TREES & plants

Doublefile viburnum

Doublefile viburnum in full flower.

Doublefile viburnum or Japanese snowball viburnum, Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum, produces 2 to 3 inch wide showy, snowball-type clusters of white flowers in spring.  A dense, upright, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub with somewhat horizontal branching that grows 8 to 12 feet high.  Dark green leaves are strongly-veined, toothed,  with pleated upper surfaces turn a burgundy red to purplish red in fall. Although this shrub is well suited for the Midwestern landscape it can occasionally winter kill to the ground.  

This profile page also covers Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum. The difference is V. plicatum var. plicatum flowers are snowball-type flower clusters and bloom 2 to 3 weeks later than V. plicatum var tomentosum, which has a ring of large, sterile flowers surrounding a large center of small, fertile flowers.


This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name: 
Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum
All Common Names: 
Doublefile viburnum, Japanese snowball viburnum
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen, 
  • Massing, 
  • Mixed border, 
  • Screen
Size Range: 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet), 
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid spring, 
  • Late spring, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Multi-stemmed, 
  • Round, 
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

Size and Form

8 to 10 feet high and 9 to 12 feet wide.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in fulll sun to part shade, in well-drained soil.
Although hardy to the midwest, plant in a protected site. plant can dieback in cold winters.
Flowers on last years wood, prune after flowering

Disease, pests, and problems

Plants can occasionally winter kill to the ground.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Japan and China

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite,  dark green, 4 inch long  leaves are strongly-veined, toothed,  with pleated upper surface.
Dark green in summer turn a reddish purple in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum flowers: Showy, 2 to 3 inch wide snowball-type clusters of white flowers in spring.
Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum flowers:  Up to 4 inches in diameter, large sterile flowers surround central ring of small, fertile flowers.
White flowers have no fragrance.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Viburnum plicatum  var. plicatum produces no fruit.
Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum produces small, red berry-like fruit (drupes).

Cultivars and their differences

Newport™ Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum 'Newzam'): A compact cultivar, 4 to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, rounded habit, white snowball-like clusters of flowers, Thick dark green foliage turns burgundy in fall.

Popcorn Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum 'Popcorn'):  A large cultivar,  8 to 10 feet high rounded  shrub with 3 inch white snowball-type flowers.

Mary Milton Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum 'Mary Milton'): An upright shrub reaching 8 to 10 feet high and 6 feet wide. New foliage is reddish-bronze. Flowers are greenish-pink buds opening to soft pink snowball-like flowers. 

Mariesii Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii'): An old-fashioned shrub reaching 10 feet tall, with layered horizontal branches. Large white sterile blooms. Foliage turns a deep burgundy red in fall.

Summer Snowflake Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Summer Snowflake'):  Compact shrub up to 6 feet high.


Viburnum plicatum var. plicatum or Doublefile viburnum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.