Arrowwood Viburnum Shrubs: Growing Tips

Native Choice for Fall Foliage Color

Picture of arrowwood viburnum's fall foliage.
Arrowwood viburnum's fall foliage is one of its best attributes. Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

Taxonomy, Botany, and Traits of Arrowwood Viburnum Shrubs

Plant taxonomy classifies arrowwood viburnum shrubs as Viburnum dentatum. It is a deciduous bush indigenous to the eastern half of North America.

Arrowwood viburnums are flowering shrubs, bearing a white flower in spring. In autumn, these bushes bear not only attractive fall foliage (see picture), but also bluish berries arranged in clusters.

They reach a height of 6-15 feet, with a similar spread. One type of arrowwood viburnum sold at garden centers is All That Glows™, which is known for its glossy leaves.

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 Requirements, 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 2-8.

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 aesthetics, 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 specific epithet, 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.

Where to Go From Here

Doublefile viburnum is a showier bush to use in one's landscaping if you are primarily interested in flowers. Moreover, as stated earlier, it is more resistant to viburnum leaf beetle. To learn more, read this article on doublefile viburnum.