TREES & plants

Korean spice viburnum

The semi-snowball white flowers of fragrant viburnum

Korean spice viburnum's most notable characteristic is the intoxicating fragrant white flowers that cover the shrub in spring.  The pink to red budded white flowers have a pink blush, leaves are a dull, dark green that turn outstanding wine-red in the fall.  An excellent choice as specimen, in a shrub border, and as a foundation plant. Place it where the fragrant flowers can be enjoyed.

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


Botanical name: 
Viburnum carlesii
All Common Names: 
Korean spice viburnum, Koreanspice viburnum
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen, 
  • Massing, 
  • Foundation, 
  • Mixed border
Size Range: 
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet), 
  • Small shrub (3-5 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: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring, 
  • Mid fall, 
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant, 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Mounded, 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
More Information: 


4 to 8 feet high and wide
Rounded, dense shrub with stiff, upright branch habit

Tree & Plant Care

Full sun  to light shade for best flowering potential
Soil pH adaptable, moist, well-drained soil, except for extremely wet sites.
Prune after flowering
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity

Disease, pests, and problems

Viburnum crown borer

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Korea and Japan

Bark color and texture 

Older stems are gray in color

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite; simple 2 to 4 inch long leaves in pairs; dull green to lustrous, gray-green in color
Fall color is wine red

Dull green leaf of Koreanspice viburnumKorean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)photo: John Hagstrom

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small white flowers in a 2 to 4 inch diameter, semi-snowball shaped cluster; flower buds are pink giving flowers a pinkish tinge.
Extremely fragrant

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Egg shaped-red to black fruit. Not showy or prolific

Cultivars and related hybrids and their differences

Aurora Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii 'Aurora'): 6 to 8 feet high and wide; prolific deep pink-red buds  open to pinkish-white.

Compact Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii 'Compactum'): Dwarf form reaching 3 to 4 feet high; dark green leaves and pinkish-white flowers

Spice Bouquet™ Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii 'N. J. Select'): 4 to 5 feet high and 5 to 6 feet wide; dark rose-pink buds open soft pink flowers

Spice Island™ Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii 'N. J. Select A'): 3 to 5 feet high and wide; red-pink buds, white flowers; dark green leaves, red fall color

Sugar N' Spice™ Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii 'N.J.. Select S'): 4 to 5 feet high and wide; dark green leaves, maroon red fall color

Burkwood viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii) : This hybrid is a cross between V. utile and V. carlesii. It is a densely-branched shrub reaching 8 to 10 foot high and 5 to 7 foot wide, fragrant white, 2 to 4 inch wide flat-topped cymes in April.

Mohawk Buckwood viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii 'Mohawk'): A hybrid of V. burkwoodii x V. carlesii; shiny red buds open to white petals with red blotch; very fragrant; broadly rounded reaching 7 to 8 foot high; dark green leaves turn a reddish purple.

Viburnum carlesii or Korean spice viburnum