Snowball Bush Viburnum: How to Grow
Find out how to grow and care for snowball bush, an old-fashioned shrub known for its masses of beautiful white, snowball-like flower clusters.
Can't get enough of the gorgeous snowball bush? You can easily satisfy your desires because seven different viburnum shrubs go by the name snowball bush. European snowball bush, also known as Viburnum opulus 'Roseum', is probably one of the most common. Other favorites include Japanese snowball bush, typically listed as Viburnum plicatum, and fragrant snowball bush (Viburnum carlcephalum). Chinese snowball bush (Viburnum macrocephalum) is another classic, as is the grand-flowering snowball bush (Viburnum plicatum 'Grandiflorum').
Snowball Bush Care
Snowball bush is relatively easy to grow, is low-maintenance and matures into a large dense bush up to 12 feet tall. It has good drought tolerance. Snowball flowers are green, then turn white and often fade into a rosy pink.
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Loamy, well-drained soil with average moisture
Fertilize: Once a year
Pruning: If plants need pruning, tackle the task right after blooming to avoid reducing flower bud numbers for the next year's blossoms.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
Size: 8' to 15' tall and 10' to 18' wide
Planting time: Spring or fall
Good to know: Full sun is the key to strongest flowering.
Snowball Bush Varieties
European (aka Eastern) Snowball Bush
If you know you want a snowball bush in your yard, do a little homework before hitting the garden center, because there are many snowball bush viburnums available. European snowball bush is Viburnum opulus 'Roseum' and sometimes listed as European cranberrybush or European viburnum snowball bush.
Sometimes it's listed as Viburnum opulus 'Sterile', which is commonly called Eastern snowball viburnum. European snowball bush blooms in spring opening flower clusters that are 3 inches across. The flowers start apple green and age to white. This is one of the oldest recorded viburnums, dating to the 16th century, when it was called "sambucus rose."
If you know you want this plant, one way to make sure it's the flower form you want is by buying it in bloom.
Japanese Snowball Bush
This viburnum snowball bush opens white flowers in mid-spring. The blossoms are 2-3 inches across and fade from white to pink as they age. Fall leaf color features shades of burgundy and purplish red.
Japanese snowball viburnum has, as the name suggests, a connection to Japan. That's the first place this snowball viburnum bush was spotted in a garden setting. Botanically, Japanese snowball viburnum is known as Viburnum plicatum. The species name for Japanese snowball viburnum, "plicatum," means pleated or folded, which describes the leaves on this beauty. The leaves are strongly veined and have an almost ruffled appearance. During the growing season, snowball bush viburnum has green leaves that provide a beautiful backdrop to the spring flower show.
It's an easy-growing shrub that thrives in full sun to part shade.
Chinese Snowball Bush
Chinese snowball bush (Viburnum macrocephalum) opens some of the largest snowball blooms, with flower heads measuring up to 8 inches across. The flowers on Viburnum macrocephalum shift from pale green, to cream, to white. Within one snowball flower, individual blossoms can show different shades at the same time, giving blooms a tricolor effect.
Fragrant Snowball Bush
Viburnum carlcephalum adds a sweet perfume to beautiful snowball bush flowers. It's known as fragrant snowball bush and opens its blossoms toward late spring. The blooms start as pink buds that unfurl to reveal blush pink white flowers. Individual flower globes measure 5 inches across and are made of up to 100 individual blossoms. The scent is rich and pervasive with carnation clove overtones.
Grand-Flowering Snowball Bush
Introduced in the late 1800s, grand-flowering snowball bush (Viburnum plicatum 'Grandiflorum') can be harder to find, but it's worth the search. This snowball bush opens flowers to 3 inches across that are white flushed with tints of pink or apricot. Leaf veins have a reddish tint on the underside, which give them eye-catching pizzazz during the growing season.