Snowballs In Two Sizes

Close-up of popular snowball viburnum

Overall of a large snowball shrub in flower – about 10 years old

Not so common Japanese snowball viburnum close-up

Overall of a mature Japanese viburnum. Size is about 5 feet high and wide.

My snowball viburnum is stealing the show in our front yard and rightly so. This large shrub is covered with white blooms with flower clusters up to a foot across. It is a rank unkept large shrub with shoots towering upward to 15 plus feet. It is a great plant for a large space where it can grow without pruning. But if your space is more limited, there is an alternative – Japanese snowball viburnum (Viburnum plicatum). As you can see from the image its flowers are smaller, but cover the plant just like the familiar snowball, but it grows not even half the size of the common snowball. While it is hard to find in the metro area, it is readily available from mail order sources. And whether big or small, each likes the same cultural conditions. Give it full sun or part sun, well drained soil (the more fertile the better), and ample water when it is dry, and you will easily grow either of these two species. As a whole, the entire group of viburnums (and trust me there are lots of types) are not used enough in Birmingham landscapes.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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