What Is a Sweet Viburnum?

Rebecca Cartwright
Rebecca Cartwright
Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Sweet viburnum is a small tree or large shrub in the Caprifoliaceae, or honeysuckle, family. The scientific name of this species is Viburnum odoratissimum. It is a broad leaf evergreen native to Asia, and is often planted as an ornamental shrub in the southern United States and other sub-tropical areas. Both common and scientific names refer to the multitude of small, sweet-smelling white flowers that appear on the tree in the spring. The display of flowers, and sweet viburnum's ability to grow into several different shapes, can make it suitable for many uses in the landscape.

If left to grow naturally a sweet viburnum usually matures into a small tree with a maximum height of 20 to 30 feet (about (about 6 to 9 m) with a canopy about 15 feet (about 4.5 m) wide. Mature tree form specimens have a somewhat open branch structure. With regular pruning, sweet viburnum can also be grown as a large, bushy, shrub or an upright columnar shrub or tree. Several sweet viburnums, planted about 5 feet(about 1.5 m) apart, measured from center to center, can be grown into a hedge. Sweet viburnum hedges are very dense and often make a good visual or noise barrier.

The leathery leaves are glossy and vary from bright to dark green depending on the individual plant and its setting. Oval in shape, the leaves have small serrations along their edges. The leaves average 4 to 8 inches (about 10 to 20 cm) long. Deer generally do not find them palatable, making sweet viburnum a possible addition to deer resistant landscaping.

In the spring sweet viburnum is covered with large clusters of tiny white flowers each less than an inch (about 2.5 cm) long. The flowers, which attract butterflies, range from pure to cream-white and are very fragrant. Tiny red berries follow the flowers and turn black as they mature. Birds are frequently attracted by the berries when they are ripe. The berries also add visual interest to both tree and shrub forms of the plant.

Sweet viburnum is usually recommended for USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10. Although the plant has some shade tolerance, it usually grows best in full to partial sun. Soil type is not considered critical for this plant as it often does well in a range of clay and sandy soils. It also tolerates both acid and alkaline conditions. Good drainage is highly recommended along with regular, moderate watering.

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