How to Grow Snowball Bush Viburnum

closeup of snowball viburnum

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Snowball bush viburnum is a popular and easy-to-grow landscape plant native to Europe and Asia. This large, moderately-quick growing shrub forms an upright dense mound and features 3-inch round clusters of flowers (resembling, of course, a snowball) that start out apple-green and morph to white, eventually fading to a rosy color similar to hydrangeas. Best planted in the fall, snowball bush viburnum flowers each spring, followed by clusters of red berries that eventually ripen to black. The leaves of the bush are dark emerald green and somewhat resemble the leaves of maple trees. Like maple trees, the leaves of the snowball bush viburnum can turn reddish-orange in the fall, making it a perfect year-round landscape addition and specimen plant for spring or fall.

Botanical Name Viburnum x carlcephalum
Common Name Snowball bush viburnum, fragrant snowball, European cranberrybush
Plant Type Deciduous shrub
Mature Size 6–12 ft. tall, 6–10 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Average, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral to acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White, light pink
Hardiness Zones 6–8 (USDA)
Native Area Europe, Northern Africa, Central Asia
Toxicity Non-toxic
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Watch Now: How to Care for a Snowball Bush (Viburnum opulus)

snowball bush
The Spruce / Autumn Wood
closeup of snowball bush
​The Spruce / Autumn Wood
Viburnum opulus 'roseum' image.
You can easily see why Viburnum opulus 'roseum' is called the "snowball bush." David Beaulieu
A tall snowball bush in the Swiss Alps
Rosmarie Wirz / Getty Images

Snowball Bush Viburnum Care

The snowball bush viburnum is relatively easy to care for. You can plant it in the spring or fall; make sure to dig a shallow and broad hole that is as deep as the root ball but two to three times wider. Fill the hole with the removed soil, with the root crown remaining about two inches above the soil level. Water the newly planted bush well and place mulch around it about four inches deep.

When choosing a spot for your plant, keep in mind that it will grow fairly large. Pick a spot that will provide lots of sun and allow for the mature size of the bush. Since this deciduous bush can compete with native plants for soil nutrients and habitat space, many states have declared this plant an invasive, ecological threat. Because of this, solitary placement could assist in ensuring the viburnum does not interfere with the health of other native plants. Once established, the shrub will be low maintenance. It should be fertilized only once per year and you may want to do some pruning.

Light

The best location for the shrub will be one in full sun, especially in cooler Northern states. The snowball bush likes at least six hours of sunlight per day in order to produce the biggest masses of flowers. A location in partial shade may be advisable for gardeners in a location that gets consistently warmer weather.

Soil

The snowball bush prefers well-drained, loamy soil but it isn't too particular and will grow well in many different soil types. It also tolerates a wide range of soil pH, but slightly acid is best.

Water

Water your snowball bush enough to keep its soil evenly moist, as it does not like dry ground. A suggested schedule is weekly, but you should plan to water it more often if experiencing extreme heat. Additionally, you can conserve soil moisture by applying a three-inch layer of landscape mulch around your shrub, which will have the bonus effect of suppressing weeds.

Temperature and Humidity

The snowball bush can tolerate fairly harsh winters and is drought-hardy once established. Additionally, it doesn't have any special humidity needs.

Fertilizer

Fertilize your snowball bush plant in the spring with a slow-release fertilizer, or work compost into the earth around the plant at any time. Be careful not to go overboard—fertilizing too much can inhibit the plant's blossoms.

Snowball Bush Viburnum Varieties

While there are several different plants that have commandeered the name "snowball bush" over the years, there are only a few other cultivars of the true snowball bush viburnum:

  • "Compactum": This varietal grows to six feet tall, about half of the size of the usual snowball bush.
  • "Nanum": A dwarf variety that grows only two feet tall and three feet wide.
  • Carlesii: This varietal is highly fragrant and has smaller flower clusters.

Pruning Snowball Bush Viburnum

Prune lightly if needed (for example, if you are growing it in a tight spot) just after the flowering period is over. You can cut the flowers to use in floral displays—if you aren't cutting them, pinch off the spent blossoms to encourage new growth.

Common Pests and Diseases

Like most plants, you may occasionally have to treat this shrub for disease problems or bug infestations, but preventive measures can be taken. It is a good idea to leave space between your snowball bush and other plants to reduce the chance of attack by bacterial leaf spot or powdery mildew. Aphids are also a common problem for the snowball bush—if you notice them on the leaves, spray the bush with an organic insecticide like neem oil.