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.

May 14, 2020
Snowball Bush (Viburnum Opulus)

Snowball Bush (Viburnum Opulus)

A stunning snowball bush (Viburnum opulus).

Photo by: Shutterstock/Aijaphoto

Shutterstock/Aijaphoto

A stunning snowball bush (Viburnum opulus).

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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 ones. 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

Snowball Bush

Snowball Bush

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.

Snowball Bush Viburnum

Snowball Bush Viburnum

Prolific, easy to maintain snowball bush viburnum with white flower balls growing in a garden.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Ninii

Shutterstock/Ninii

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: 3-9

Size: 8-15 feet tall and 10-18 feet wide

Planting time: Spring or fall

Good to know: Full sun is the key to strongest flowering.

Snowball Bush Varieties

Viburnum opulus ~Roseum~ (01) Spring

Viburnum opulus ~Roseum~ (01) Spring

Viburnum opulus 'Roseum'

Viburnum opulus 'Roseum'

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

Viburnum Plicatum Snowball Viburnum

Opening Day Doublefile Viburnum

Viburnum plicatum

Photo by: BaileyNurseries.com

BaileyNurseries.com

Viburnum plicatum

This viburnum snowball bush opens white flowers in mid-spring. The blossoms are 2 to 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

Viburnum macrocephalum

Viburnum macrocephalum

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

Viburnum carlcephalum

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

Viburnum Plicatum 'Grandiflorum'

Viburnum Plicatum 'Grandiflorum'

Viburnum 'Grandiflorum'

Photo by: Shutterstock/Ann in the UK

Shutterstock/Ann in the UK

Viburnum 'Grandiflorum'

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.

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