Viburnums

Flowers, fragrance, fruit, foliage--Viburnums bring so much beauty to your garden.

By Therese Ciesinski

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You could say that viburnums are the horticultural equivalent of a string of pearls—plants that fit in anywhere and look good in every season and in any style of garden. "An indispensable shrub…with interesting form, stalwart heartiness and dependability, gorgeous white flowers in spring, eye-catching fruit in fall, and handsome green foliage that blazes as autumn descends," enthuses Jack Staub, owner/partner of Hortulus Farm Nursery and Gardens, in Wrightstown, Pennsylvania.

Yes, they're beautiful all year long. But it's their adaptability that makes them well-suited to your yard. No matter what conditions your garden dishes out, you'll find a viburnum that can take them. Most thrive in full sun or part shade, but a couple perform well in full shade. Soil pH should be on the neutral to acid side, but a few species tolerate alkaline soil. If your soil isn't good for rhododendrons, try viburnums instead, suggests Mike Ecker, who cares for 126 varieties of viburnums at the Dawes Arboretum, in Newark, Ohio. And while the majority grow best in moist, well-drained soil, again, there are others that are very drought-tolerant once established.

Plant a viburnum just as you would any shrub. Since viburnums aren't usually self-fruitful, you should plant more than one of the same species for the most berries. Keep your viburnums well-watered the first year, and be sure to mulch; even viburnums that tolerate dry soil prefer moister conditions when they can get them. After your viburnums are established, you can ignore them if you want to; however, a little attention will pay off. Viburnums are such easygoing creatures, says Peg Prag, owner of Forestfarm Nursery, in Williams, Oregon. All they need is a little TLC.

Deciding to plant a viburnum is a no-brainer. The tough part is deciding which one. There are more than 150 species, many native to North America. The 15 here will give you a taste of all that viburnums have to offer:

Species: Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum)*
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4-8
Light conditions: Shade
Flowers: Not showy
Fruit: Blue-black; not showy
Fall color: Reddish purple
Height: 2-6 feet
Spread: 2-6 feet
Good For: Naturalizing; dry soil, small gardens


Species: V. burkwoodii (Burkwood viburnum)
Zones: 4-8
Light conditions: Sun/part shade
Flowers: Very showy; fragrant
Fruit: Red to blue-black
Fall color: Orange/red/yellow (foliage is semi-evergreen)
Height: 6-10 feet
Spread: 6-10 feet
Good For: Southern gardens

Species: V. carlesii (Koreanspice viburnum)
Zones: 4-8
Light conditions: Sun/part shade
Flowers: Fragrant; very showy
Fruit: Blue-black; not showy
Fall color: Not showy
Height: 6-10 feet
Spread: 6-10 feet
Good For: Midwest; moist soil

Species: V. dentatum (arrowwood)*
Zones: 2-8
Light conditions: Sun/shade
Flowers: Not showy
Fruit: Blue-black
Fall color: Bronze/red/yellow
Height: 10-15 feet
Spread: 10-15 feet
Good For: Alkaline soil

Species: V. lantana (wayfaring tree)
Zones: 3-8
Light conditions: Sun/part shade
Flowers: Showy
Fruit: Very showy
Fall color: Purple-red; not showy
Height: 10-15 feet
Spread: 10-15 feet
Good For: Screening, hedge; dry or alkaline soil

Species: V. lentago (nannyberry)*
Zones: 3-7
Light conditions: Sun/part shade
Flowers: Fragrant; okay
Fruit: Purple-black; not showy
Fall color: range/red/burgundy; very showy
Height: 15-30 feet
Spread: 15-30 feet
Good For: Naturalizing; Southwest

Species: V. nudum (possum haw)*
Zones: 5-9
Light conditions: Sun/part shade
Flowers: Not showy
Fruit: Pink to black
Fall color: Red
Height: 6-10 feet
Spread: 6-10 feet
Good For: Small gardens, naturalizing

Species: V. opulus (European cranberrybush viburnum)
Zones: 3-8
Light conditions: Sun/part shade
Flowers: Showy
Fruit: Red; very showy
Fall color: Yellow-red
Height: 6-10 feet
Spread: 10-15 feet
Good For: Moist soil

Species: V. plicatum var. tomentosum (doublefile viburnum)
Zones: 5-8
Light conditions: Sun/shade
Flowers: Very showy
Fruit: Very showy
Fall color: Red-purple; showy
Height: 6-10 feet
Spread: 6-10 feet
Good For: Specimen; cool climates

Species: V. pragense (Prague viburnum)
Zones: 5-8
Light conditions: Sun/part shade
Flowers: Fragrant; showy
Fruit: Purple-black; not showy
Fall color: Evergreen
Height: 10-15 feet
Spread: 6-10 feet
Good For: Specimen; South

Species: V. prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)*
Zones: 3-9
Light conditions: Sun/shade
Flowers: Showy
Fruit: Pink to blue-black
Fall color: Red-purple
Height: 10-15 feet
Spread: 10-15 feet
Good For: Dry soil; fruit is edible

Species: V. rhytidophyllum (leatherleaf viburnum)
Zones: 5-7
Light conditions: Part shade
Flowers: Showy
Fruit: Red to black, very showy
Fall color: Evergreen
Height: 10-15 feet
Spread: 10-15 feet
Good For: Specimen tree

Species: V. sargentii (Sargents viburnum)
Zones: 3-7
Light conditions: Sun/part shade
Flowers: Showy
Fruit: Red, showy
Fall color: Orange-red
Height: 10-15 feet
Spread: 15-30 feet
Good For: Moist soil

Species: V. sieboldii (Siebold viburnum)
Zones: 4-8
Light conditions: Sun/shade
Flowers: Very showy
Fruit: Very showy
Fall color: Green-purple; not showy
Height: 15-20 feet
Spread: 10-15 feet
Good For: Specimen; moist soil. Deer-resistant

Species: V. trilobum (American cranberrybush viburnum)*
Zones: 2-7
Light conditions: Sun/part shade
Flowers: Very showy
Fruit: Red; very showy; edible
Fall color: Crimson; showy
Height: 10-15 feet
Spread: 10-15 feet
Good For: Screening, naturalizing; moist soil

*Native For more information about viburnum species and cultivars, visit the Web site of the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences , Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension.

Sources
Fairweather Gardens, Greenwich, NJ
Forestfarm, Williams, OR
Fraser's Thimble Farms, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada
Pine Ridge Gardens, London, AR

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