Southern black-haw

Glossy green foliage of Southern black-haw viburnum

Southern black-haw is an attractive large shrub or small tree with lustrous, waxy green foliage, creamy-white flowers in mid-spring, dark blue berries on red stems and shiny, maroon to deep burgundy fall color.  Native to the southeastern United States. A great four-season plant for the Midwest. 

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


Botanical name:

Viburnum rufidulum

All Common Names:

Southern black-haw, rusty black-haw, southern blackhaw, rusty blackhaw

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Specimen,
  • Utility

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet),
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet),
  • Large shrub (more than 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,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil

Season of Interest:

  • Mid spring,
  • Late spring,
  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Irregular,
  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

Size & Form

A large rounded shrub to small tree, often reaching 10 to 20 feet high and wide in the wild, typically 10 to 12 feet in landscape conditions.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in well-drained woodland settings, but can grow in full sun with adequate soil moisture.
Mulch to conserve moisture. Drought tolerant once established.
Flowers on old stems, prune after flowering. 
Root suckers may need to be removed to minimize the width of the plant.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious problems.

Native geographic location and habitat

Southern United States
Found on dry, rocky, wooded slopes and forest edges.

Bark color and texture

Mature bark is grayish brown, thick and blocky. Inner bark is rusty-brown.
New twigs are smooth, pale gray except near the tips where there are small rusty hairs

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite arrangement on branches. Glossy, leathery dark green, oval leaves turn burgundy in autumn.
Terminal buds are 2-scaled and covered with rusty-colored hairs.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Broad clusters (cymes) of small, creamy-white flowers in late-spring.  Flowers have little to no fragrance.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruits ripen in the fall.
Shiny, blue-black fruit (drupe) on red stalks (peduncles).

Cultivars and their differences

Emerald Charm™  Southern black-haw viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum 'Morton'):   A compact shrub growing 10 to 12 feet high and 8 to 10 feet wide.  Dark glossy green foliage turns burgundy in the fall.  Excellent  cold hardiness. A Chicagoland Grows™ introduction.

Royal Guard® Southern black-haw viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum 'Royal Guard'):  A more compact shrub growing 8 to 15 feet high and 6 to 10 feet wide.  Good, rich burgundy fall color.

Southern black-haw (Viburnum rufidulum)
Southern black-haw Emerald Charm
photo: John Hagstrom


Location of Viburnum rufidulum (Southern black-haw) at the Arboretum