The Different Types of Viburnum Trees

Discover viburnums that you can grow as trees.

By: Julie A Martens

Make room for one of the most versatile plants in your yard. Viburnums can fill many roles in the landscape, including hedge, specimen plant or privacy screen. While most viburnums are shrubs, several grow tall enough to be considered viburnum trees. Others can be pruned to form a single trunk by removing lower branches. With this method, a viburnum tree can be crafted from species that grow to 12 feet or less.

One of the tallest viburnum trees is Viburnum obovatum. Also known as Walter’s viburnum, this beauty is native in the South, Zones 8 and 9. In the wild, Viburnum obovatum has been recorded growing to heights of 30 feet in the warmest reaches of its range. More typically, Walter’s viburnum grows to 15 feet. To transform Viburnum obovatum into a viburnum tree, prune away lower branches and multiple trunks to create only one main trunk.

Chinese snowball viburnum is another Southern favorite and is frequently pruned to create a small viburnum tree. Chinese snowball viburnum is known as Viburnum macrocephalum. This beloved viburnum opens snowball size blooms that measure 5 to 8 inches across. On average, Virburnum macrocephalum grows 6 to 12 feet high. In warmest parts of its growing range, though, it can reach heights of 15 to 20 feet. To transform it into a small viburnum tree, prune away lower branches. You can also buy a tree form of Chinese snowball bush at nurseries.

Viburnum rufidulum is another great candidate for creating a viburnum tree. Also known as rusty black haw or rusty nannyberry, Viburnum rufidulum is a favorite native plant that’s highly adaptable, demonstrating extreme drought tolerance once established. Viburnum rufidulum grows 10 to 15 feet tall and usually sends up multiple stems. This viburnum is a great candidate for pruning into a tree form. Keep sucker stems removed and also prune away lower branches to shift this beauty into a viburnum tree.

Gardeners prize doublefile viburnum, Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ for its strong horizontal branching. This shrub needs plenty of elbow room to accommodate those beautiful branches. Typically doublefile viburnum grows 10 to 12 feet tall and 12 to 15 feet wide. It needs lots of room in the landscape. Some gardeners, though, remove the lower branches to create a doublefile viburnum tree. This is a good choice for small gardens that don’t want to miss the wow factor of this gorgeous viburnum.

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