Content Detail

Southern arrowwood, also known as Arrowwood viburnum, is valued for its durability and utility in the landscape. It’s ornamental features include white, flat-topped flowers in late spring, ink-blue fruits in September, and wine-red fall color. The native shrub makes a great screen, informal hedge, and is useful in groupings and masses, or as filler in the border. This plant has some cultivated varieties and a related species. It is highly susceptible to the viburnum leaf beetle.

  • Family (English) Elderberry
  • Family (botanic) Adoxaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Native locale Illinois, North America
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet), 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 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Clay soil, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding, Road salt
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Arching, Mounded, Multi-stemmed, Thicket-forming, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate

Size and form:

It is a dense, multi-stemmed, rounded shrub reaching six to 10 feet high and six to 12 feet wide.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native from Minnesota to Georgia often found in wet or lowland areas, at the base of wooded ravines and along stream banks.

Attracts birds and butterflies:

This shrub is a caterpillar and larval host to the hummingbird moth and a nectar source to red admiral butterflies. The late fruiting season appeals to many species of birds. 

Bark color and texture:

It has gray brown bark with a light fissuring. The stems are known for being straight “as an arrow”, hence the common name Arrowwood.

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

Southern arrowwood has opposite, simple leaves up to four inches long with prominent veins and toothed margins. Lustrous to glossy dark green leaves in summer that turn wine-red in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

It produces creamy white flowers, flat-topped flower clusters, up to four inches in diameter, appear on branch tips although they are unpleasantly scented.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Upright terminal clusters of ink blue fruits ripen in fall. Fruit set is heavier if other viburnum arrowwood cultivars are planted in close proximity and flower at the same time to promote better pollination.

Plant care:

Southern arrowwood grows best in full sun to part shade. The shallow, fibrous root system benefits with a light layer of mulch to moderate soil temperature fluctuation and conserve moisture. Renewal pruning and heading back may be necessary to keep this suckering shrub in bounds. Since it flowers on old stems, prune after flowering.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Highly susceptible to viburnum leaf beetle. It is tolerant of clay soil and black walnut toxicity.

Autumn Jazz® arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum ‘Ralph Senior’):

A compact, vase-shaped form cultivar growing eight to 10 feet high and 10 to 12 feet wide. It’s glossy, dark green leaves turn a combination of yellow-orange-red –burgundy in the fall. This cultivar is a Chicagoland Grows® introduction.

Blue Muffin™ arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum ‘Christom’):

A compact selection reaching five to seven feet high and six to eight feet wide. The medium green foliage turns orange to red in fall and it produces intense blue berries in autumn.

Cardinal™ arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum ‘KLMThree’):

A Roy Klehm introduction maturing to eight to ten feet high and six to eight feet wide. This upright vase-shaped shrubs’ leaves go from burgundy to bright red in autumn.

Chicago Lustre® arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum ‘Synnestvedt’):

This cultivar has a uniform, upright, rounded form reaching eight to 10 feet high and wide. The lustrous, dark green leaves turn a mild red-purple in the fall. This cultivar is a Chicagoland Grows® introduction.

Crimson Tide™ arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum ‘KLMsix’):

With an upright, vase-shape reaching eight to 10 feet tall and six to eight feet wide the leaves turn burgundy-red in fall.

Little Joe™ arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum ‘KLMseventeen’):

A dwarf, rounded form reaching four feet high and wide and purple green fall color. A good pollinator for Blue muffin arrowwood viburnum.

Northern Burgundy® arrowwood viburnum  (Viburnum dentatum ‘Morton’):

An upright habit reaching 10 to 12 feet high and 8 to 10 feet wide. Glossy, dark green leaves turn a burgundy-red in the fall. This cultivar is a Chicagoland Grows® introduction selected from The Morton Arboretum collections. 

Red Feather® arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum ‘JN Select’):

It has a rounded form reaching eight to 10 feet high and 10 to 12 feet wide. The new growth is two-toned, maroon and green, and resembles the feathers at the base of an arrow. It produces two to five inch wide, white flower clusters followed by blue-black berries in autumn. Fall color is reddish-purple.

Related species and their differences

Kentucky Viburnum (Viburnum molle):

This species similar to Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), forms a rounded eight to 12 foot high, upright shrub. The difference is it has gray to brown exfoliating bark. It grows in limestone soils on rocky hills and bluffs in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Missouri. It is difficult to find in the nursery trade.


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