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. Leaves 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.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Mixed border,
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
- Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Occasional drought,
- Alkaline soil
Season of Interest:
- Mid spring,
- Late spring,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
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, locate 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.