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Doublefile viburnum or Japanese snowball viburnum, Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum, produces 2 to 3 inch wide showy, snowball-type clusters of white flowers in spring.  A dense, upright, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub with somewhat horizontal branching that grows 8 to 12 feet high.  Dark green leaves are strongly-veined, toothed, with pleated upper surfaces. Leaves turn a burgundy red to purplish red in fall. Although this shrub is well suited for the Midwestern landscape it can occasionally winter kill to the ground.  

This profile page also covers Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum. The difference is V. plicatum var. plicatum flowers are snowball-type flower clusters and bloom 2 to 3 weeks later than V. plicatum var tomentosum, which has a ring of large, sterile flowers surrounding a large center of small, fertile flowers.

  • Family (English) Elderberry
  • Family (botanic) Adoxaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Native locale Non-native
  • 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 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and Form:

Doublefile viburnum grows 8 to 10 feet high and 9 to 12 feet wide.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to Japan and China.

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

Opposite, dark green, 4 inch long leaves are strongly-veined, toothed, with pleated upper surface. Dark green in summer turns a reddish purple in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum flowers: Showy, 2 to 3 inch wide snowball-type clusters of white flowers in spring.

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum flowers:  Up to 4 inches in diameter, large sterile flowers surround central ring of small, fertile flowers.

White flowers have no fragrance.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Viburnum plicatum  var. plicatum produces no fruit. Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum produces small, red berry-like fruit (drupes)

Plant care:

Best in full sun to part shade, in well-drained soil. Although hardy to the Midwest, site in a protected site as Doublefile viburnum can dieback in cold winters. Flowers on last years wood, prune after flowering.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

Shrubs can occasionally winter kill to the ground.

Newport™ Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum ‘Newzam’):

A compact cultivar, 4 to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, rounded habit, white snowball-like clusters of flowers, Thick dark green foliage turns burgundy in fall.

Popcorn Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum ‘Popcorn’):

A large cultivar,  8 to 10 feet high rounded shrub with 3 inch white snowball-type flowers.

Mary Milton Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum ‘Mary Milton’):

An upright shrub reaching 8 to 10 feet high and 6 feet wide. New foliage is reddish-bronze. Flowers are greenish-pink buds opening to soft pink snowball-like flowers. 

Mariesii Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’):

An old-fashioned shrub reaching 10 feet tall, with layered horizontal branches. Large white sterile blooms. Foliage turns a deep burgundy red in fall.

Summer Snowflake Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Summer Snowflake’):

Compact shrub up to 6 feet high.

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