There are many shrub varieties within the viburnum genus. For decades, gardeners have valued these shrubs for the profuse flowers and intriguing fruits.
Viburnum plants feature plentiful clusters of white flowers in the spring. These give rise to fruits that are, at times, edible, and can change color throughout the season.
In total, there are over 150 species of viburnum shrubs and trees. Add to that the various cultivars developed over the years, and you have plenty of varieties to choose from. Many of these varieties are native to North America. But regardless of where they originate, the majority of viburnums grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 2-9.
Most viburnums are deciduous, but some unique varieties can be either deciduous or evergreen. Usually, these shrubs prefer slightly acidic soil in an area with full or partial sun.
There are both native and non-native viburnum species. As you decide which variety you like, be aware that some viburnums are invasive. Fortunately, the native varieties are numerous. So, there is almost always an ecologically friendly option available.
Considering the abundance of viburnum varieties, it is hard to know where to begin. Read on to learn about some common viburnum species and the distinct traits which set.
13 Different Types of Viburnum Shrubs
The first step in selecting any plant is ensuring it will survive in your region. Viburnums are no different. But the sheer volume of viburnum options can be overwhelming. Start by learning some of the most popular viburnum shrubs and the conditions in which they will thrive.
Here are thirteen of the top viburnum shrub varieties to plant in your landscape:
1. Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum Dentatum)
Arrowwood viburnum is a hardy viburnum shrub variety native to the eastern united states. This viburnum survives in a wide range of conditions; these include varying soil types and sun exposure.
Suitable for hedges, arrowwood viburnum is a dense medium-sized deciduous shrub that grows in an upright, rounded form. Over time, this form becomes more rounded as the spread matches the height.
As it matures, arrowwood viburnum may begin to spread via suckering. The branches also change as the year’s pass. While they begin with a rigid straight habit, they become more arching and pendulous later on.
Arrowwood viburnum does not have the showiest of viburnum flowers. But remember that this is only by comparison to shrubs known for prominent flowers. Arrowwood viburnum’s white flowers are still attractive and tend to be less striking than other viburnum species.
The most interesting fact about this plant is related to its common name. Observe the stems of the arrowwood viburnum, and you will see that they are almost perfectly straight. Unsurprisingly, indigenous groups took advantage of this feature to make arrows.
2. Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum Plicatum F. Tomentosum ‘Mariesii’)
Doublefile viburnum is one of the most popular viburnum varieties, and the reason why is no secret. Every spring, this shrub puts forth a dazzling floral display.
These white flowers cover the entire length of each branch. They are both ostentatious and abundant, making doublefile viburnum one of the most visually appealing shrubs of any genus.
The growth habit of the doublefile viburnum includes distinctly horizontal branches. These branches spread to about 15’ at most, and the height is slightly less at about 12’, producing a spreading form.
The leaves are dark green and deciduous, and the leaves give rise to the doublefile name. These leaves grow exactly opposite each other on the branches, producing an interesting symmetry with the branch as the dividing line.
This unique form and bright white flowers make doublefile viburnum a great option for any shrub border. These shrubs have little to no common diseases or pest problems. All these factors combine to make a strong case that any gardener would be wise to plant a doublefile viburnum in their yard.
3. Burkwood Viburnum (Viburnum × Burkwoodii)
Burkwood viburnum is a hybrid variety that is relatively low maintenance. It can survive in both cold and warm regions and tolerate both acidic and alkaline soils.
This type of viburnum is multi-stemmed and dense in its growth habit. Because of this, burkwood viburnum can sometimes appear a bit tangled.
Perhaps this is a reason to use burkwood viburnum in a shrub border or for making privacy hedges rather than as a specimen.
Burkwood viburnum has clusters of small white flowers. These flowers are known to be very fragrant, and the scent is so strong that it often permeates the entire garden. The leaves also add to the value of this plant.
These leaves are dark lustrous green in the growing season, and in fall, they turn red with yellow streaks along their veins.
This shrub species is durable and can even survive in polluted areas. Burkwood viburnum is a great option if you are seeking a mid-sized deciduous flowering shrub.
4. David Viburnum (Viburnum Davidii)
David viburnum has a few distinctive traits which are not common among other viburnums. First, David viburnum can be both evergreen and deciduous. In most cases, the blue-green leaves remain on the branches for the whole year. In northern regions, these leaves sometimes fall just before winter.
David viburnum is also on the smaller side and has a dense growth habit producing a compact rounded shrub. The total height rarely exceeds 3’.
This viburnum is native to western China and bears the name of a Jesuit missionary. It prefers warmer climates and has few problems other than occasional leaf scorch.
Like other viburnums, David viburnum has great flowers.
These first emerge as pink buds before opening and turning white. The fruits are also noticeable and change color throughout the season. They begin as green, and then change hue to pink through the season, then eventually become teal. These fruits persist through winter, providing seasonal interest and food for birds.
5. Koreanspice Viburnum (Viburnum Carlesii)
Native to Korea, Koreanspice viburnum is another viburnum that offers fragrant flowers. These flowers start as dark red buds, blooming in early spring as clusters shaped like a half-sphere.
The flower color begins as a light pink. Through the season, they transition to white. After the flowers die, a round black fruit takes its place. The leaves of Koreanspice viburnum are somewhat broad with a dull green color.
Although inconsistent, the leaves will sometimes take on a muted red color in fall. Throughout their lifespan, the leaves have many tiny hairs covering both the top and bottom sides.
At times, Koreanspice viburnum can develop powdery mildew. But this is not a frequent occurrence.
Consider planting this shrub in a foundation bed. Also, try to prune Koreanspice viburnum just after the flowers die back to promote future flower growth.
6. Mapleleaf Viburnum (Viburnum Acerifolium)
The leaves of mapleleaf viburnum are nearly identical to the leaves of a red maple tree, and they even share similar coloration both in the growing season and in the fall. These leaves are also deciduous and have black spots on their undersides.
Mapleleaf viburnum is native to the eastern united states. It has a loose branching habit, and it spreads via suckering. In the wild, maple leaf viburnum can spread vigorously in ideal conditions.
This shrub has small white flowers that grow at the ends of long stalks. After dying back in early summer, the flowers give way to fruit. This fruit appears as a series of small berry-like drupes that persist from summer into winter.
Mapleleaf viburnum is more shade tolerant than other viburnums. It is also a great option for a planting scheme focused on naturalization.
If you plant this shrub, you can expect year-round interest. But be careful of the fact that this species can spread very quickly.
7. European Cranberrybush (Viburnum Opulus)
If you live in the United States, beware of this invasive shrub. European cranberrybush has leaves that look very similar to mapleleaf viburnum. Because of this, it can be easy to mistake these shrubs for one another.
However, European cranberrybush is native to Europe, and authorities have deemed it to be invasive in the united states.
Because of its ability to adapt to a wide range of soil, this shrub now grows quickly throughout the Eastern US. It has now spread so quickly that it is beginning to out-compete some native plants in the area.
European cranberrybush is a larger shrub growing to about 15’ tall. It has a rounded form as well as edible fruits.
These fruits look similar to cranberries which explain this shrub’s common name. However, this shrub is not a cranberry shrub or closely related to cranberry plants.
Instead, the fruits simply look similar. These red berry-like fruits can be eaten but don’t have the best flavor. When picked fresh, they are often very bitter.
Because this shrub proves to be destructive to the environment of the United States and Canada, consider planting alternatives. Because of its similar appearance, a mapleleaf viburnum is a good option that is also native.
8. Small-Leaf Viburnum (Viburnum Obovatum)
Small viburnum is somewhat of a misnomer. This shrub is not very small at all. In fact, it is a rather large shrub growing to 12’ in both height and spread. The reason behind this common name is that the leaves on this shrub are very small.
It is also one of the rarer evergreen viburnums. The leaves on the small viburnum are dark green and opposite, and they also feature no serration, unlike other viburnums.
Overall, this shrub usually has a fairly think and twig-like growth habit. But the flowers can be quite profuse.
These flowers cover the majority of the shrub in early spring. This is one of the earliest blooming viburnums around. In color, these blooms are a dull white.
Much like David viburnum, there are scenarios in which the small viburnum demonstrates deciduous characteristics. In these scenarios, the leaves often turn a deep purple color.
9. Wayfaringtree Viburnum (Viburnum Lantana)
Although not native to the United States, wayfaringtree viburnum is not an invasive threat. While this shrub has escaped the garden, it has naturalized without out-competing native species.
Wayfaringtree viburnum is a mid-sized shrub that tends to grow laterally. It also has a higher tolerance for alkaline soil compared to most viburnums.
The leaves of this shrub are deciduous and on the larger side. In the growing season, they are green with a bluish tint, they have regular serration and reticulated venation. These are two useful identification features.
Like other viburnums, the wayfaringtree viburnum has clusters of white flowers that give way to red fruits. These flowers feature bright yellow stamens and limited fragrance. Overall, this is another great flowering shrub option for your yard.
10. Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum Prunifolium)
Blackhaw viburnum is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub. As it matures, it takes on an irregular shape, reaching 12-15’ in height.
The fruits of the blackhaw viburnum are edible, and these small black drupes are tasty when fresh-picked or in jams.
Before the fruits appeared in September, blackhaw viburnum has dense groupings of tiny white flowers. These flowers can often show a cream-like color.
Blackhaw viburnum is another viburnum native to the United States. These shrubs grow in the wild in eastern and central North America and often inhabit woodlands and stream banks.
This is a versatile plant to add to your garden. Depending on how you prune and care for this plant, it can be used in both large order groupings and as a specimen.
11. Witherod Viburnum (Viburnum Cassinoides)
Witherod viburnum is a large deciduous shrub that is native to Eastern North America. It often grows in low-lying areas such as swamps and bogs. Because of this, another common name for this plant is swamp viburnum.
The more common name is derived from an old English word meaning flexible. This is because the branches of the witherod viburnum can be pliable and will grow in an arching form.
Along with white flower clusters similar to many viburnums, the witherod viburnum also has interesting leaf color, which is true both in fall and early spring.
As the leaves emerge at the beginning of the growing season, they have a bronze color, and they then turn to a more standard dark green. Finally, in fall, they take on a crimson appearance.
Perhaps because there are so many viburnum options, witherod is not the most popular of the genus. But there is no reason it should not be more prevalent. This native shrub is an especially good option for borders and mass plantings.
12. Japanese Viburnum (Viburnum Japonicum)
Japanese viburnum is a dense shrub that grows in warmer regions. Any time you plant this shrub zone 6 or colder, you need to include some form of winter protection.
Generally, this viburnum is fairly easy to grow provided that your climate is warm enough. It is able to adapt to a wider range of sun exposure unlike other viburnums on this list. At times it can even survive in full shade settings.
The leaves of Japanese viburnum are dark and evergreen with no serration. Because this foliage, and the overall growth habit, is dense, the is a good shrub to use for privacy screening.
13. Hobblebush (Viburnum Lantanoides)
Hobblebush is one of the most unique viburnum varieties. The first distinctive trait of this shrub is the flowers. While the flowers are white like other viburnums, they differ in their structure. Hobblebush flowers come in two sizes.
The interior portion of the flower clusters have small flowers which together form a flat shape. Surrounding these small center flowers are some larger white flowers, and these form a ring around the central flat shape.
Deep red fruits replace these flowers in august. These fruits are small, oval-shaped, and may have some medicinal qualities.
The other unique feature of Hobblebush is its branches. These branches are pendulous, growing upward and then drooping back towards the ground. When they touch the ground, they take root, creating a tripping hazard that gives Hobblebush its name.
Hobblebush is also a supporter of wildlife.
Many different woodland animals feed on multiple parts of this shrub. These characteristics make Hobblebush an interesting native addition to gardens throughout the united states.
You can now see who viburnums such a popular shrub option. These plants have some of the most reliable blooms of any type of plant. They are also a hardy native species in many regions of the world.
Although a lot of viburnums are similar in appearance, there are many to choose from within this list and beyond.
Regardless of your selection, you are guaranteed to enjoy fantastic springtime flowers when you plant a viburnum.
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.