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

Location of Viburnum farreri (Fragrant viburnum) at the Arboretum