How to Grow Chinese Snowball Viburnum Plants

If you like hydrangeas, you will love this flowering shrub

A Chinese snowball viburnum shrub in full bloom displays its white hydrangea-like flowers.

 Viktoriia Kuzmenka / Getty Images

If you like hydrangeas, you are going to love this flowering shrub. The Chinese snowball viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum) is a large shrub in the Viburnum genus. In April and May, it is adorned with hydrangea-like blooms that can reach up to 6-8 inches across, the largest of the viburnum varieties.

Unlike most other species of viburnum, the Chinese snowball’s blooms are both sterile (meaning they do not produce fruit) and fragrance-free. These large blooms make popular cut flowers and make a particular stunning arrangement when several flowers are cut and arranged in a tall vase.

Because of its size, the Chinese snowball viburnum is great as a border plant or living privacy fence, and it can even be trained as a small tree. After the flowering period, the dense, round shrub is relatively insignificant - blending easily into the rest of the landscape and allowing the summer blooms to steal the show. Learn how to grow this stunning viburnum shrub.

Botanical Name Viburnum macrocephalum
Common Name Chinese snowball, Chinese snowball viburnum
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 12-20 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Moist, well-draining
Soil pH 4-6
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 3-8
Native Area China
A Chinese snowball viburnum is in full bloom against a sunset sky.
 Viktoriia Kuzmenko / Getty Images

How to Grow Chinese Snowball Viburnum

Chinese snowball viburnum is a large shrub that can grow up to 20 feet tall. It is characterized by a rounded growth habit, with large, pure white blooms that adorn its branches throughout the spring months. The softball-sized blooms start out lime green and slowly turn white as they mature. This resilient shrub is easy to grow and adaptable to a variety of growing conditions.

Native to mainland China, the Chinese snowball viburnum is deciduous in areas with extreme winter temperatures and evergreen in warmer regions. With the proper light, soil, water, and care it can thrive in a wide variety of environments.

Light

Chinese snowball viburnum can tolerate full sun to part shade conditions. However, for optimal flower production, the Chinese snowball viburnum requires at least 6 hours of full sun a day. Too much shade will cause the shrubs blooms to become sparse and the shrub to become leggy.

Soil

This beautiful shrub needs well-drained, slightly acidic soil for best performance. However, it is tolerable of a wide range of soil conditions and also tolerates alkaline soil well. Avoid soils that hold onto too much water, as Chinese snowball viburnum does not like to be waterlogged.

Water

Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the year for the Chinese snowball viburnum. Depending on the temperature in your area, the watering schedule may vary, but determining and sticking to a watering schedule will help the Chinese snowball viburnum produce the most stunning show of blooms.

Temperature and Humidity

Chinese snowball viburnum is hardy in zones 3-8, so it is accustomed to cold winters. However, it struggles in extremely hot climates where it may need to be shaded from the intense rays of the sun, and require more water and humidity than usual. 

Fertilizer

Fertilize Chinese snowball viburnums at planting, and then annually after flowering. Use an all-purpose fertilizer that is formulated for shrubs for the best results. 

Propagating Chinese Snowball Viburnum

Chinese snowball viburnum can be propagated by softwood cuttings. For best results, take cuttings in the spring from shoots with vigorous new growth. Using clean, sharp pruning shears or scissors, take angled cuttings that are 4-6 inches long. Clean any leaves off of the bottom of the cutting to expose the nodes, and dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone before planting.

Plant the cuttings in a well-draining potting mix. A simple formula of half perlite half peat moss is sufficient. Place the potted cuttings in a plastic bag to keep the humidity high, and then leave them in a brightly lit area out of direct sunlight. Roots should start to grow within 3-4 weeks but this can be variable.

Pruning Chinese Snowball Viburnum

After flowering, the Chinese snowball viburnum can benefit from some light pruning to shape the shrub and trim dead ends. Every couple of years, it can benefit from a more severe pruning to help encourage more plentiful growth. Expect that growth will be slightly stalled during the first growing season following a heavy pruning, but will be vigorous in the following years.