Content Detail

Downy arrowwood is a little known native viburnum that has ornamental characteristics similar to the more commonly planted southern arrowwood. It may be difficult to find in local nurseries.

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
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Dry soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Oval, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size & Form:

The downy arrowwood is a bushy shrub reaching 5 to 6 feet high and wide. It can form dense colonies.

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 5 This plant is common in wooded areas.

Bark color and texture:

The downy arrowwood’s young stems are smooth, reddish brown with a silvery-gray coating. Older stems are reddish-brown to gray-brown with rust-colored lenticels.

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

The leaf arrangement is opposite, and the leaves are 2 to 3 inch long and wide, ovate leaves with distinct teeth along irregular margins. Leaves are a dark green color turning purplish-red in fall and have short petioles that are channeled with a pair of stipules at the base of the leaf.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

The downy arrowwood flowers are creamy white with 3-inch clusters which are flat-topped to slightly domed. Flowers are slightly malodorous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

This shrub has berry-like fruit (drupes) clusters that ripen to bluish-black.

Plant care:

The downy arrowwood is adaptable to sun or shade.  It prefers well drained soil, but needs supplemental water in full sun conditions. It is tolerant of heat and drought once established. Prune after flowering as next year’s buds are set on current season growth (old wood).

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Downy arrowwood has no serious pest or disease problems.


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