Viburnum Shrubs

Ilona Erwin

Plant for All Seasons

The viburnums here are in full swing of spring bloom. Most gardens would benefit from one of these shrubs, or in my case, many of them. Here’s look at some of the differences in varieties, some of the assets of growing them, and the care information.

The viburnums have a pleasant fragrance, sometimes light on the air, like the Burkwoodii, sometimes more intensely spicy like the Carlesii. They tend to be open looking, though the doublefile (‘Mariesii’, here) can be dense looking. The Carlesii, ‘Korean Spice viburnum’, has a larger bloom than the Burkwoodii and is much more open branching than any of the others. The doublefile is one of the showiest and blooms a bit later. You can see the blooming shrub in the first picture.


viburnums in my garden

A Few Others …
From the gardens of many in my old neighborhood long ago is the Viburnum macrocephalumChinese Snowball Viburnum. It is huge and covered with fluffy white balls of bloom. My in-laws had a Viburnum rhytidophylloides, which was quite tall, sort of vase shaped and with leathery looking leaves. You need space for this one.

Growing Viburnums

Most grow in Zones 4 to 8, full sun to partial shade, usually in well drained soils. They are in the same family as the Honeysuckles, ‘Caprifoliaceae’. My Carlesii is perfectly fine and blooming in a part shade/part sun situation. The Burkwoodii grows in sun here and is subject to winds and cold frosts which sometimes ruins the blossoms. Many are from moist woodlands and like a fertile soil with organic matter, rich, evenly moist soil.

Pruning a Viburnum

I head back the Korean Spice, V. Carlesii, by pruning the spreading branches to a node when they are out of bounds in the place they are growing. I’ve always put them close to a doorway to take advantage of the fresh sweet aroma, so they sometimes need to be pruned away from the walkway. The doublefile shrubs are in a space too small (miscalculation on my part) for them so I have had to head them back drastically this past year. You can see the results in the composite picture. I think that hedging viburnums is maiming a perfectly beautiful form, and the best practice is to give them room and let them grow naturally as possible. The exception being the Carlesii, which can be espaliered. But in any case, you shouldn’t grow a viburnum in a place or such a way that you chop away with hedging shears and ruin the form.

Late season interest

Many of these shrubs have berries for fall interest, the Cranberry bush, V. trilobum, is probably the most showiest. I don’t find the foliage quite as bright as some in the Midwest landscape, but the Burkwoodii does have a subtle dark red.

spring blooms on my viburnum shrubs

spring blooms on viburnum shrubs

Upper left in the picture shows the V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ which had to be drastically pruned. Upper right is a close up of the Burkwoodii blossoms, large center is the Burkwoodii shrubs from a distance. They tower over me now, somewhere between 7 and 8 feet. Lower left is the early buds on the Burkwoodii. Lower right is the Dawn viburnum, V. X bodnantense ‘Dawn’, in bloom.
More information and suggestions of viburnums to grow- from ‘Fine Gardening’.

*reposted from my garden journal*

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.