Viburnum white blossom

A large and diverse group of deciduous/evergreen hardy shrubs, noted for their richly scented flowers. Some varieties flower all winter, others in spring and summer. Many provide bright autumn berries and several forms have good evergreen foliage. So if you're looking for all-year-round interest, then Viburnums are certainly worth considering.

Family: Adoxaceae (moschatel family)
Botanical Name: Viburnum (vy-bur-num)
Common Names: Arrowwood, burkwood, blackhaw, cramp bark, doublefile, dogberry, guelder rose, water elder, snowball tree.

Foliage: Simple or palmately lobed, evergreen or deciduous leaves. Deciduous forms often provide good autumn colour.

Flowers: Usually white or pink, in a diverse range of forms and sizes, depending on the variety. Often followed by red, blue or black autumn berries.

Flowering Period: Early, mid and late flowering, depending on variety.

Soil: Any moist but well-drained, moderately fertile, soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade. Can usually be grown in any aspect. Spring flowering forms should be sheltered from north and east winds.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Shrub.

Origin: Eastern Asia, Europe, and North America.

Hardiness: Most kinds are completely hardy in the UK.

Planting and Growing Viburnum

Viburnums are easy to grow and are tolerant of a wide range of soils and conditions. Plant outside in early autumn or spring. Container grown plants can be planted out at any reasonable time of year.

Most grow well in an open sunny position, in any good well drained garden soil. Some do well in partial shade. Protect winter and early spring flowering forms from strong winds and morning sun.

Taking Care of Viburnum

Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established. Mulch with organic matter in spring and apply a general fertilizer suitable for shrubs.

Pruning Viburnum

Pruning is not normally necessary except to shape or restrict growth. Deciduous kinds occasionally need thinning out of old wood. Established 'overgrown' bushes can usually be cut back hard in the spring (regenerative pruning), although this will affect flowering in the current season.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by aphids, whiteflies and viburnum beetle.

The leaves can be prone leaf spot and fungal infections.

Propagating Viburnum

Viburnum pink blossom

Most forms can be propagated by seed or from softwood / semi-hardwood cuttings.

Sow seeds when ripe in cold frame. However be patient, they can take several years to germinate. Cultivars will not come true to type.

Taking semi-hardwood cuttings of evergreens from mid-summer to early autumn. Remove any flower buds and use a rooting hormone.

Take softwood cuttings of deciduous forms in late spring or take semi-hardwood cuttings in summer under a cold frame. Remove any flower buds and use a rooting hormone.

Popular Varieties of Viburnum Grown in the UK

Various types are available that will flower in winter, spring or summer. Although mainly medium to large sized shrubs there are a few varieties such as carlesii and davidii that are suited to the smaller garden.

Winter and Spring Flowering Viburnum

Viburnum farreri is a good upright deciduous shrub that produces masses of strongly scented pink flowers from November to March. The young oval bronze leaves age to mid-green. Height and spread from 9ft to 12ft (2.7-3.5m).

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' produces clusters of tightly packed scented flowers in various shades of pink, from October to March. Eventual height and spread 12ft (3.5m).

Viburnum tinus is a bushy evergreen shrub that produces pretty flowers throughout the winter months, often scented.

Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price' is a good form with pink buds that open into white in hydrangea-like flowers heads from late winter to early spring. Height and spread up to 10ft (3m).

Spring and Summer Flowering

Viburnum betulifolium is a deciduous shrub with dark green oval leaves. Tiny white flowers are carried in flattened clusters in May-June, followed by red berries in autumn. Height and spread from 8ft to 12ft (2.5-3.5m).

Viburnum carlesii is a deciduous shrub with oval downy leaves. Large, flattish heads of scented white flowers appear in April-May. Height and spread to 5ft (1.5m).

Viburnum davidii is a compact evergreen shrub with oval dark green leaves. White flat flowers heads in
June, followed by blue berries. Height from 2ft to 3ft (1.2-1.5m).

Viburnum opulus (guelder rose) is a bushy deciduous shrub with dark green leaves. Scented flat heads of white flowers surrounded wide white bracts, in late spring. Bright red berries form in large clusters in autumn.

Viburnum opulus 'Roseum' (snowball tree) produces tight clusters of white flowers, tinged with green, from May to June. The leaves turn purple in autumn. Height to 16ft (4m).

Viburnum opulus 'Compactum' is a much smaller form with good red berries in the autumn. Height to 6ft (1.8m).

Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii' (Japanese snowball bush) has tiered branches and white hydrangea-like lace cap flowers. Good deep red leaf autumn colour. Height to 10ft (3m), spread 15ft (4.6m).

Viburnum rhytidophyllum (wrinkled viburnum) is a evergreen shrub with glossy elliptical dark green leaves. White flower-heads appear in May-June, followed by red/black oval fruits. Height from 10ft to 15ft (3-4.5m), spread from 10ft to 12ft (3-3.5m).

Viburnum x burkwoodii produces fragrant, pinky and white, waxy, tubular flowers in mid to late spring. Semi-evergreen dark, shiny leaves that are felted on the underside. Height to 8ft (2.5m), spread to 12ft (4m)

Viburnum x juddii is a compact viburnum with beautifully scented flowers. Height and spread to 5ft (1.5m).