Viburnum is a lovely group of shrubs year-round, but my appreciation for them always soars in fall. That’s when the bright red berries of American highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) shine on the bush in my backyard.
The genus Viburnum includes about 150 species of shrubs and small trees. Many of them are very hardy and thrive in northern gardens. They do best in full sun, but many can handle significant shade. They aren’t picky about soil and you can find viburnum that grow well in wet and dry soils. Some even tolerate soils where walnut has grown. The hardest part is picking the right viburnum for your yard!
While most viburnum grow 6 feet or more tall and about that wide, you can get cultivars and species in a variety of sizes. Dwarf European viburnum grows only 2-feet tall while nannyberry (V. lentago) is a stunner at 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. I have two kinds of viburnum in my yard: the very popular, versatile highbush cranberry and a new cultivar called Blue Muffin™, which is an arrowwood viburnum and will stay about 5 feet tall. I have several growing in a hedge and they have a wonderful vase shape and beautiful leaves.
Most viburnum offer several seasons of interest. In spring, they have flat, large white flowers. Many also have red or blue berries, which persist into the winter and can be great bird food. The fall color is bright and adds to the beauty of the autumn garden. Viburnum are very wildlife friendly, and I’ve often found birds (robins, brown thatchers) nesting in viburnum shrubs.