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Viburnum - Growing Guide
We stock around 30 different species and varieties of viburnum so, in writing this care article, we have split them out into a number of categories. Viburnums are evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous shrubs which grow to very different heights in maturity and have very different types of flowers. All are suitable for a woodland garden setting and many are of a size where they are suitable for a shrub border. Some flower in winter and some have particularly attractive ornamental fruits.
The viburnums which we stock are fully hardy plants which grow well in sun or partial shade in well drained reasonably fertile soils. Evergreen species and varieties need protection from very cold east winds to prevent scorching. Most (but not all) deciduous viburnums can be hard pruned from time to time to rejuvenate them. Other evergreen varieties need little or no pruning at all.
Greenwood cuttings early in the growing season are the best way to propagate deciduous varieties while semi ripe mid or late summer cuttings are best for evergreens. All will need bottom heat to root properly, and deciduous cuttings can be temperamental to overwinter successfully.
Deciduous Viburnums - flowering
Winter or early spring flowering deciduous viburnums
V. x bodnantense ‘Charles Lemont’ and ‘Dawn’ both flower away right through the winter until spring. These varieties grow to grow to around 10ft in maturity with a spread of perhaps half that. The former has bright pink flowers and the latter’s are pink fading to white.
V. x burkwoodii and V. x burkwoodii ‘Anne Russel’ have fragrant tubular flowers in early spring on to late spring. These shrubs both grow to 6-8ft with an eventual spread of about half that. The former has pink buds and white flowers, and the latter is similar but more compact in habit.
V. farreri (syn. fragrans) grows to around 10ft with a similar spread. Its flowers are tubular from autumn through to spring in dense terminal clusters of white or pink tinged flowers.
Deciduous Viburnums - 'ball-like' flowerheads
V. betulifolium has an upright habit with arching branches and grows to 10ft with a similar spread. In May it produces domed corymbs of white flowers followed by pendant clusters of red fruit.
V. carlesii grows to around 6ft in height and is one of the most popular species which we sell. It has pink buds in late spring which open to tubular balls of white or pink flushed flowerheads. Good red autumn colour and black fruits.
V. carlesii ‘Aurora’ has red buds opening to pink.
V. x carlcephalum is a rounded bushy shrub to 10ft in height with a similar spread. It has rounded flowerheads of trumpet shaped fragrant white flowers from pink buds in early summer.
V. ‘Eskimo’ is a mound forming shrub of about 5ft in height. It has a multitude of outstanding white flower balls at the end of every twig in April or May. The buds are pink tinged and not all the balls quite open at the same time. The branches often bend down with the sheer weight of the flowerheads.
V. x juddii grows to only about 4-5ft as a rounded shrub. It has small pink tinged balls of white flowers in late spring.
V. sieboldii is a compact spreading shrub to 10ft. It has ‘circles’ of tubular white flowers in late spring and rounded pink fruit. The leaves emit a disgusting smell if crushed.
Deciduous Viburnums - ‘lacecap’ type flowers
These do not (in the main) set fruit.
These are all forms of V. plicatum, the Japanese snowball bush, which grows to 10-12ft tall with, eventually, a similar spread. In early summer it produces saucer shaped sterile white flowers in cymes. V. plicatum ‘Grandiflorum’ has larger double flower heads.
V. plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ has a pyramidical habit and can be grown in containers or as a hedge. Its lacecap flowers in May to June have a hint of pink and, unusually, this variety does produce red fruits.
V. plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Lanarth’ also has an upright habit and sterile white florets.
V. plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ has a layered and tiered habit and needs plenty of room to grow and spread sideways as a flat-topped shrub. In flower it is a breath-taking spectacle of sterile florets when full out in summer and we normally have plants of this variety on our Chelsea stands.
V. plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Pink Beauty’ is best grown in partial shade. The florets have a pink tinge, and this is also a large spreading shrub in maturity.
V. plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Watanabe’ is a low growing and compact form suitable for a smaller garden.
V. sargentii ‘Onondaga’ grows to around 6ft with a similar spread. It has flat lacecap cymes of pinkish flowers in late spring which are surrounded by sterile ray florets. The new growth is bronzy. Bright red fruits follow.
Deciduous Viburnums - berries
Grown primarily for their berries rather than their flowers
These are all forms of V. opalus, the guelder rose, which grows to 10-12ft with a fairly upright habit. They have maple-like three lobed leaves, lacecap-like flowers in early summer, and red autumn colour which combines well with the bright red fleshy fruits in autumn which are the outstanding feature of the guelder rose.
V. opalus ‘Compactum’ grows to only 5ft or so.
V. opalus ‘Roseum’ has sterile flowers which turn pink in full sun. No berries!
V. opalus ‘Xanthocarpum’ has stand-out bright yellow berries.
V. cinnamomifolium grows in Burncoose gardens to around 15ft and is nearly a small tree. It has very dark green leaves which are paler beneath and rounded terminal cymes of tubular white flowers in May to June followed by blue-black fruits.
V. davidii is a small growing dense rounded shrub to around 3ft with a similar spread. The dark green leaves form a mat from which small white flower cymes emerge in April to May. You need to grow male and female forms nearby to produce the very attractive blue fruits that this species can produce in autumn.
V. odoratissimum is another large shrub or small tree with glossy leaves and very fragrant white flowers in conical panicles in April to May. The fruits ripen to black.
V. odoratissimum ‘Emerald Lustre’ is an improved form with even more lustrous green leaves and pink tinges to the new growth.
V. ‘Pragense’ is a bushy upright evergreen shrub to around 10ft in height. It has wrinkly, wavy margined leaves and domed cymes of tubular white flowers in May (with us).
V. rhytidophyllum is somewhat similar in the appearance of its leaves but grows to around 15ft as an erect small tree. We use it in one spot as a windbreak. It has large domed terminal cymes of creamy white flowers in May and rounded red fruit.
V. tinus, whose common name is Lauristinus, is a compact, reliable, and widely grown evergreen shrub. It is particularly effective as a hedging plant in coastal and maritime situations. It has short, flattened cymes of white flowers in winter and spring which are followed by rounded dark black fruits.
V. tinus ‘Eve Price’ has pink flower buds opening white.
V. tinus ‘Lisarose’ has deep pink flower buds opening pale pink.
V. tinus ‘Lucidum’ is a form which has particularly glossy green leaves and a vigorous habit.
V. tinus ‘Purpureum’, which grows at the nursery entrance, has a dark bronze-purple tinge to its young and mature foliage.