Chinese snowball viburnum has a lot going for it:
Virtually no insect or disease pressures, 12-foot
height, spectacular glistening white blossoms, and cut
flowers by the buckets. This makes this heirloom that’s
strutting its stuff right now in the South an absolute
winner and a must-have plant in the zone 6-9 gardens.
get me wrong — I love native viburnums, like the
Southern arrowood, and all they have to offer as a
wildlife habitat for feeding birds and butterflies. This
import from China, however, has stood the test of time
and has to be high on the list of companion plants for
spring-blooming trees and shrubs.
Chinese snowball is known botanically as Viburnum
macrocephalum and is actually related to honeysuckle. It
is for sale usually in small quantities, rarely meeting
demand – perhaps because it does get large, meaning
today’s small urban landscapes usually only have room
for one or possibly two of these.
snowball viburnum produces 6- to 8-inch glistening white
blossoms. A close examination shows the bloom is really
made of dozens of 1-inch florets. The blossoms
almost resemble a cheerleader’s pom-poms. While three
or four flowers would make a dramatic statement, know
that the Chinese snowball produces them by the dozens.
It might make you wonder how a plant can support all of
those huge hydrangea-like blossoms.
Chinese snowball is a large shrub or small tree, well
suited for large gardens where it can be enjoyed from a
distance. It can reach 10 feet tall in five or six
years, pushing 15 feet plus in the south. They are
so prized that you often find them standing alone in the
middle of the landscape. While this shows off your love
and perhaps their beauty it really deserves to be
planted as part of a shrub border with colorful
speaking, I prefer to plant it behind or in combination
with azaleas. It performs best in the same moist but
well-drained shady environment where you would grow an
azalea, and it makes an incredible companion plant,
usually blooming in sequence with the Southern Indica
azaleas. At the Columbus Botanical Garden we have ours
not with azaleas but in a bed partnered with perennials
like the native Stokes asters, lavender obedient plants
and spring bulbs.
a bed for both azaleas and viburnums by working in 3 to
4 inches of organic matter like compost or humus.
Another good option is to plant on raised beds and bring
in prepared landscape planting mixes available at most
your planting hole two to three times as wide as the
rootball but no deeper, planting at the same depth it is
growing in the container. As you prepare the soil,
incorporate 2 pounds of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square
feet of bed space. Feed about four weeks after planting
with a slow-release fertilizer like a 12-6-6 or balanced
8-8-8 at a rate of 1 pound for the same area.
will be a lot of choices when you shop this spring at
your garden center. I hope you will look for viburnums,
both the native and flashy imported Chinese snowball.