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Chinese Snowball Viburnum
Viburnum macrocephalumand

Photo: Dr. Robert Polomski

No Snow Required

When I think of Chinese snowball viburnum, I think about the opening lines of The Adventures of Superman (1952–1958) television series: “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!”

When Chinese snowball viburnum blooms, I sometimes hear passersby tell me: “Look! Those enormous puffball flowers. It’s a hydrangea!” Most of the time they ask me: “What is it?”
Sometimes I jokingly tell them that it’s a hydrangea on steroids, but all of the time I tell them that it’s a viburnum. Technically, it’s Viburnum macrocephalum, but most folks call it snowball viburnum.

Like the "Man of Steel," Chinese snowball viburnum is a tough, durable, and awe-inspiring vase-shaped shrub. It tolerates drought and has no pest problems. Expect Chinese snowball viburnum to grow to a robust height of 12 to 15 ft. with a comparable spread. I enjoy watching the small cauliflower-like flower buds give rise to Granny Smith green inflorescences that turn bright white as they open to 5-8 inch diameter puffballs. Sadly, they lack any fragrance, and they are sterile so expect no fruit.

For six to eight weeks Chinese snowball viburnum upstages other shrubs and trees in the landscape as a stand-alone specimen or in a shrub border. In the fall, this shrub produces a smattering of flowers, almost like a movie trailer that fuels your anticipation for next Spring’s floral performance.
Chinese snowball viburnum should be sited in a prominent well-drained location in full sun to part shade. I hope you consider growing or simply admiring this super shrub.