Viburnums are deciduous or evergreen shrubs (sometimes small trees) in the elderberry family (Adoxaceae). There are about 200 native species of viburnums and numerous cultivars have been developed. They produce white or pink flowers in the spring, followed by bright red (or sometimes blue or black) fruit in the fall. In some species the flowers are very fragrant. The flower heads may be flat clusters of florets, flat umbels with larger flowers or snowball shaped. Their leaves are arranged opposite. Many deciduous species also have brilliant fall color. Viburnums are beautiful, very versatile plants with varieties available for any garden location or landscaping project.
Viburnums are very easy to grow in our area. They are not very particular as to soil conditions but prefer moderately fertile soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. They do best in full sun but they tolerate some shade. Most species grow well in USDA Zone 5 - 9 but some species are tolerant to Zone 3. Viburnums prefer moist but well-drained soils.
It is worth noting that smaller plants (preferably container-grown) are easier to transplant than larger ones and it is important to water well after planting. Viburnums need little pruning but if necessary this should be done immediately after flowering as they flower on old wood. They need little fertilizing, but the addition of compost or well-rotted manure is helpful. Viburnums are self-incompatible so plant a few different species to get good fruit production.
Numerous viburnum species and cultivars are available commercially, so gardeners have a wide array to choose from in terms of size, foliage, flowers, fruit and flowering season. Here are a few possibilities:
This northeastern U.S. native has unusual maple-shaped leaves. White flowers and black fruit. USDA zones 3 - 7.
A large, upright, arching shrub growing to 15 ft. Spectacular red fruit. USDA Zones 6 - 7.
Produces pinkish, fragrant flowers from late winter to early spring.Plant in full sun to light shade, in a protected position to avoid bud loss. Red then black fruit in summer. ‘Dawn’ and ‘Charles Lamont’ are good cultivars. Hardy in zones 5 to 7.
A popular hybrid because of its spicy scented flowers hardiness and adaptability. USDA zones (4) 5 - 8.
Another popular species. Produces highly scented white balls in spring. Numerous cultivars, including a dwarf variety (‘Compactum’) are available. USDA Zones 4 - 7.
Forms compact mound 3 - 5ft. high. Evergreen. Produces white, non-fragrant flowers in spring and dark blue fruit in the fall. Needs both male and female plants to get fruit. USDA zones 7 - 9.
To 10 ft. The first deciduous viburnum to flower in the spring (on bare wood). Very fragrant. The cultivar 'Nanum' is a dwarf variety growing to only 1.5 - 2 ft. Zones 5 -7.
To 6 - 8ft. Another highly scented variety. Produces white, semi-snowball flowers. USDA zones 4 - 8.
To 12ft. Evergreen. Another northeastern U.S. native plant that produces white flowers and attractive fruit. ‘Winterthur” is a cultivar with bright red fall color. Plant it with other species to get fruit. USDA Zones 5 - 8.
To 12 ft. An heirloom favorite and sterile cultivar with large, showy white, pom pom flowers that cover the whole plant. USDA Zones 3 - 8.
To 10ft. Evergreen. Rounded, bushy shrub with glossy leaves and lightly fragrant, flattened floral structures; USDA zones 5 - 8.
To 10ft. It has flowers in flat, double rows, great orange-red fall foliage, and clusters of red-black fruits. 'Kern's Pink' has soft-pink snowball style flowers and purplish edging on the leaves. USDA Zones 4 - 8.