What is a Viburnum Shrub?

Helga George

A viburnum shrub is one of a very large genus of shrubs known for beautiful flowers and colorful berries. They are originally from the temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia, along with mountainous regions in the tropics. Viburnum shrubs will grow in a wide range of soils and are considered low maintenance. Many of the species and cultivars form large plants and are grown as specimen plants, privacy hedges, or noise breaks, while dwarf cultivars can be grown near houses.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

There are over 150 species of viburnum shrubs, plus a variety of cultivars available. With a variety of different types of leaves, flowers, and sizes, one can use these plants for a variety of purposes. Many varieties are deciduous, while others are evergreen. They generally prefer sun, but will tolerate some shade. Most require regular watering.

Its flowers can range from white to pink, and are produced in corymbs. These are flower structures composed of individual flowers similar to the panicles produced by lilac flowers. Some species have highly fragrant flowers. In the fall, many species produce berries that range in color from red to black. These fruit are usually eaten by birds.

There are a large number of viburnum shrubs to choose from, but one particularly popular species, in semi-tropical areas, is the sweet viburnum shrub, or Viburnum odoratissimum. It produces fragrant white flowers in large corymbs. This type of viburnum may reach 20 ft (6.1 m) tall if not pruned. This species will tolerate some shade, but does not do well under conditions of poor light.

The sweet viburnum shrub is frequently used as a hedge plant in Florida. Since it grows so high, it can be used to completely enclose patio gardens. It is also used in residential neighborhoods to buffer the noise of highways.

A particularly adaptable species of viburnum is the arrowwood viburnum shrub, or Viburnum dentatum. This species will tolerate hot or cold weather, and, unlike most viburnum shrubs, will tolerate wet soil and dense shade. It can grow to 10 ft (3 m) tall. Arrowwood plants are frequently used as hedges or screens.

One type of viburnum has been grown since the 1500s. This is the snowball viburnum shrub, or Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’, so named for its flower clusters that reach the size of snowballs. It is deciduous, grows to 12 ft (3.7 m) tall, and equally as wide. The leaves are similar to those of a maple. This species will tolerate cold winters.

Due to its size, the snowball viburnum shrub has traditionally been used as a specimen plant, or as part of a shrub border. Now, however, dwarf cultivars are available with maximum heights as small as 2 ft (0.3 m), allowing them to be grown close to homes. This shrub requires a substantial amount of full sun for optimal flowering.

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