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TREES & plants

Fragrant viburnum

Pinkish-white flowers of fragrant viburnum

Fragrant viburnum is an old-fashioned shrub grown for its highly sweet, pinkish-white flowers in early spring. The 4-inch long leaves emerge bronzy-green changing to dark green. Fall color is a reddish purple.  Plants tend to be leggy and best in a mixed borer where smaller plants can mask the bare stems.

Botanical name: 
Viburnum farreri
All Common Names: 
Fragrant viburnum
Family (English): 
Elderberry
Family (Botanic): 
Adoxaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Landscape Uses: 
  • Massing, 
  • Mixed border, 
  • Specimen
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, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Season of Interest: 
  • Early spring, 
  • Mid spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant, 
  • Pink, 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Narrow, 
  • Upright, 
  • Vase-shaped
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow, 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

Size & Form

Often an unkempt, leggy, vase-shaped shrub reaching 8 to 12 feet high and wide

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun to part shade in a protected site. Winter winds can cause tip dieback.
Soil pH adaptable but requires good drainage.
Mulch to conserve moisture and moderate soil temperature.
Flowers on old wood, prune after flowering

Disease, pests, and problems

If not protected, this plant will suffer from stem dieback under exposed conditions.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China in mountainous areas

Fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri)Fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri)photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite, elliptical corrugated (pleated) leaves  with 5 to 6 raised veins.
New leaves emerge bronzy-red, matures to dark green, and then reddish purple fall color.
Petioles are red and smell like green pepper when crushed.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Extremely sweet fragrant clusters of pinkish-red buds opening to 1 to 2 inch white flower panicles 
Late spring freezes can kill flower buds.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Red fruits appear in fall but sparse.

Cultivars and their differences

White fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri 'Alba'): Upright, 8 to 10 feet high, white flowers

Dwarf fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri 'Nanum'):  Dense, compact habit 3 to 4 feet high and wide; pink flowers

Viburnum farreri or Fragrant viburnum