Arrowwood Viburnum Shrubs: Growing Tips

Native Choice for Fall Foliage Color

Picture of arrowwood viburnum's fall foliage.
Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

Botany, Traits of Arrowwood Viburnum Shrubs

Plant taxonomy classifies arrowwood viburnum shrubs as Viburnum dentatum. They are deciduous bushes native to the eastern half of North America. This plant is part of the honeysuckle family.

Arrowwood viburnums are flowering shrubs, bearing clusters of white flowers in spring. In autumn, these bushes bear not only attractive, reddish fall foliage, but also bluish berries.

They reach a height of 6 to 15 feet, with a similar spread. Two types of arrowwood viburnum sold at garden centers that are known for their glossy leaves are:

  1. All That Glows
  2. All That Glitters

Care: Pruning, Viburnum Leaf Beetle Control

Remove the suckers from these bushes if you wish to keep them contained within a specific area of your landscaping, else they will spread. Likewise, if you wish to control their height, prune once per year after flowering is done.

The viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) has become a major problem for viburnums in Europe and North America. Both the adult beetles and their larvae eat the leaves of these bushes. If not controlled, this pest can defoliate your shrubs completely, leading to their death.

How do you control viburnum leaf beetles? It is a matter of knowing their life cycle. Females penetrate the bark on the undersides of twigs in summer and lay their eggs, which overwinter in the cavities thus created.

You will know that eggs have been laid by the leaf beetle if you see a row of dark spots on the underside of a twig. So the best way to control them is to prune off such twigs (and properly dispose of them). This will remove the egg masses before they can hatch in spring. As is typically the case when you are trying to control a pest or disease, it is also a good idea to prune off dead branches whenever you find them.

There is also a preventative approach that you can take to control viburnum leaf beetle if you are still in the plant-selection stage and have not yet chosen a particular type of viburnum to grow. Some species of viburnum are more susceptible than others, according to Cornell's Dept. of Horticulture. Arrowwood viburnum, in fact, is one of the highly susceptible kinds. The North American natives, in general, are the most susceptible. So consider growing a type that is Asian in origin; here are three that are listed as the most resistant to leaf beetles:

  1. Doublefile viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii')
  2. Siebold's viburnum (V. sieboldii)
  3. Korean spice viburnum (V. carlesii)

Sun and Soil Needs, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

Arrowwood viburnum shrubs are nothing if not versatile. They will tolerate a range of soils, including wet soils and acidic ones. Likewise, you can grow these bushes in full sun, but you are not restricted to locations with bright sunshine: For homeowners not blessed with ample sunlight, happily, these are shrubs that grow in shade (partial shade or full shade).

Arrowwood viburnum shrubs can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 2 to 8.

Landscaping Uses for Arrowwood Viburnum Shrubs and Wildlife Interest

Because they will tolerate wet soils, they are one of the good choices for areas of the yard that are too wet for many other plants.

Arrowwood viburnum shrubs are also versatile in terms of the beauty that they offer to the landscape, as they are attractive in both spring and fall. North Americans should consider them when seeking shrubs with good fall foliage color. And their shade-tolerance makes them suitable in woodland gardens.

These bushes attract several types of butterflies. In addition, they provide the necessary cover to encourage wild bird activity in the yard, because they form dense thickets. The wild birds will also eat the berries.

Origin of the Names

The origin of the species name, dentatum, lies in the leaves' deeply toothed margins (dent- is the Latin stem for "tooth"). The common name, "arrowwood" viburnum derives from the Native Americans' use of its strong, straight basal shoots as arrow shafts. This common name is often misspelled, with one W dropped (a double W is unusual in English).

Indeed, it is relatively rare in the English language to find a word that is less than ten letters in length yet has three sets of double letters, as is the case with a-r-r-o-w-w-o-o-d.

Other Types of Viburnum Bushes

  1. Burkwood viburnum (V. x burkwoodii): Burkwood (8 to 10 feet tall, with slightly less of a spread, at maturity; zones 4 to 8) is a popular shrub, because it offers many good qualities. Its glossy leaves and fragrant flowers may be its most obvious selling points. But, depending on the cultivar you choose, you can find much more to like about Burkwood. Two recommended by horticulturist, Michael Dirr are 'Conoy,' which is more compact (5 to 6 feet tall, 6 to 8 feet wide) and 'Mohawk,' which is grown for its orange-red-purple fall color.
  2. Doublefile viburnum: This beetle-resistant bush is showier to use in one's landscaping than arrowwood if you are primarily interested in flowers. 
  3. Korean spice viburnum: Not only is this kind beetle-resistant, but it is also very fragrant.
  4. Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium): Grow the mapleleaf type if what you are looking for is not only a shrub with great fall color, but also one that offers unique color. For mapleleaf viburnum sports an unusual pinkish fall foliage. Grown in zones 3 to 8 and reaching 4 to 6 feet high and wide, this bush, like arrowwood, is native to the eastern part of North America. It tolerates drought, as well as shade.
  5. Snowball Bush viburnum (V. opulus 'Roseum'): The common name says it all. Gardeners grow snowball bush for the rounded shape of its white flower heads.