- Valuable Viburnums
- Green Deane’s Itemized Plant Profile: Possum Haw
- Eight of the best viburnums to grow
- Tips for growing viburnums
- Types of Viburnum Bushes
- Blackhaw Viburnum
- Chindo Viburnum
- Doublefile Viburnum
- Koreanspice Viburnum
- Fragrant viburnum
- Compact Viburnums for Your Garden
Fall Viburnum nuduns, edible raw
The only significant problem with Viburnums is choosing which one to use, and which ones to write about.
There are 150 species of Viburnums, perhaps a couple of dozen more. Botanists can’t agree. Viburnums are found in temperate climates around the world, 18 natives to North America plus at least three imports. They’re much employed in landscaping and country gardens. Before that about a dozen were for food and tea. Locally we have four or five Viburnums — again experts disagree — but two are definitely edible.
Among the consumed Viburnums are Viburnum alnifolium, Viburnum cassinoides, Viburnum edule, Viburnum lantana, Viburnum lentago, Viburnum nudum, Viburnum oplus, Viburnum prunifolium, Viburnum rufidulum, Viburnum setigerum, and Viburnum trilobum.
Viburnum cassinoides leaves are used for tea.
The fruit, sometimes raw, cooked or dehydrated, is used from Viburnum alnifolium, Viburnum cassinoides, Viburnum edule, Viburnum lantana, Viburnum lentago, Viburnum nudum, Viburnum oplus, Viburnum prunifolium, Viburnum rufidulum, and Viburnum trilobum. The leaves are use for tea from Viburnum cassinoides and Viburnum setigerum. There are also several cultivars for edible fruit including Canber, Phillips, and Wentworth (from V. trilobum.) And just to make sure you know V. oplus berries are toxic raw and must be cooked.
Fruits of the V. nudums were eaten by the Abernaki and Algonquin Indians. The Missouri River natives ate V. lentago, right. Most of the North American Viburnums have large seeds and a small amount of fruit. Englishman John Lindley in 1846 called the native Viburnums “miserable food for savage nations.” There is a shadow of truth in that. When European species with large fruit were introduced to North America the natives preferred them.
Several Viburnums had medicinal applications. V. opulus and V. prunifolium have scopoletin, which is a coumarin glycoside that acts as a sedative particularly on the uterus. It is suspected that all Viburnums might have the coumarin glycoside. Viburnum prunifolium also contains salicin which when mixed with the acid of the stomach makes a crude aspirin. The Cherokee, Iroquois, Menomini, and Ojibwa used Viburnum acerifolium to make an infusion to relieve cramps and colic. It’s also a diuretic. Iroquois women used a decoction of Viburnum dentatum twigs as a contraceptive.
More specific uses: Viburnum alnifolium, Hobblebush, Mooseweed, ripe fruit sweet and palatable tasting like raisins or dates. The stone, however, is large and the pulp thin. Viburnum casinoides, Withe-rod, Nannyberry, Moosewood, the pulp is sweet, well-flavored, hanging on the tree deep into winter. An amber tea can be made from the dried leaves. First you steam them over boiling water, when cool roll them between your fingers, let stand over night, then dry in an oven. Viburnum edule, Squashberry, Mooseberry, fully ripe berries are slightly acidic, pleasant tasting, can be eaten raw. They can be dried for later use. Viburnum lentago, Wild Raisin, Sweet Vibrunum, Sheepberry, blue-black fruit, pulpy, sweet, juicy, pleasant. Viburnum nudum, Smooth-withe-rod, Possom Haw, apple-shaped fruits, compressed, 1/4 inch long, deep blue, sweet, eaten raw. Viburnum opulus, Guelder-rose, European Cranberry-bush, bright-red fruit, sour, used like cranberries in making jelly, preserves, sauces, and wine. A yellow cultivar — Xanthocarpum — is used to make wine. Viburnum prunifolium, Black Haw, Stagbush, bluish-black fruit, varying size, sweet, eaten out of hand, or used for jams, jelly, sauces, drinks and the like.
Virburnum setigerum, Tea Viburnum, leaves are used as a substitute as tea. Virburnum trilobum, High-Bush Cranberry red fruit substituted for cranberries, used in sauces, juice, jams, jellies, syrup and wine. High in vitamin C. Flowers can be added to pancakes, cake batters or made into fritters.
Sometimes Viburnums can be confused with Dogwoods, depending on the species and where you live. Locally Viburnums are easy to recognize by their opposite leaves and five-lobed flowers. If you see showy clusters, particularly in northern Florida, it will either be a Viburnum or a Dogwood. When not in flower, crease a leaf across the middle and carefully tear it apart. If it is a Dogwood leaf there will be “thread-like strings of latex” between the two pieces. Viburnums leaves do not produce such strings.
Reconstrucion of Oetiz the Ice Man’s Face
Some say the term Viburnum comes from Dead Latin, others say no, some insist it means “Wayfaring Tree.” From the time of Virgil (70-19 BC) folks have mentioned Viburnums. Virgil wrote “lenta viburna,” lenta meaning pliant, flexible, and viburna perhaps meaning of the path.) Viburnums bend easily. Because of that the Romans called them Lantagenem. This led to them being called lantana in English as early as 1200 AD. Also called Arrow-wood, as one Florida species is, the Neolithic Iceman, Oetiz (right) found frozen in the Alps in 1991, was carrying arrow shafts made from the Viburnum lantana.
Viburnum odoratissimum, edibility debatable
Locally viburnums are a common landscape plant, the most used being Viburnum odoratissimum. It can get quite large and older trees do fruit. Whether the fruit is edible is a bit of a debate. One site I don’t trust says “yes” and references Cornucopia. I have a copy of Cornucopia II which does not list Viburnum odoratissimum. Perhaps Cornucopia I did and II does not. I saw some fruit on a Viburnum odoratissimum last year but did not think to try them after a bit of research did not turn up any glowing recommendations. The genus is in the Honeysuckle family which has edible and mildly-toxic species. I could not find any reports of human or animal toxicity associated with the Viburnum odoratissimum. In fact there is some research that suggest it might have some anti-cancer properties. Another common landscape Viburnum is Viburnum suspensum. Like V. odoratissiumn it’s leaves are fragrant when crushed. There is no mention of edibility for it or two common landscape Viburnums, Viburnum rhytidophyllum and Viburnum davidii.
Lastly, let me digress for a moment. A few decades ago when I wrote for newspapers the duty of writing the obituaries rotated daily. On one day when I had to write them a man died named Eleven Chairs. The family name was Chairs and his first name was Eleven. Curious, and as a person interested in genealogy, I began calling his relatives to find out why he was named Eleven. No one knew but they kept giving me more folks to call. I finally talked with Eleven’s elderly aunt several hundred miles away. She said he was the eleventh child and his was going to be the eleventh child chair put around the dinner table. Name explained. I’ve often thought that human story was worth the extra effort and that some researcher or descendant in the future would be pleased even if they don’t know I was the one who found out why he was called Eleven. This leads me to Viburnum, Missouri.
Dillard Mill on the Huzzah River, Viburnum, Missouri
After learning there was a Viburnum, Missouri, I wanted to know why the town, incorporated in 1967, was called Viburnum. I made some inquiries and was directed to resources I had already read. But then I learned it was named by a particular person. Looking into his family history told the story. His name was Dr. Jesse Campbell Mincher (1866-1940.) He was an early resident of the area and involved in everything: Medical doctor, farmer, businessman, bottle washer, you name it. He also ran the general store and applied to the federal government to include a post office in his store (good for business, you know.) The Feds agreed and asked him what he wanted to call the place. He chose Lone Pine because he had just one pine tree on his property. Apparently someone else also had just one pine tree thus there already was a Lone Pine Post Office. Dr. Mincher then chose Viburnum because he used the berries to make some of his medicines. Now you know why Viburnum, Missouri, is called Viburnum and not Lone Pine. Incidentally the area’s economic base has been mining lead. On first weekend in October they celebrate Old Miners’ Day. That should give their one full-time police officer something to do. Perhaps Viburnum, Missouri, should do what Forsythia, Georgia, does: Have a Forsythia Festival, except with Viburnums. Just plant a huge bunch of Viburnums about town and then schedule a festival in the spring when they blossom around May.
Green Deane’s Itemized Plant Profile: Possum Haw
Identification: Viburnum nuduns, deciduous shrub, small tree to 20 feet, leaves opposite, simple, lance shaped to elliptical, four to six inches long, often shorter, upper surface dark green, shiny, lower surface covered with tiny glandular dots, leaf tips pinched to an abrupt point, edges usually toothless, occasionally finely crenated to serrated, slightly revolute. Flowers small, white, showy spreading clusters to six inches wide in March and April. Fruit ellipsoid, initially red to pink turning deep blue.
Locally there are similar look-alikies. To tell the Viburnum nudums from the Viburnum rufidulum (the edible Rusty Haw) look for dots on the lower leaf surface. Viburnum nudum has longer leaves than Viburnum obovatum (Walter Viburnum.) The Viburnum nuduns’ petiol is winged, separating it from the similar-looking Wax-leaf ligustrum. The Viburnum nudum has opposit leaves. Ilex decidua has alternative leaves.
Time: Fruit in fall, usually September and October.
Environment: Swamps, bay heads, wet woodlands.
Method of Preparation: Fruit used raw or cooked, fruit leather. Remove seeds. Viburnum berries usually store well.
Native Americans had a wide variety of ways to use the berries of various Viburnum species. Among them were: Jelly, jam, mixed with grease, stored with fish fat, frozen, juiced, mixed with water and oil to make an ice cream, green and ripe berries steamed then covered with water and stored for winter use, mixed with sugar, mixed with sugar and flour (also a preferred way in Scandanivia) mixed with grease and stored in birch bark containers underground.
We have a vast palette of plants to choose from for our Northwest gardens, and in many cases they come from the same genus.
The genus Pinus, for instance, includes Eastern white, Japanese white, red, black, Swiss, Ponderosa, mugo and so on. These are all different species of pine within the same genus.
Cotoneaster is another genus that provides us with at least a half-dozen different species, from low-growing ground covers to larger shrubs.
And the genus Viburnum is yet another one that gives us multiple species to enjoy in our yards.
Viburnums are all shrubs that grow well for us here in the Northwest. They can tolerate a wide range of soils and are happy in sun or shade. They come in evergreen forms such as Viburnum davidii, which has a distinct tri-divided midrib and sparkly blue berries, and Viburnum tinus “Spring Bouquet,” which repeat blooms throughout the season with red buds that open to clusters of white flowers.
Some Viburnums are semi-evergreen — which simply means that in a mild winter they will keep all their foliage, but in a harsh winter they will be completely deciduous. Viburnum burkwoodii is a good example of a variety that will lose about half of its leaves every winter. For me, I would prefer that it just make up its mind and either lose them all or keep them all. Being in a state of indecision drives me nuts.
Several Viburnums have deliciously fragrant blooms. The abovementioned burkwoodii has a nice smell, as does the “Korean Spice” Viburnum. Both are early spring bloomers.
Fall color is a hallmark for all of the deciduous varieties, with the leaves turning a nice rich burgundy. Also in the fall, many varieties sport attractive berries, from black to blue to yellow-reddish and pink.
The flowers on Viburnums are mostly white and grow in clusters. Two exceptions are “Mary Milton,” which has snowball-like flowers in pink, and “Molly Schroeder,” which also is pink but is a lacecap form. Probably the most popular white forms are the common snowball bush and a lacecap form called “Mariesii” that has layered flowers often confused with dogwoods. It also reblooms in the fall.
Here are two varieties that caught my eye the other day in the nursery as I was snooping about.
Viburnum “Brandywine”: This shrub grows to about 6 feet tall with glossy-green oval leaves that turn a burgundy-wine red in the fall. The white flowers in spring produce incredible clusters of multi-colored berries later in the summer that are pink to blue and are edible (but probably not very tasty). “Brandywine” is both moisture tolerant and deer resistant (I think all viburnums are deer resistant).
Viburnum “Sparkler”: This one struck me because of its brilliant blue berries this time of year. “Sparkler” is a densely branched shrub that can reach 12 to 15 feet tall, making it a great choice for a privacy hedge. The dark green, ruffled foliage turns a bright yellow to red in the fall, and is accented with clusters of blue-black berries that will delight the birds.
Regardless of what variety of Viburnum you might be drawn to, you can find many choices in the garden center this time of year, all sporting their fall colors and attractive clusters of berries. Some, like “Summer Snowflake,” “Mariesii” and “Spring Bouquet,” might even be reblooming.
Whatever your pleasure, there is probably a Viburnum that will fit the bill for your garden.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at [email protected]
Bring the outdoors in
A class on making your own terrarium is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 5 at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. A fee will be charged. For more information or to sign up, go to www.sunnysidenursery.net.T
Eight of the best viburnums to grow
There are plenty of reasons to find space for viburnums in your garden. With a wide range of both evergreen and deciduous varieties to choose from, viburnums provide attractive foliage, flowers and fruits.
They’re great for wildlife, too. Garden birds like blackbirds, thrushes and robins will enjoy the cover they provide, as well as the juicy berries, and pollinating insects will benefit from the flowers.
In beds and borders viburnums can be used to add structure and autumn colour, or act as stunning focal points.
Discover eight of the best viburnums to grow, below.
Viburnum macrocephalum is known as Chinese snowball, owing to the masses of spherical flowerheads.
This Chinese native is a low-growing evergreen shrub, with attractive veining on dark green leaves. Viburnum davidii is dioecious, so you’ll need both male and female plants to ensure the metallic blue berries appear. Flowers from December through to April.
A UK native, Viburnum opulus, or guelder rose, is a fantastic plant. The spring flowers are attractive to pollinators, hoverflies especially, and birds will enjoy feasting on the glossy red berries. Try growing it as part of a mixed wildlife hedge.
Viburnum x bodnantense
This deciduous viburnum is grown for its clusters of scented, pale pink flowers, and its rich autumn colour. Viburnum x bodnantense cultivars to grow include ‘Charles Lamont’ and ‘Dawn’. Plant next to doorways or seating areas to appreciate the rich fragrance. For scent, you could also try Viburnum x burkwoodii.
Like Viburnum opulus, Viburnum fordiae is a deciduous shrub with masses of glossy berries in autumn. The panicles of white flowers are similar to those of Spiraea japonica, though the two species aren’t closely related. A good plant for birds and pollinators.
Viburnum macrocephalum is known as Chinese snowball, owing to the masses of spherical flowerheads, like those of mophead hydrangeas. Fast growing, it makes a spectacular statement shrub and will eventually reach the size of a small tree.
Viburnum tinus is a hardy, evergreen viburnum, native to the Mediterranean. It can be grown as a hedge, but also makes a lovely green backdrop for other plants. Grow in full sun or partial shade, in a moist, well-drained soil.
Viburnum plicatum is a bushy, deciduous shrub with pretty white flowerheads. Popular cultivars to grow include ‘Dart’s Red Robin’ and ‘Mariesii’, both of which have pretty, lacecap flowers, followed by berries in autumn. A good plant for birds.
Viburnum sargentii is a robust, deciduous viburnum, with maple-like leaves and lacecap flowers in spring and summer. ‘Onondaga’ is a lovely cultivar, with red-bronze young foliage, that greens up as it matures. Butterflies enjoy the blooms.
Tips for growing viburnums
- Viburnums are easy to grow, tolerating a wide range of soils and light levels, but they dislike waterlogged soil
- As with any shrub, get them off to a good start when planting by digging a generously-sized hole with plenty of organic matter dug in
- Most viburnums need little pruning, though you can rejuvenate old viburnums if needed
- For clipped hedges and bushes, Viburnum tinus is one of the best species to grow
- Don’t hide away viburnums at the back of borders, instead give them a prominent spot so the berries and blooms can be enjoyed
Viburnum odoratissimum & suspensum
Handsome, hardy viburnums are the ultimate in sturdy shrubs for hedges, and two of the most popular varieties are odoratissimum and suspensum.
These two plants, fairly similar in looks and habit, are some of our most commonly used shrubs.
Ride down any street in South Florida and you’re likely to see one of them.
Both sprout white blossoms in spring – and the sweet scent of the odoratissimum flowers are the reason this variety is sometimes called “Sweet Viburnum.”
But bloom time is short and these shrubs have other attributes to make them invaluable landscape plants for South Florida.
Need a hedge in a hurry for a sunny area? Odoratissimum is the perfect choice. Looking for shrubs for shade? Suspensum does fine in any light, and can be used as a hedge or even a large (3 feet tall) foundation plant.
Their cold tolerance makes them ideal for worry-free winters and both make outstanding hedge or privacy plants.
These shrubs work with any style landscaping – tropical, formal, you name it.
They can be kept regularly manicured or only occasionally trimmed for a more rounded, natural look.
Spaced correctly they’ll stay full to the ground to create a dense wall of green.
There are other viburnum varieties – less commonly used but with very attractive qualities:
Awabuki viburnum is also called “Mirror-Leaf” for its super-glossy, large leaves.
This variety can get very big and works extremely well as a fast-growing large hedge or privacy plant. You can keep it 8 to 10 feet tall by 6 feet wide.
Walters Select grows more upright than the others, with small leaves and very pretty white flowers in spring.
Its growth pattern tends to be more open and see-through unless it’s regularly trimmed to about 5 or 6 feet.
This plant makes a good accent shrub or even a nice small tree.
Dwarf Walters is a little-leafed beauty, a more tender cultivar (sensitive to cold and needing more water) than other varieties.
But it has the same flowers as Walters Select, grows more mounded and can be kept small (2-1/2 to 3 feet).
Viburnum odoratissimum is a fast grower; suspensum grows at a bit more moderate pace.
These evergreen shrubs – odoratissimum and suspensum – can get very big (huge, in fact) but you can keep them trimmed to a reasonable size. Odoratissimum can be kept 4 to 6 feet, suspensum 3 to 5 feet tall.
They’re cold hardy plants, fine anywhere in South Florida including Zone 9B.
Odoratissimum prefers full to part sun, but suspensum does well in sun or shade.
The spring flowers are big clusters of tiny white blooms, pretty though not overly showy. (The walters varieties have a pretty covering of white.)
These are said to be deer-resistant plants – though we make no promises.
Add top soil (or organic peat moss) and composted cow manure to the hole when you plant.
Trim regularly if you want to keep your plants well-manicured…or just occasionally for a naturally mounded look.
Odoratissimum will grow out of a “haircut” fast; suspensum takes a bit longer.
Do a hard pruning in spring after the shrub has finished flowering.
Water on a regular basis, with enough time between waterings for the plant to dry out a bit.
Odoratissimum is moderately drought-tolerant once it’s well-established, though it looks better and stays healthier with regular irrigation.
Suspensum does best with a regular watering and doesn’t mind minor “wet feet” occasionally.
Fertilize 3 times a year (spring, summer, and autumn) with a quality granular fertilizer.
Place these plants 3 to 4 feet apart…any closer and mature shrubs will eventually be fighting each other for a place in the sun and the base of the plants will be bare.
For planting by the house, come out 3 to 4 feet (or more). Along a walk or drive, come in 4 or 5 feet.
These plants can be container grown, though they can outgrow the pot in no time, so planting in the ground is preferable.
Landscape uses for viburnums (odoratissimum and suspensum)
- backdrop for smaller plants
- accent for the corner of the house
- surrounding the trunks of tall palms
- large foundation plant (suspensum)
- along a blank wall
- for privacy by a deck, patio or outside a pool cage
- camouflage shrubs for A/C or pool equipment
- lining a driveway
- fronting taller plants
GOOD SNOWBIRD PLANT? YES
COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: Maui ixora, Hope philodendron, hibiscus, areca palm, dwarf firebush, Nora Grant or Super King ixora, gold mound, dwarf oleander, and sweet potato vine.
Other plants you might like: Eugenia, Ligustrum
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- Medium Height Shrubs
Types of Viburnum Bushes
viburnum image by AnVer from Fotolia.com
Viburnum bushes are unfussy, showy shrubs grown for their fall foliage, bright red berries and fragrant flowers. Viburnum shrubs are classified as an evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous plant. The flowers on the viburnum emerge every spring and range from red to pink, white and cream. This versatile shrub also tolerates many climates, and with over 150 different species to choose from, you can’t go wrong with this hardy bloomer.
Blackhaw viburnum is a deciduous shrub with a slow-to-moderate growth rate. It grows up to 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide, making for a striking bush in the landscape. The rounded, multistemmed branches have creamy white, delicate flowers that range from 2 to 4 inches long. The dark green leaves grow over 3 inches long and are oval in shape. Blackhaw viburnum prefers full sun to partial shade and grows in a wide range of soil types. This shrub is drought tolerant. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone is 3 to 9.
This rapid-growing evergreen prefers full sun to partial shade and grows in a wide range of soil types, excluding wet soils. Chindo viburnum grows up to 15 feet tall with a pyramidal shape and dense, upright branches. The flowers on this evergreen are rounded, white and contrast with the waxy, green leaves. The leathery leaves range from 3 to 7 inches long.This shrub is drought tolerant. The plant is hardy in USDA zones 7b to 9.
The doublefile viburnum is a deciduous bush that grows up to 10 feet tall and wide. Its spreading, tiered branches are rounded and billowing. The flowers on the doublefile are flat, lacelike and range from 2 to 4 inches long. They emerge every spring to light up the shrub with color. The dark green leaves are long and oval, ranging from 2 to 4 inches long. Beginning in the fall, the foliage changes to reddish purple. Doublefile viburnum prefers sun to partial shade and well-drained, moist soil. It is also drought tolerant and the fruit attracts birds. Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 7.
Koreanspice is a deciduous bush that grows up to 6 feet tall and wide. Its rounded, dense shape has upright branches and pink to red flower buds. The flowers are fragrant and 2 to 3 inches long. The leaves on the Koreanspice range from dark green to gray-green. Koreanspice prefers sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. It can tolerate clay soils, making it a hardy bush in USDA zones 4 to 7.
Size & Form
Often an unkempt, leggy, vase-shaped shrub reaching 8 to 12 feet high and wide
Tree & Plant Care
Best in full sun to part shade in a protected site. Winter winds can cause tip dieback.
Soil pH adaptable but requires good drainage.
Mulch to conserve moisture and moderate soil temperature.
Flowers on old wood, prune after flowering
Disease, pests, and problems
If not protected, this plant will suffer from stem dieback under exposed conditions.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to China in mountainous areas
Fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri) photo: John Hagstrom
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Opposite, elliptical corrugated (pleated) leaves with 5 to 6 raised veins.
New leaves emerge bronzy-red, matures to dark green, and then reddish purple fall color.
Petioles are red and smell like green pepper when crushed.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Extremely sweet fragrant clusters of pinkish-red buds opening to 1 to 2 inch white flower panicles
Late spring freezes can kill flower buds.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Red fruits appear in fall but sparse.
Cultivars and their differences
White fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri ‘Alba’): Upright, 8 to 10 feet high, white flowers
Dwarf fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri ‘Nanum’): Dense, compact habit 3 to 4 feet high and wide; pink flowers
Compact Viburnums for Your Garden
Viburnum carlesi is one of the most sought after viburnums because of the intoxicating spicy scent of its flowers in spring. It has other advantages, in that it is shade tolerant and can withstand exposure to the toxins in black walnut trees. Its only shortcoming is a less than exciting, fall color, at least compared with some other viburnums, but that does not seem to affect its popularity. The difficulty is that, although it supposedly grows 4-6 feet high, it can grow considerably larger, to easily 8 feet, a size which many newer gardens cannot accommodate. Because of the incredible demand for this shrub, there are now more cultivars available, one of them being Viburnum carlesi ‘Compactum’. Like all of the carlesi types, its growth rate is slow to moderate and it is 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.
Also see: ‘Diana’, ‘Aurora’ and ‘Spice Baby’.
Viburnum trilobum, also known as American Cranberry viburnum, is another popular and easy to find shrub. It’s fruiting, flowering and fall color are all outstanding. Oddly enough, according to Gary Ladman of Classic Viburnums, the original plant is long gone, and since the 1920’s all American Cranberry bushes are in fact cultivars produced for superior fruiting and flowering. Viburnum trilobum typically grow 8 feet tall by 8 feet wide. Viburnum trilobum ‘Compactum’ grows half the size of the original. In fact, compact trilobums seem to be popping up everywhere, because they are a landscaper’s favorite. Viburnum trilobum compactum ‘Spring Green’ (4 feet by 5 feet) has an outrageous fruit set. I owned one, and it berried like mad without a pollinator. That is a characteristic of this plant, and makes it rare amongst trilobums. ‘Spring Red’ is 5 by 5, and oddly, produces very little fruit. ‘Alfredo’ is 5 to 6 feet high and wide with spectacular red fall color. It was lost but Gary Ladman of Classic Viburnums managed to get some cuttings and is reintroducing it. There is a tiny, tiny one called ‘Jewell Box’. It is 18 inches tall and 24 to 30 inches wide. The good news is that it is small enough to fit on driveways. The bad news is that flowering is minimal, although fall color
Viburnum dentatum, also known as arrowwood dentatum, possibly because it is said that its light but flexible wood produced superior material for the construction of arrows. It is a large, hardy, somewhat suckering (but amenable to severe pruning) shrub and makes an outstanding hedge. It is one of the easiest to grow, thriving in any soil, sun or shade, moisture or dryness, high ph or low. It is also salt tolerant, and deer leave it alone. The mature height of the species and several early cultivars is 12 feet high and 12 feet wide. I grew ‘Chicago Lustre’, a dentatum with beautiful shiny leaves (the species has matte leaves) which reaches this stature. It produces flat topped white flowers in the spring followed by large clusters of blue/black berries (stand back as the birds go to town). Its size limited its usefulness but now dwarf cultivars have been developed. One of the new kids in town is ‘Fireworks’, a plant growing a comparatively diminutive 6-7 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide. ‘Papoose’ is 4 by 4.
Viburnum opulus, also known as European cranberry bush, is not commonly seen but is a spectacular shrub. Growing 8 to 15 feet, it has spectacular flowers, great fruit set, and fine fall color. I grew one in Lake County and had difficulty acquiring one here, since they are not in garden centers and the small number of growers have a small supply which is rapidly consumed. V. opulus ‘Compactum’ is a rounded shrub that reaches 5-6 feet high. It produces glorious scarlet red fruit that persists through most of winter. One of the best things about this lovely plant is that it fruits reliably and generously without a pollinator.
The king of tiny is probably V. opulus ‘Bullatum’ which Gary Ladman of Classic Viburnums notes comes from the Chicago Botanic Garden. Like a typical opulus but with smaller leaves, it is said to be 2 feet by 2 feet! He notes that Viburnum trilobum, ‘Jewell Box’ (above) and Viburnum opulus ‘Bullatum’ are the smallest growing viburnums of which he is aware.
With all these many choices there is no reason not to explore this beautiful and enduring genus.