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Doublefile viburnum or Japanese snowball viburnum 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, and have 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 be killed to the ground in winter.  

This profile page also covers Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum. The difference is V. plicatum var. plicatum flowers are snowball-type flower clusters and bloom two to three 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
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), 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, and have pleated upper surface. Dark green in summer, leaves turn burgundy-red to purplish-red 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 spot as doublefile viburnum can die back in cold winters. Flowers on last year’s wood, so 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, with a rounded habit and 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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