Content Detail

Wayfaring tree is a large, rounded shrub often used for its adaptability and reliability. Thick, dark green leaves, white spring flowers, and beautiful clusters of red to yellow to black berries add to the ornamental appeal. Plants often appear ‘leggy,’ so use near the back of the border, en masse, or in groupings. This is a good plant for naturalizing.

  • Family (English) Elderberry
  • Family (botanic) Adoxaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and form: 

Wayfaring tree grows 10 to 15 feet high and wide. It has an irregular to rounded habit, often being “leggy” at the bottom.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

This plant is native to Europe and Asia.

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

The leaves are opposite, simple and oblong, with a wrinkled appearance. The surface of the leaves is very pubescent or fuzzy to the touch. Dark blue-green to medium green in summer, the thick-textured leaves seldom develop good fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Small, creamy white flowers appear in flat-topped to slightly-domed clusters in spring. They are often malodorous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

Berry-like fruits (drupes) change from yellow to red and black, often with all the colors on the same cluster. Fruiting is maximized when different cultivars are in close proximity.

Plant care: 

Wayfaring tree is adaptable to part shade to full sun. It does best in well drained soil. It flowers on old stems, so prune after flowering in the spring.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Wayfaring tree has no serious problems.

Mohican wayfaring tree viburnum (Viburnum lantana ‘Mohican’):

A compact, 8 to 10 feet high and wide, rounded shrub. It has thick, leathery, dark green leaves that turn a purplish-red fall color.  The attractive orange-red fruit appears in early July and maintains good color for four weeks or more.

Variegatum wayfaring viburnum (Viburnum lantana ‘Variegatum’):

A compact, 8 to 10 feet high and wide cultivar with dark green leaves, with flecks of chartreuse, lime, and gold. It is best planted in part to full shade to avoid leaf burn.


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