Container Grown Viburnums: Caring For Potted Viburnum Shrubs

By: Liz Baessler

Viburnum is a versatile shrub that is very popular in hedges and borders. Depending on the variety, it is usually evergreen and often changes color in the fall, and it produces brightly colored berries that often last through the winter. Best of all, in the spring it is completely overrun with highly fragrant tiny flowers. It is really a plant for all seasons that never fails to disappoint. But can you grow viburnum plants in pots? Keep reading to learn more about growing viburnum in containers and caring for potted viburnum shrubs.

Container Grown Viburnums

Are container grown viburnums feasible? Yes, as long as you know what you’re getting into. Viburnums are sometimes called large shrubs and sometimes called small trees. In fact, some varieties can grow up to 30 feet (10 m.) in height, which is awfully big for a container plant.

When growing viburnum in containers, it’s best to pick a small variety that will be more manageable.

  • Mapleleaf viburnum is a good choice, as it grows slowly and usually tops out at 6 feet (2 m.) tall and 4 feet (1 m.) wide.
  • The David viburnum stays at 3 to 5 feet (1-1.5 m.) tall and 4 to 5 feet (1-1.5 m.) wide.
  • The compactum cultivar of the European cranberry bush is especially small, growing extremely slow and reaching only 2 feet (0.5 m.) high and 3 feet (1 m.) wide over the course of 10 years.

How to Care for Container Grown Viburnums

Pick the largest container you can manage. No matter the size of your container grown viburnums, however, caring for potted viburnum shrubs will still require well-drained, fertile soil.

Additionally, viburnums grow best in full sun. That said, these shrubs can tolerate some shade.

Although in-ground plants are somewhat tolerant of drought, container grown plants require more irrigation, especially when it’s hot. In fact, you may need to water the plants once a day, if not twice, when temps rise above 85 degrees F. (29 C.). Check the soil prior to watering to ensure they’re not receiving too much.

You can help to maintain the size of viburnum plants in pots by pruning moderately in early spring.

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How to Grow Viburnum

Viburnums have long been one of the most popular flowering landscape shrubs, with more than 150 species available, including deciduous, evergreen, and semi-evergreens shrubs. With an almost infinite number of cultivars available, you can find a one to suit any garden—wet or dry, sun or shade, natural or formal, shrub or tree, native or exotic. For most viburnum shrubs, bloom times span from early spring through June, followed by attractive fruit and outstanding fall foliage.

Fast-growing viburnums are well-behaved members of the honeysuckle family. They can be grown as either shrubs or trees, although tree forms may require some pruning to achieve the desired shape. The U.S. National Arboretum has done extensive breeding to create many hardy, pest-resistant varieties.

There is no single type of viburnum foliage. It can be rounded, lance-shaped or toothed, smooth, velvety, or rough. There are some evergreen viburnum varieties, in addition to many deciduous varieties with outstanding fall color. Viburnums work well as hedges, or in mass groupings, and also make interesting specimen plants or anchors in borders.

Most viburnums have either white or pinkish flowers which are sometimes fragrant. The fragrant varieties are native to Asia. The flowers themselves come in three major types: flat clusters of florets, flat umbels outlined with larger flowers resembling lace-cap hydrangeas, and dome-shaped, snowball-like clusters.

Almost all viburnums produce attractive clusters of fruit that are popular with birds, wildlife, and humans. However, most viburnums are not self-pollinating and will require another variety to cross-pollinate in order to yield fruit. Viburnum can grow to be 20 feet tall!

Botanical Name Viburnum spp.
Common Name Viburnum, American cranberry bush, hobblebush
Plant Type Deciduous shrub
Mature Size 3 to 20 feet tall, depending on cultivar
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type Rich, moist, well-drained soil
Soil pH 5.5 to 6.6, but also tolerates slightly alkaline soil
Boom Time Early to late spring, depending on species
Flower Color White, pinkish
Hardiness Zone 2 to 9 (USDA), depending on species
Native Area Temperate regions of Northern Hemisphere
Toxicity Non-toxic to humans and animals
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Viburnum 101

There are more than 150 species of viburnum and scads of varieties within the species, so you can find a viburnum that will thrive in your garden. Large or small, shady or sunny, wet soil or well-drained, there’s a viburnum for the spot.

13 Fragrant Shrubs 13 Photos

'Anne Russell' viburnum made this list of lovely fragrant shrubs.

Viburnum can be grown as a shrub or a small tree, depending on the variety you choose and how you prune it. They can be deciduous, evergreen or semi-evergreen, depending on species. Butterflies love their flowers and birds love the berry-like fruit, so they’ll attract wildlife to your yard.

They have two basic types of flowers: flat-topped clusters that look like lace-cap hydrangeas, and snowball types with dome-shaped clusters of blooms. Bloom colors range from white to pink. Their berries can be red, pink, blue, purple and black.

Botanical Name: Viburnum spp.
Common Names: Viburnum, snowball tree, American cranberry bush, hobblebush
Hardiness Zones: 2 to 9
Bloom Time: Spring


Pruning viburnum:

Not much pruning is required other than what is needed to maintain the shape and health of the shrub. For deciduous varieties, blooms are set in late summer, so any drastic pruning should be done immediately after flowering so next year’s blooms won’t be accidentally cut off. However, cutting back branches that just bloomed or deadheading spent blooms will decrease the amount of fruit produced in late fall and winter. For evergreen varieties, prune in late winter to early spring.

For either type, unsightly, dead or damaged branches can be thinned out any time of year. However, don’t prune or do any thinning when frost is on the way, because the new growth that follows could be damaged.

Viburnum shrubs are quite adaptable, but do prefer organically-rich soil with a pH of 5.6 to 6.6. They also like consistently moist, but well-draining conditions.

Amendments & fertilizer:

A general-purpose fertilizer can be added in spring before new growth appears.


During the first year, newly planted shrubs should be watered deeply and regularly, at least once a week, to help them establish a good root system. The frequency can be reduced once plants are established.

Diseases and pests:

Gray mold, rust, downy mildew, powdery mildew, wood rot, Verticillium wilt, leaf spots, and dieback can occur. Good air circulation and dry foliage are the best defenses against fungal diseases. Pests such as aphids, scale, insects, weevils, Japanese beetles, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, and tree hoppers are common.

Deer tend to steer clear of viburnum shrubs and it has an ‘A’ rating (rarely damaged) on the Rutgers deer-resistant plant list.

Eight of the best viburnums to grow

Viburnums make great garden shrubs, providing structure, flowers and berries. We've picked our favourites to grow.

Published: Wednesday, 22 January, 2020 at 3:42 pm

Viburnums can be evergreen or deciduous shrubs, providing attractive foliage, flowers and fruits in the garden. Viburnums can be great for wildlife, too – they provide cover for a variety of garden birds such as blackbirds, thrushes and robins, while some bear pollen- and nectar-rich flowers and nutritious berries.

In beds and borders, viburnums can be used to add structure and autumn colour, or act as a stunning focal point.

More on growing viburnums:

We’ve picked eight of our favourite viburnums to grow, below.

Viburnum davidii

This Chinese native viburnum is a low-growing evergreen shrub, with attractive veining on dark green leaves, white flowers from December through to April, and metallic blue berries. Viburnum davidii is dioecious, so you’ll need both male and female plants to guarantee berries.

Height x Spread: 1.5m x 1.5m

Viburnum opulus

A UK native, the guelder rose, Viburnum opulus, bears beautiful spring flowers, which are particularly attractive to hoverflies, followed by glossy red berries. Try growing it as part of a mixed wildlife hedge.

H x S: 8m x 4m

Viburnum x bodnantense

This deciduous viburnum is a hybrid of two parent species, native to China and the Himalayas, respectively. It’s grown for its clusters of scented, pale pink flowers and its rich autumn colour. Viburnum x bodnantense cultivars to grow include ‘Charles Lamont’ and ‘Dawn’. Plant next to doorways or seating areas to appreciate the rich fragrance of its flowers.

H x S: 2.5m x 1.5m

Viburnum fordiae

Another Chinese native, Viburnum fordiae is one of the best viburnums to grow. A deciduous shrub, it bears panicles of white flowers in summer, followed by glossy berries in autumn. It’s a great choice for birds and pollinators.

H x S: 4m x 4m

Viburnum macrocephalum

Viburnum macrocephalum is known as Chinese snowball, owing to the masses of spherical flowerheads, like those of mophead hydrangeas. Fast growing, it makes a spectacular statement shrub and will eventually reach the size of a small tree.

H x S: 5m x 4m

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus is a hardy, evergreen viburnum, native to the Mediterranean. It can be grown as a hedge, but also makes a lovely green backdrop for other plants. Grow in full sun or partial shade, in a moist, well-drained soil.

H x S: 3m x 3m

Viburnum plicatum

Viburnum plicatum is a bushy, deciduous shrub with pretty white flowerheads. Popular cultivars to grow include ‘Dart’s Red Robin’ and ‘Mariesii’, both of which have pretty, lacecap flowers, followed by berries in autumn. A good plant for birds.

H x S: 1.8m x 2m

Viburnum sargentii

Viburnum sargentii is a robust, deciduous viburnum, with maple-like leaves and lacecap flowers in spring and summer. ‘Onondaga’ is a lovely cultivar, with red-bronze young foliage, that greens up as it matures. Butterflies enjoy the blooms.

How to grow Viburnum

Sometimes Viburnum can get a bad press because they can be found in landscaping arrangements around supermarkets and stores. Viburnums are a lovely garden shrubs, there are both evergreen and deciduous varieties and they produce flowers and berries.

Viburnums are hardy, easy to grow, and tolerant of most conditions apart from exposed sites with chill winds. Viburnum will grow in sun or partial shade and contribute colourfully to the garden with attractive flowers, often scented and with berries in the Autumn.

The varieties illustrated above are the most popular, each growing to around 3 meters and are easy to grow requiring little or no attention from one year to the next. Illustrated above right is Viburnum tinus, hardy and evergreen with white flowers during late winter and early spring flowering for a long period followed by berries. Most of the evergreen Viburnums have white /cream or tinged pink flowers although some are summer flowering such as V japonica and odoratissimum, which as the suggests, is scented.

Image left is Viburnum x carlcephalum , deciduous with the most fragrant flowers in the spring which flowers look similar to Viburnum x burkwoodii, which also has scented flowers in the spring and is one of the most popular Viburnums. Although the flowers look very similar, Viburnum burkwoodii is evergreen where carlcephalum is deciduous. The centre image is Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' a better known deciduous variety with heavily scented flowers over a long period from late autumn to spring.

As a shrub Viburnum is easier to grow than the similar Daphne x burkwoodii which is evergreen and scented, but more temperamental . If you like the look of Daphne x burkwoodii, but the growing conditions are not suitable, try Viburnum x bodnantense.

These varieties are available in garden centres and on line any of which will look good in a shrub border and you will not have to fuss over them.

Viburnums are not particular about soil as long as it is not too wet or waterlogged, and will grow in both part sun and part shade. If you are thinking of planting a shrub border, it is well worth looking at the varieties of Viburnums for their delicate flowers, often scented and the bonus of berries for the birds.

44 Best Shrubs for Containers | Best Container Gardening Plants

24. Gaura

USDA Zones— 5 – 9

Climate— Cool climate with mild summer is perfectly suitable for growing gaura. You can also try to grow it in a warm subtropical climate in partial shade.

It is also called “Bee Blossom”, “Wandflower” and “Whirling Butterflies”, whirling butterflies because it attracts butterflies and they hover over it like a cloud and whirl around it. Some of its species are considered as a weed. This wild North American shrub can grow up to 1.50 m high, depending on the variety. The best thing about this shrub is its long blooming period, it starts to flower in late spring and blooms until the late fall.

25. Pomegranate

USDA Zones— 9 – 11

Climate— It requires tropical climate, but it is possible to grow pomegranates in temperate climates if you plant it in a pot and do care in winter.

Probably the most suitable fruit tree or shrub for the containers. You should give it a try even on a balcony. Read our article on growing pomegranate in a pot.

26. Gooseberry

USDA Zones— 3 – 10

Climate— Can be grown in a variety of climates

There are only a few fruits that you can cultivate in the container without any difficulty, and gooseberry is one of them. This shrub is relatively easy to grow, it does not require much maintenance. You can even grow it on your balcony garden. It barely reaches a height of 1 m and starts to fruit heavily.

27. Hebe (Veronica)

USDA Zones— 6 – 10

Climate— A versatile shrub, can be grown in cool temperate to subtropical regions with mild summer.

This small, prolific shrub grows up to 1 m tall. Growing hebe in a container is easy. It is an excellent shrub for urban container gardens. Flowering occurs in summer for many species. Some cultivars produce flowers till fall.

28. Hibiscus

USDA Zones— 5 – 11

Climate— Fortunately, hibiscus grows everywhere. There are hardy hibiscus cultivars that thrive in colder regions (USDA Zone 5 – 8) and tropical hibiscus varieties (9 – 11).

Hibiscus is the most popular flowering shrub. Growing hibiscus in a pot is not difficult. It has one of the most abundant flowers that come in a variety of colors and patterns. It has shallow roots and, hence, it adapts well in pots or containers. Therefore, it is also grown as a houseplant.

29. Hydrangea

USDA Zones— 3 – 11

Climate— The most popular flowering plants are those that grow easily everywhere. Hydrangea is one of them, it grows best in warm temperate climates (best in zones 6 – 8). It is also possible to grow hydrangea in the subtropical region.

With clusters of colorful flowers and big, dramatic leaves, hydrangea a is a stunning addition to any container garden. Plant it in a large, beautiful pot and give it regular watering to enjoy beautiful blooms.

30. Holly

USDA Zones— 5 – 9

Climate— Cool climate with mild summer

Growing holly in containers requires care. It is better to choose a dwarf variety for a container garden.

31. Lantana

USDA Zones— 10 – 11

Climate— Hot tropical climate, it is possible to grow lantana in cooler zones as an annual.

This perennial evergreen shrub is one of the easiest to grow plants in a tropical climate. It thrives on neglect and blooms tirelessly throughout the year. Lantana flowers have fruity fragrance, they a come in a variety of colors.

32. Laurel Bay Leaf

USDA Zones— 8 – 11

Climate— It requires warm, subtropical conditions to grow.

One of the best shrubs you can grow in containers is bay laurel. It is also possible to grow this herb as a houseplant. Read our complete growing guide for more information.

33. Laurustinus (Viburnum Tinus)

USDA Zones— 7 – 11

Climate— A Mediterranean plant that requires warm weather and mild winters to thrive.

Viburnum grows well in containers. Its compact and bushy foliage makes it an excellent hedging plant. Its beautiful pinkish-white flowers are mildly fragrant and appear in winter. The blooming period ends in spring.

Watch the video: Alleghany Viburnum

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