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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.  Burkwood viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii), is a related species also listed below with cultivars.  Go to related species and a list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Viburnum carlesii

All common names:

Korean spice viburnum, Koreanspice viburnum

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Specimen

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


  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • late spring,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Mounded,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:

Size & Form

A rounded, dense shrub with stiff, upright branch habit.
4 to 8 feet high and wide.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun to light shade for greatest 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.

Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)
Korean 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 feet high and 5 to 7 feet wide, fragrant white, 2 to 4 inch wide flat-topped cymes in April.

Mohawk Burkwood 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 feet high; dark green leaves turn a reddish purple.

Location of Viburnum carlesii (Korean spice viburnum) at the Arboretum