea. In the wild, Viburnum dilatatum grows at the edges of forests, in foothills, lowlands and scrubby areas. These various habitats reflect its ability to thrive in light conditions from full sun to part shade. 

White flowers cover the plant in late spring to early summer. The blooms open in clusters from 3 to 5 inches across. Flower clusters have a dome shape and blanket the plant. Viburnum dilatatum flowers beckon pollinators of all sorts, including many different kinds of bees, such as honey bees, bumble bees, native bees and tiny sweat bees. The blooms also lure butterflies to the garden.

When Viburnum dilatatum flowers are pollinated, they produce fruit, which also forms in clusters. The fruit adds a showy element to Viburnum dilatatum — an element that persists well into winter. Fruits occur in several colors, including glossy red and bright yellow. In some regions, birds devour Viburnum dilatatum fruit. In other areas, the birds are disinterested, and fruit shrivels and remains on shrubs until spring.

Viburnum dilatatum is one of the viburnum shrubs that can be a little tricky when it comes to fruiting. Your best bet is to plant more than one Viburnum dilatatum to help ensure fruit set. You can also plant a different type of viburnum shrub, but it should bloom about the same time as Viburnum dilatatum. Check with your nursery when buying Viburnum dilatatum to see what they suggest as a pollinating partner for Viburnum dilatatum. Whatever you plant, be sure to locate pollinating viburnums near each other for best results.

A common combination that looks great together is using a Viburnum dilatatum that bears red fruit with one that has yellow fruit. For example, Viburnum dilatatum ‘Iroquois’ ripens pretty red fruit that’s glossy and glowing. The fruit clusters are often so heavy that they weigh down branches. Pair that with Viburnum dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge,’ which ripens bright yellow fruit, and your fall landscape will sparkle with color. Viburnum dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge’ also has scarlet fall foliage, which layers another color into the scene.

In some areas of the Northeast and south to Virginia, the straight species, Viburnum dilatatum, is considered invasive. Check with your local extension office to learn if there’s a problem where you garden. Even in areas where it’s invasive, you may still be able to plant one of the many varieties.

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