Viburnums: A Plant for All Seasons

Viburnum, viburnum farreri, flowers of the gardens

By Cinthia Milner

It’s time for the plant shopping to begin! Hitting up nurseries and impulse buying every plant commences now. Regret for all those impulse purchases can wait until fall when the garden clean-up begins and plant reality is real. Bottom line: Nobody is immune to spring’s charms. We all go home with a car full of plants that aren’t suitable for our landscape, but look so tempting in their nursery pots. Don’t judge yourself, but do yourself a favor and walk right past those blooming perennials to the shrub section and purchase a viburnum (or two).

Viburnums are one plant that won’t end up in the regret compost pile. Viburnums are four-season shrubs that are often overlooked in the landscape, though they are workhorses that provide so much garden joy. Check out this list of reasons you need them: ✿ Showy, often fragrant spring blooms ✿ Colorful, late summer-fall berries

✿ Stunning fall color
✿ Early pollinator
✿ Wildlife habitat
✿ Tolerates shade
✿ Native species (and non-native)
✿ Evergreen, semi-evergreen, deciduous woody plants
✿ Sizes range from 3’ to 20’ tall
✿ Zone range of 2-9

Viburnums are native to North America, as well as South America and Southeast Asia. Most prefer moist, well-drained soil, but are adaptable to a variety of soils. They thrive in full sun to partial shade (not dense shade; plants need some sunlight to bloom). These multi-use shrubs are stunning focal points (Doublefile), hedges (Pragense), beautiful additions to woodland gardens (Conoy), and perennial borders (Snowball). If planned right, you can have viburnum blooms from March to May. And a bonus: they’re good cut flowers. Plant in groups for better pollination and show.

There are 150 species in this genus of plants and tons of cultivars, which means there is a viburnum for every landscape. For starters, here are three tried and true favorites.

Viburnum x carlcephalum ‘Cayuga’
Cayuga Koreanspice Viburnum

‘Cayuga’ has showy, white blooms that bud pink and turn white, blooming in late April and early May. The berries are not as prolific as other viburnums, but purchase this one for the fragrance. It grows 4’-8’ x 6’-10’ and may be used as a focal point and a hedge. Plant in partial to full sun. It is drought tolerant, attracts butterflies, is disease resistant and has pretty fall color. Deciduous.

Reason to buy: Showy blooms that smell divine. Plant near walkways and windows where the fragrance is easily enjoyed.

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Summer Snowflake’
‘Summer Snowflake’ Viburnum

Summer Snowflake is a repeats-blooming viburnum, with horizontal, tiered branching that displays showy, white blooms beginning in May and continuing through late summer. It blooms prolifically in spring and repeats bloom into late summer. It has bright, red fruits that age to black. It grows 6’-8’ x 8’-10’ and has reddish- brown fall color. Plant in partial shade. It attracts birds and butterflies. Use in a shrub border, mix with rhododendrons and mountain laurel in woodland gardens, or plant in island beds.

Reason to buy: Showy repeat blooms and bright red fruits along horizontal branching. Summer Snowflake looks pretty spreading out along a wooden fence and in island beds.

Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Allegheny’
Allegheny Viburnum

Reaching 10’ tall, it is evergreen above 10 degrees. Leaves are dark green with deep ridges—great for texture. Showy, fragrant white clusters of bloom followed by bright red berries that age to black. Excellent for hedges, cottage gardens, borders and woodland gardens. Plant in full sun to part shade.

Reason to buy: Four-season interest; textured evergreen leaves; showy, fragrant blooms; bright berries. Use for screening or hedges.

Cinthia Milner is garden coach and blog writer for B. B. Barns Garden Center in Asheville. Learn more at BBBarns.com.

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