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 ell 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- to 8 inch diameter puffballs. Sadly, they lack any fragrance, and they are sterile so expect no fruit.
For 6 to 8 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.
Bob Polomski © 2016