Growing Viburnums in the Home Garden

For many years now viburnums have been one of my favorite shrubs in my garden. For the most part viburnums grow without issue, add beauty to the landscape, and provide sustainable for wildlife. What strikes me as confusing is why they aren’t more popular in the home garden? When in bloom viburnum flowers rival hydrangeas for impact. The rest of the year they can create an amazing backdrop for other plants and many produce drupes that the birds love. Let’s talk about some of the amazing viburnums I have grown in my home garden and how to grow them.

Why are viburnums great plants? They are beautiful low maintenance shrubs that have few pest and disease issues plus they ca be great for local wildlife.

Best Conditions for Growing Viburnums

Viburnums generally enjoy a full sun location with a fertile well drained soil. They can take a bit of shade but what I have noticed is that the new leaf growth begins to appear higher on the plant leaving exposed stems toward the bottom of the shrub. That would be fine if you intend to train it as a standard but usually you will want to grow this as an upright shrub.

I’ve found them to be fairly drought tolerant once established and after the first year I rarely ever need to water them. Arrowwood viburnums are native to the eastern areas of the United States and should do well in a variety of situations.

‘Shasta’ Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum

As for viburnum pests I haven’t noticed many so far that have been significant. The Viburnum beetle is reported to be a problem and borers but so far I have not seen them. Japanese beetles may take a nibble here and there but their damage is mostly cosmetic and really they tend to eat my grape vines more so than my viburnums!

Deer resistant plants are very important in my garden and I have never noticed a deer nibble on my viburnums. And believe me, I have deer in my garden daily!

Can you propagate viburnums? You bet! I’ve described what has worked with my propagation on the varieties below.

‘Shasta’ Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Shasta’)

The ‘Shasta’ Viburnum is probably my favorite viburnum for maximum spring impact. It’s also known as a doublefile viburnum (and sometimes snowball viburnum, more on that in a minute) because the flowers for in two lines along the branches in a double file formation. The shrubs easily get to 8 to 10 feet tall with a similar width and are absolutely covered in blooms during spring.

The ‘Shasta’ viburnum blooms resemble lacecap hydrangeas with beautiful florets in a ring surrounding the fertile flowers in the middle. The outside ring of flowers are for show and for attracting pollinators and so are not actually fertile. The inside flowers which are small and don’t stand out as much are the fertile flowers that will eventually form fruit and viable seed.

Our ‘Shasta’ Viburnums have been complete pest free to this point and do great in full sun locations. My word of caution with ‘Shasta’ is to make sure you site it correctly. A wrong plant in a wrong place may require a removal or severe pruning. I had to do that to a beautiful plant I had growing along our deck and I’ve seen other homeowners plant their doublefile viburnum on corners of their homes too close to the house.

The Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum has another variety that is commonly called Snowball due to the flowers which are shaped like big snowballs. That’s where this gets confusing since there is another variety Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’ that produces snowball flowers. The two viburnums are easy to distunguish between if you check the leaves. The Viburnum opulus has leaves that are multilobed like maple trees and Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum has a single lobe.

Propagating Viburnum plicatum

‘Shasta’ cuttings

‘Shasta’ viburnums and similar Viburnum plicatum varieties are easily propagated with cuttings of greenwood to hardwood from first year growth. Small 4-6 inch cuttings do great for greenwood. 6 to 8 inch cuttings may perform better for hardwood but you can probably get away with the smaller ones too.

With greenwood and cuttings taken during the growing season I will cut the leaves in half to help preserve moisture in the plant and reduce what the cutting is trying to keep alive. This helps with hydrangeas as well.

For some propagation tools and resources check out this page: Plant Propagation Resources.

Other Varieties of Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum

  • ‘Mariesii’
  • ‘Magic Puff’
  • ‘Lanarth’
  • ‘Dart’s Red Robin’

Last year, due to it’s size I had to severely cut back my biggest ‘Shasta’ viburnum. Here’s the video about it.

Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

‘Arrowwood’ Viburnum dentatum is a beautiful viburnum with glossy leaves and a large form. They can sucker quite a bit and the growth habit of those suckers creates long straight stems. This is probably where it received its name as it is said arrows were made from these stems. Arrowwood viburnum produces fuzzy florets that are highly attractive to pollinators. The flowers then produce a blue berry that is devoured by local wildlife. It definitely is great for attracting birds to your garden.

Arrowwood Viburnum flowers

Varieties of Viburnum dentatum

  • ‘Blue Muffin’
  • ‘Dwarf Form’
  • ‘Emerald Lustre’
  • ‘Fireworks’
  • ‘Moonglow’
  • ‘Morton’ (this is the one I have)
  • ‘Ralph Senior’
  • ‘Patzam’
  • ‘Perle Bleu’
  • ‘Synnestvedt’
Arrowwood Viburnum berries

Propagating Arrowwood Viburnum

For propagating Arrowwood viburnum you can take the suckers and divide them from the main plant, make layered cuttings, and take cuttings. The type of cutting depends on the season but as long as it is done with first year grow you shouldn’t have much trouble rooting Arrowwood viburnum from cuttings. Greenwood in mid spring through summer and hardwood in fall to winter.

Viburnum × burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’ (Burkwood Viburnum)

Burkwood viburnums are must have viburnums in a garden. The reason is their fragrances which drops an amazing scent across the garden. Planted in combination with other plants like witchhazel, hyacinths, fragrant irises, and others you can have a pleasant smelling garden all season. I planted ‘Mohawk’ several years ago and the only plant issue I have actually had is woodpeckers. They have taken to pecking all over it which actually is probably an indicator of another issue with insects, possible borers.

Viburnum-x-burkwoodii-Mohawk-Flower

‘Mohawk’ is a hybrid of the Korean Spice viburnum which also has a heavy fragrance. The flowers form in medium sized ball shapes, about the size of s small orange and are white with slight pink and red tints.

Propagating Viburnum × burkwoodii

For propagating Viburnum × burkwoodii try taking greenwood that has started turning to hardwood in the summertime. That’s when I’ve had the most success. Tent, cloche, or use a misting system to maintain moisture.

Viburnum sargentii ‘Onondaga’ (Sargent Viburnum)

I bought Onandaga Viburnum a few years ago due to the burgundy tinged flowers and foliage. The leaves are more maple shaped and it grows just as well as all the other viburnums. It is one of my favorite viburnum flowers. It is a lacecap flower with while sterile flowers on the outside circle (like the ‘Shasta’) but reddish tinted flowers in the middle. It also propagates extremely easy from cuttings or layering.

Onandaga likes full sun and is tolerant of part shade. It grows up to 10 ft tall and generally is pest resistant.

Onandaga viburnum foliage emerging in spring
‘Onandaga’ viburnum with new foliage emerging.

Viburnum opoulus ‘Sterile’

The Japanese Snowball viburnum (V. opulus ‘Sterile’) as I reference earlier in this post produces flowers in the shape of large snowballs. It gets loaded with flowers! The leaves are maple shaped and that’s the easiest way to see the difference between the other ‘Snowball’ viburnum. Common names are tricky and confusing in plants. Often there are several plants with the same common name and you need to reference them when possible with the botanical name to make sure you are talking about the right plant.

Viburnum opulus 'Sterile'

Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’ is indeed a sterile variety and will not produce berries or seed for wildlife. It’s beauty is really the best feature, and while I like it, due to these reasons it is lower on my list of favorites than other viburnums.

Viburnum opulus is known as the European cranberrybush which is fertile and will produce fruit that birds and wildlife find attractive.

Viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’

Viburnum nudum is another American native viburnum. It has oval leaves with glossy green deciduous foliage. The flowers are similar in appearance to the Arrowwood Viburnum and produce berries that wildlife enjoy. The berries begin red then turn to blue and eventually black if the birds haven’t found them by then!

Viburnum nudum 'Brandywine' Flowering, native viburnum

Viburnum nudum is water tolerant and is resistant to flood prone areas. It would make a good choice near creeks or streams to add value for the wildlife there. Cities and towns should take note of plants like this that not only are great for home gardens but also for landscaping with native plants in our parks. It has value as a beautiful ornamental AND is great for birds and native creatures.

A Resource for More Information on Viburnums

For a Good resource on Viburnums get this book on them. Michael Dirr has written tons of information about viburnums and their care. This is an affiliate link where you can purchase it: Viburnums by Michael Dirr. I added this to my garden library several years ago! It’s a great reference book!

I highly recommend choosing a viburnum for growing in your home garden. Just make sure you plan for its eventual size!