Viburnum plicatum

Viburnum plicatum is a deciduous shrub from the Adoxaceae family of plants. They also call it the Japanese Snowball. It is native to Japan and China and grows to about 15ft or 5m tall.

Viburnum plicatum is multibranched, dense, and upright. The foliage is ovate and toothed. The leaves are dark green with prominent veins. “Plicatum” is Latin for pleated, and refers to the strong veins that make the leaves look pleated. They grow about 4 in. or 10 cm long and turn reddish in color in autumn. Viburnum plicatum flowers from April to May. The flowers grow in globe-shaped clusters of white flowers and are sterile.

Botanical Gardens at Victoria Park in Bath, UK
Viburnum at Botanical Gardens at Victoria Park in Bath, UK

An interesting fact: Viburnum plicatum is grown from cultivation and it was probably cultivated from f. tomentosum, however, since Viburnum plicatum was observed first, f. tomentosum was named as a variety. But in fact, it is the other way around, and f. tomentosum is a species found in the wild and the flowers are fertile.

How to grow Viburnum plicatum:

Sunlight Requirements: Viburnum plicatum thrives in both full sun and partial shade. It prefers a location that receives at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day for optimal growth and flowering.

Soil Conditions: Plant Viburnum plicatum in rich, fertile soil that is moist but well-drained. It can tolerate a wide range of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soils. However, ensuring good drainage is essential to prevent waterlogging and root rot. Amend heavy or compacted soils with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve soil structure and fertility.

Watering: Provide regular watering to Viburnum plicatum, especially during dry periods. Keep the soil consistently moist but avoid overwatering, as waterlogged conditions can be detrimental to the plant’s health. Water at the base of the plant, avoiding overhead watering, to prevent the spread of fungal diseases.

Viburnum plicatum
Snowball-like white flowers of Viburnum plicatum

Fertilization: Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer formulated for shrubs in early spring, just as new growth begins. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended application rate. Alternatively, you can use a water-soluble fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season. Fertilizing helps promote healthy growth and abundant blooms.

Pruning: Prune Viburnum plicatum immediately after flowering is complete. This allows the plant to set buds for the following year’s blooms. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches, as well as any crossing or overcrowded stems. To maintain a desired shape or size, selectively prune branches back to outward-facing buds or lateral branches.

Pest and Disease Control: Viburnum plicatum is generally disease-free and pest-free, but it can occasionally be susceptible to some issues. Monitor the plant regularly for signs of aphids, scale insects, or spider mites. If detected, treat the infestation promptly with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil according to the product instructions. Additionally, ensure good air circulation around the plant and avoid overwatering to prevent fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew.

Overwintering: Viburnum plicatum is generally hardy and can tolerate cold winter temperatures. However, in regions with extremely harsh winters, providing some protection can be beneficial. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant in late fall to insulate the roots and conserve soil moisture. If desired, you can also erect a burlap screen or windbreak around the plant to shield it from harsh winds and snow accumulation.

By following these care guidelines, you can successfully grow and maintain Viburnum plicatum, enjoying its beautiful foliage and abundant blooms year after year.

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