Viburnums – Tried and True for the Landscape

Need a screen between your backyard and the street?  How about you and the nosy neighbor?  Or, let’s say you need a good specimen feature in a corner planting…what would be a good choice?  If any of these scenarios are a reality for you, consider the group of shrubs, the Viburnums.  In general, they are disease and insect resistant, don’t require much pruning, flower large white blossoms in May and need minimal fertilization.


The key to selecting which viburnum is best for your landscape is considering the size, leaf color, leaf texture and flower/fruit habit.  For the Midwest, these are some of the best choices.


Wayfaringtree Viburnum, has an upright spreading form 12 feet that lends itself to screening plantings.  The flowers in mid-May are creamy-white flat clusters.  The fruit is greenish yellow, changing from red and finally black.  The hybrid ‘Mohican’ is a smaller, improved type as is ‘Judd’, which are more upright to spreading.  The flowers in early spring are semi snowball in shape, changing from pink to white in bud form.  The fruit is black.  Judd viburnum have a pleasant aroma when flowering. A related shrub, Korean spice viburnum is similar in size and fragrance, and excellent for the shrub border.


Blackhaw Viburnum, at maturity reaches 15 feet.  The flowers are flat white clusters; fruits are ½ inch long and blue-black.  It is an excellent plant as a specimen or for massing.

Arrowwood Viburnum, a tall 12-15 foot species, well suited for screening.  The leaves are smooth and shiny, compared with most other viburnums, and performs well in semi-shade as well as full sun.  Like the most other viburnums, the flowers are flat, white clusters in mid spring and the fruits is blue-black.

Doublefile Viburnum has an excellent, slightly horizontally spreading form, maturing at 8-10 feet, with flat white clusters of flowers in mid May.  Red fruit in mid summer and fall red color add to its attractiveness.  A more compact form, ‘Tomentosum Mariesi’, has larger flowers and more conspicuous fruit.

Leatherleaf Viburnum has the same characteristics as the species listed above, except for the large, slightly rough leaves.  If you’re looking for coarse texture to offset finer leaf arrangements in the landscape, this tough species is a good choice.


John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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