Sweet Viburnum

The Sweet Viburnum Is A Tree Of Many Talents

Referring to the Sweet Viburnum, Viburnum odoratissimum, as a tree of many talents may be a bit of a stretch, but it certainly is a very attractive tree which enjoys many uses. For whatever reason, this tree is not as popular as it once was, though it is still widely used in both residential and urban landscaping schemes.

Landscape Uses - Although the Sweet Viburnum grows in many parts of the United States, it is hardy in USDA Zones 8 through 10, it is not native to North America but originated in Asia. The Sweet Viburnum may be grown as a handsome small evergreen tree, or planted in groups, and trimmed to form a very dense hedge or screen. It is sufficiently dense such that in many areas it is planted along highways and freeways running through residential areas, as a means of noise control, and for that matter, pollution control. As a tree, hedge, or patio enclosure, it finds many uses in private residences. Growing to a height of around 20' to 25' if not pruned back, and with a spread of anywhere from 15' to 25', the viburnum makes a very fine small shade tree.

The Sweet Viburnum is also found in parking islands, above ground planters, and large containers. It is found in the middle of, or edges of, lawns, and also is frequently the tree of choice for sidewalk cutouts in both residential and urban areas. The evergreen leaves, which are arranged in opposing pairs on the branch stems, can give the tree a very full look. When grown as a tree, the viburnum retains a somewhat open appearance, but when pruned back for use of a shrub, the arrangement of the leaves, and thickness of the branches make is a very dense shrub indeed.

Flowers And Fruit - The leaves are bronze in color when first appearing, but eventually turn a pleasant bright green on the upper surfaces, and a paler green with dark spots on the lower surfaces.  The flowers, which appear in the late spring, are not particularly large, on the order of 1/4" in size, and off-white in color. Once the flowers fade, fruit develops in the form of red drupes (like a blackberry or raspberry), which turn blue-black to black when ripe. Usually only mature trees will bear fruit, and some trees bear only a small amount of fruit, or none at all. The fruit is considered edible, unusual for a member of the viburnum family, and as a matter of fact is quite juicy and sweet.

Propagation - Propagation of the Sweet Viburnum is done by either seeds or cuttings. While it grows easily from seeds, the seeds will not germinate until the following year after they are planted, and for that reason, propagation is most often done by cuttings, which root quite easily. The plant grows best in full to partial sun. If it is located in an area having too much shade, it will grow, but may be rather scraggly in appearance. While the flowers have a light, but somewhat pleasant fragrance, the same cannot be said for the bark or wood, which when crushed or cut, has a very unpleasant smell. The bark is thought to have some medicinal value, though there is little to indicate that this characteristic is often taken advantage of.

The Sweet Viburnum may not be the easiest plant to locate, but if you live in an area where it will grow, which is much of the United States, the search would be well worth the effort. There are so many ways this tree can be used, and so many places in a landscape it seems to fit, that it is almost a shame that more of them are not planted.