Chinese snowball is under-loved but deserving

Chinese snowballs are perfect counterpoint to black wrought iron fencing. Click image for larger view.

This is a great year to be promoting Chinese snowball viburnums (Viburnum macrocephalum). They’re spectacular as they reach peak bloom in North Central Texas right now. I’m sure they’ve been looking great for a couple of weeks in South and Southeast Texas.

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It’s easy to see where this plant (from China) gets its name. Click image for larger view.

As are so many of our finer landscape shrubs, this shrub is native to the Chinese mainland. It was brought into the U.S. during Colonial times and has remained a recognized commodity ever since. But it’s never become as popular as some of the other spring bloomers. Part of that is because of availability – of lack of it. If you find one at a retail garden center in the next week or two, you’d better grab it. Others are on the hunt with you. You’re most likely to find them in spring while they’re in full bloom.

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Chinese snowballs grow to 12 to 14 ft. tall and 8 to 10 ft. wide. They do best in morning sun with afternoon shade, and they prefer deep, highly organic soil that can be kept uniformly moist at all times. They tolerate drought well, but for best growth, that consistent moisture will help a lot.

Chinese snowballs blooming behind white bridal wreath spiraeas make a pristine spring sight. Both should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming. Click image for larger view.

Any pruning should be done immediately after the spring bloom so that new growth can fill in the voids. Fertilize them after spring bloom with a high-nitrogen, lawn-type food followed by a deep soaking. They have no serious insect or disease issues.

Since the plant has been around for 250 years, it’s the perfect choice for a historic garden. Click image for larger view.

If you’re interested in including Chinese snowball viburnums in your landscape this year, call your favorite independent retail garden centers to ask if they have them in stock. If not, ask if they can order them in for you this spring.

Use Chinese snowballs as tall semi-evergreen screens, accents at corners, or simply as specimen plants in your gardens. Once you do, like me, you’ll never want to be without them.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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