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Viburnum Shrub: The Ultimate Guide to Viburnums


Viburnum Shrub also know as a snowball bush.

Clusters of beautiful white flowers cover these flowering shrub in spring attracting pollinators to your garden.


Everything you need to know for growing beautiful, healthy Viburnums.

With a few different varieties growing in my landscape I’ve discovered through trial and error how to grow and care for a Viburnum shrub.

They are beautiful in spring when they are in bloom and can be grown as either a shrub or small tree.

With over 150 varieties available there is one that will suit every garden.



European Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum Opulus Roseum)

My Experience with the Viburnum

I have 2 varieties growing in my yard and I love them. 

The Nannyberry and the Roseum both get very large but worth it when they flower. 

I had problems with caterpillars on my Nannyberry and Viburnum leaf beetles on my Roseum. The caterpillars I picked off and the beetles I pruned off the plant.

I still think they are worth growing because of how beautiful they are in the spring when they flower.


Growing a Viburnum Shrub in Containers

Can you grow them in containers? Sure you can. Displaying one of these beautiful shrubs on your patio or deck will look awesome in the spring when they are in bloom.

The Viburnums that I’m growing I have planted in the ground. They are large varieties and I don’t want to limit their size but I do have a lot of shrubs and trees that I grow in containers.

They will need a large pot which can get heavy. Putting wheels under the pot might be a good idea if you are going to be moving them around. A metal plant caddy is what I use for some of my plants in the house but they should work on patios and decks also.

A few things to remember:

  • They will dry out faster and need more watering than if they were in the ground
  • They may need to be re-potted every few years so they don’t become root bound
  • They will benefit from organic compost added in the spring as they won’t get nutrients any other way.

You could also plant some annuals around the base of the plant to help hide the soil.


Planting

When planting your Viburnum shrub make sure you know how big it will be at maturity. You don’t want to crowd other plants or have it to close to the house or fence. And the tag should say if it needs full sun, part sun or if it will grow in full shade like the Nannyberry.

Once you have picked special spot for it to grow, dig the hole as deep as the pot and twice as wide. This will give the plant lots of loose soil to spread its roots through. 

Unless you have really bad soil, I wouldn’t recommend fertilizing it when planting. After the first year, you can give it some organic compost if you think it will need it but it isn’t necessary. They are adaptable to a wide range of soil types and therefore fertilizing isn’t necessary.

The plant will need to be watered weekly the first year it is planted. Don’t let the soil dry out as this will stress the plant and it will become susceptible to pests and diseases.


Pruning

Pruning is not really necessary but if you want to keep it at a reasonable size it should be done as soon as it’s done flowering. It flowers on old wood so if you decide to prune it in winter you will cut off the flower buds for next year.

If you don’t prune it, some varieties can get up to 15’ or more which could be too large for your garden but will look spectacular when it flowers if it isn’t pruned.

Another reason for pruning is if the plant starts to look old and leggy. If this happens you can cut one third of the plants old growth out the first year, then another third out the following year and in year 3 you can cut the remaining third of the old branches out. This will rejuvenate the plant and make it a show piece again.


Viburnum Shrub Varieties

There are many different varieties to choose from in either deciduous or evergreen and range in size from 2' up to about 30' tall.

Here are a couple varieties that I’m currently growing and offering in my plant nursery.


Nannyberry Viburnum (Viburnum lentago)

Nannyberry Viburnum (Viburnum lentago)

(a.k.a. sweet Viburnum shrub, sheepberry) This shrub or small tree is native to Ontario and can grow up to 15’ tall and 10’ wide. They produce flat white flowers in spring followed by red berry that ripen to blackish colour in the fall.

The berries stay on the plant through the winter and are great for wildlife. The berries are also edible and have a sweet taste with a hint of spice. They make great jams and jellies.

They can be grown in full sun to full shade and can tolerate wet or dry soil.

Nannyberry

$6.97



European Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum Opulus Roseum)

European Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum Opulus Roseum)

(a.k.a. V. Opulus sterile, European cranberry bush)  They can grow to about 12’ tall and wide but can be kept trimmed to a smaller size. 

They get round white snowball like flowers that cover the plant in May and last for about 5 weeks or so. This plant does not produce any berries but will make a great hedge or specimen plant. They can be drought tolerant once they are established.


Pests and Diseases

Viburnum shrubs aren’t affected much by pests and diseases but here are a few that you might see if the plant is under duress. 


Pests

Aphids

They are known to go after a Viburnum shrub and suck the sap out of the leaves. These tiny insects come in different colours from green, black, grey, yellow and more. If they decide to attack your plant they will come in masses and eat everything they can. Getting rid of them is easy and you can read more about Aphids and how to get rid of them here.


Viburnum Leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni)

Viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni)

These bothersome pests will do a real number on the leaves of your plant. 

They chew holes in your Viburnum shrub leaves until there isn’t much left. 

I had this problem on my European Snowball and just left the beetles to do their thing. I wanted to test how the plant would hold up against the beetles. The leaves were pretty beat up but the plant survived. 

BUT if these beetles aren’t dealt with, then over a period of a few years they will end up weakening the plant and eventually killing it. 

What happens is that the eggs will stay on your shrub over winter and hatch in May. The best way to get rid of these leaf beetles is to prune the shrub after it has gone dormant between the end of November and beginning of April. When you prune the shrub the debris that you cut off must go directly into the garbage as this will be where the eggs are attached.

You can also pick the beetles off and squish them with your fingers or put them in a pail of soapy water. You can also knock them off the plant and into the soapy water like the Japanese Beetle.

Beneficial insects such as the Asian lady beetles and lacewing larvae (which eat the leaf beetle larvae) and stinkbugs (go after the adult leaf beetle) will also help in killing the leaf beetle and their larvae.

Other pests that might appear on the plants are:

  • Thrips
  • Spider Mites
  • Scale insects
  • Root Weevils
  • Asiatic Garden Beetles
  • Borers
  • Caterpillars

These insects are not very common but they have been known to visit the plant.


Diseases


The types of plant diseases that could affect a Viburnum shrub are:

Powdery Mildew – This is a common disease that affects a lot of plants when the weather stay wet for long periods of time. It looks like white fuzz on the leaves. It usually doesn’t hurt the plant unless it gets severe. There is no need to do anything about it but you can treat it with a fungicide if it gets bad.

Downy Mildew – This looks like yellow blotches on the leaves between the veins and needs to be dealt with as soon as you notice it with fungicide. Any leaves that fall should be destroyed and not composed as this will make it spread. 

Botryosphaeria canker – They look like brown bumps on the stem or trunk of the shrub or tree and will cause the leaves and stem tips to die back. Plants that go without water for too long many become affected. It’s best to keep the plant watered when it hasn’t rained for a while. Remove any affected branches and dispose into the garbage. 

Fungal leaf spots – Another disease to watch for is leaf spots. They are brown to black patches on the leaves that are depressed in the leaves. This usually isn’t serious and occurs in summer if it’s warm and wet and will start on older foliage. 


Viburnum Shrub Cuttings

Taking Viburnum shrub cuttings is easy. I do this every year to produce more plants for my plant nursery and I’m teaching my granddaughter how to do it also. When you over winter them you will want to protect them from the strong winter winds and when they start to leaf out in the spring you will need to trim them to get them to start branching out. 

Read More about propagating plants here.


Landscape Uses

There are many uses in the landscape for these a Viburnum shrub.

  • great hedges for privacy
  • specimen plants
  • plant them in front of a/c units or other views you want to hide
  • along borders or for a screening. 

There are many uses for a Viburnum shrub. How will you use yours?



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