Mostly used to describe a group of deciduous and evergreen shrubs (150 to 180 species) native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere, Viburnum also includes small trees from the moschatel family, Adoxaceae. It was once included in the family Caprifoliaceae. More commonly known as American cranberry bush, European cranberry or hobblebush, the shrubs are often used for hedges, screens, or as filler plants (it can grow anywhere from 5 to 15 feet in height and width). Viburnum is a fragrant, all-season landscaping plant.
The evergreen shrubs boast all year foliage and typically appear alongside numerous sweetly scented flowers in the spring months. It is not unusual for them to have a second showing in the autumn. These forms are classified as 'Viburnum Tinus' but there are a number of other evergreen shrubby Viburnum forms, including Viburnum x 'burkwoodii'.
The deciduous Viburnums are wide-ranging in terms of form and size. Results depend on the type or cultivar (this word was formulated from ‘CULTIvated – VARiety’). There are some beautiful plants like 'Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn' and 'Viburnum Farreri' that flower in the later stages of winter with red or pink strongly fragrant flowers - on relatively bare branches. They sport bronze to green foliage at other times of the year.
When planting, choose a spot that receives direct sun or partial shade in the late afternoon. You will ideally plant in spring when the ground is more hospitable. You will need to dig a hole as deep as the root ball, but roughly two to three times as wide. If you are planting more than one plant, space them about 5 to 15 feet apart, taking care to ensure that they are all sitting level. Use a compost-soil mixture. It’s desirable to water the plant every day – keep the soil moist, but be careful not to saturate it.
Viburnum garden shrubs don’t require too much pruning, but some occasional work won’t hurt if you want to maintain shape and smart presentation. It’s a good idea to keep major shearing or severe pruning to late winter or the early spring months.
In most instances, pruning just after flowering but prior to the setting of seedpods is the best approach. In frosty conditions, pruning can damage new shoots – so it’s best to wait for the weather to improve. As a general guide viburnum shrubs should be trimmed back by roughly a third of their size annually. Cut them back right above the nodes, to ensure that the plant is able to put out new shoots.
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