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This native viburnum offers ornamental interest throughout the seasons; flowers in spring, red fruit in late summer and red fall color.  This American species (Viburnum opulus var. americanum; syn. Viburnum trilobum) is a better choice than the similar European cranberry-bush which has become an invasive plant in some areas.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.    

  • Family (English) Elderberry
  • Family (botanic) Adoxaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early fall, late spring, late summer, mid fall, mid spring
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Arching, Multi-stemmed, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and form:

American cranberry-bush grows 8 to 12 feet high and wide. It is often upright, multi-stemmed, rounding with age. 

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 10. Commonly found in wet or swampy sites but will tolerate drier sites once established. Native to northern North America, from Newfoundland west to British Columbia, south to Washington state and east to northern Virginia. 

Bark color and texture

The bark is smooth, gray-brown with large lenticels.  It splits into irregular cracks with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

Opposite, maple-like, 3-lobed leaves are up to 5 inches long. Each leaf has irregular teeth on margins; dark green changing to reddish-purple fall color.Petioles are 1 inch long and have flat-topped glands at base of leaf blade, which is a good identifying indicator.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Flowers appear in June after the leaves emerge. Large 4 to 5 inch, white, lacecap flower clusters contain small, fertile flowers surrounded by showy, sterile flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Red, berry-like fruits (drupes) resembling cranberries are edible.

Plant care:

The American cranberry-bush prefers well-drained to moist soil in full sun or part shade. It is adaptable to soil pH. It flowers on old wood, so prune after flowering. It has a moderate tolerance of aerial salt spray.

 Pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Viburnum crown borer and viburnum leaf beetle can both be problems for this shrub.

These plants are a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

Bailey Compact American Cranberry-bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum ‘Bailey Compact’):

Compact, dwarf rounded form; 5 to 6 feet high and wide; deep red fall color.

Dwarf American Cranberry-bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum  ‘Compactum’): 

Compact cultivar growing 5 to 6 feet high and wide; white lacecap flowers and red fruit;  the fall color is yellow.

Hahs American Cranberry-bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum ‘Hahs’):

Selected for better, larger fruit production;  grows 6 to 8 feet high and wide; dark green foliage turns red in fall.

Redwing® J.N. Select Cranberry-bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum ‘J.N. Select’):

Newly emerging leaves have a hint of red; white flowers appear mid-to-late spring; persistent bright red fruit, and consistently red fall color.  Good flower and fruit production. A Chicagoland Grows™ introduction.


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