Planting and caring for viburnum shrubs

Planting and caring for viburnum shrubs

Viburnums have it all: attractive foliage that changes colour in the fall, graceful flowers in white and pink, and prolific berries that feed birds in the cold months. Here’s some advice for choosing the right plant for your landscape among the many options.

Viburnum shrubs at-a-glance

Viburnums are perfect for anyone who wants a care-free landscape, but lots of choice.

  • There are 150 species, and at least that many garden-worthy cultivars, including both evergreen and deciduous plants with a range of sizes, silhouettes, and flower types.

Moreover, viburnums are showy enough to be centrepieces but also join comfortably with other plants in a shrub border or foundation planting.

  • The larger viburnum varieties are a beautiful way to soften house corners.
  • Compact plants can be incorporated into flower beds or containers.
  • Evergreen varieties can be massed to create an informal hedge or screen.

If you’re growing viburnums for their berries, having more than one plant usually improves fruit set.

Basic viburnum care

Viburnums are tough, pest-resistant plants that ask for little beyond a hospitable site that has moist, well-drained soil. They thrive with a nearly neutral soil pH of 5.0 to 6.5.

  • Plant out container-grown viburnums in spring, just as they’re emerging from dormancy.

To prepare a planting hole

  • First, dig into an eight-centimetre thick (three-inch) layer of organic matter, such as compost or leaf mould. Set the plants at the same depth they occupied in their nursery containers.
  • Then, fill the hole around the plants with soil, firm it, and water them well.
  • Finally, top the root zone with an eight-centimetre-thick (three-inch) organic mulch to keep insects and disease-carrying mud away from the leaves during heavy rains and to help retain soil moisture.
  • Each spring, apply an organic or timed-release balanced fertilizer at the rate recommended on the package label.

Extremely hot, humid, or rainy summer weather can cause outbreaks of fungal leaf spot diseases.

  • Don’t worry if some of your plant’s leaves wither and fall. Viburnums are resilient and will recover on their own and be ready to bloom enthusiastically the following spring.

Viburnums require little pruning.

  • Trim them only to remove dead wood or shape the plants.
  • Prune evergreen types in spring and deciduous viburnums right after they flower.

Popular viburnum varieties

With so much choice, picking a variety you like can be a challenge. Here are a few popular options.

  • ‘Alleghany’ is a hybrid that has dark green, leathery leaves and shows off creamy white flowers in spring. Clusters of brilliant red fruits brighten the landscape in early fall and turn almost black as they mature and invite the birds to feast. It’s hardy to Zone 5.
  • ‘Seneca’ is a selection of a Japanese species (V. sieboldii) that is also hardy to zone 5. It has wide spreading branches with large heads of creamy flowers in spring. In fall, pendant heads of bright red fruits last for several months.
  • While many viburnums have a scent, fragrant viburnum (V. fragrans or V. farreri), hardy from Zone 6, has sweetly scented flowers that open in early spring before the leaves unfurl. It needs a sheltered location to protect these early blooms, but can be forced into flowering indoors if cut. The foliage is slightly bronzed and turns maroon-red in fall.

Viburnums are pretty, resilient shrubs that can add flair and character to your garden or landscape with next to no additional effort required. If you’re looking for year-round visual interest in the garden, then a viburnum shrub could be the answer you’ve been looking for!


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