How To Care For Doublefile Viburnum Plicatum Plants

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The viburnum plicatum [vy-burn-um, ply-kay-tum] is a deciduous shrub belonging to the Adoxaceae family of flowering plants (previously known as the Caprifoliaceae family) along with the Honeysuckle

It is native to Japan China, Korea, Taiwan, and other temperate regions. 

Flowering Viburnum Plicatum (Japanese Snowball)Flowering Viburnum Plicatum (Japanese Snowball)

The word “plicatum” has Latin roots and means pleated as a reference to the plant’s texture.

Common names of Viburnum plicatum include:

  • Japanese snowball bush
  • Doublefile viburnum

Other cultivars include:

  • Viburnum plicatum var. formosanum Liu & Ou (in Taiwan)
  • Viburnum plicatum var tomentosum ‘Mariesii’
  • Grandiflorum (cultivar)
  • Rotundifolium (cultivar)

Doublefile Viburnum Plicatum Care

Size & Growth

The plant may grow to a maximum height of around 10′ – 12′ feet and spreads over an area of 12′ – 15′ feet. 

The green foliage leaves are on the smaller side growing to a length of 2″ – 4” inches and are around 1″ – 2.5” inches wide.

The plant also consists of small lacecap-like clusters of flowers that have a diameter of 5mm surrounded by a ring of sterile flowers with a diameter of 1″ inch. 

The fruit has an oval-ish look and is around 8-10 mm long.

The growth patterns of the different cultivars are the same and have a medium growth rate.

Flowering and Fragrance

  • The layered horizontal branches consist of inner flower clusters of fertile flowers with a yellowish-white flower color surrounded by a ring of showy sterile pink or white flowers or florets.
  • Eventually, the green foliage turns into beautiful red fall colors.
  • They grow in two rows or files hence the name “doublefile”. 
  • These flowers of this Viburnum plant type don’t have any discernible fragrance.
  • The occasional fruiting with red fruit which eventually turns bluish-black in color. 
  • It starts out as a red berry drupe and eventually turns black as it grows. 
  • It has ornamental purposes and is a source of food for birds.
  • The leaves are dark green and ovate with visible veins and a pleated surface. 
  • These leaves turn burgundy red to reddish purple for fall color.
  • The viburnum plicatum is in full bloom through April and May but retains its leaves even in the winter since it is deciduous.

Light & Temperature

The plant requires a combination of full sun and part shade or partial shade in order to thrive. 

It requires some heat for growth, it may also grow in cold weather but the process will take much longer.

It is recommended for USDA hardiness zone 5-8.

Watering and Feeding

  • The shrubs need to be watered semi-frequently. 
  • The aim is to ensure the soil they are growing in remains moist and doesn’t dry up.
  • Applying fertilizer helps encourage healthy plant growth. 
  • Before selecting your fertilizer, test the pH of the soil. 
  • The fertilizer you choose should ideally make the soil neutral or slightly alkaline in pH.

Soil & Transplanting

The plant is quite drought-resistant but grows best in humusy, medium moist, well-drained soil. 

It may grow in a range of different soils such as loam, sand or clay. 

It grows best in neutral or slightly alkaline soil but will also survive in slightly acidic soil.

Grooming and Maintenance

Viburnum doublefile may be pruned after flowering. 

If you feel like the shrub is spreading too much, prune back to control the shape.

TIP: If you’re pruning lots in the garden, do yourself a favor and pick up a pair of Felco hand pruners.

How to Propagate Doublefile Snowball

Viburnum may be propagated by using softwood or hardwood cuttings although the hardwood may face some trouble in rooting since the plant cells have become quite rigid at this point.

Propagation using softwood cuttings:

  • Softwood viburnum cuttings should ideally be taken in mid-to-late spring since the plant is in bloom and the plant cells are in a state of growth already.  
  • Cuttings should be around 4″ – 6” inches long.
  • Ideally, cuttings should be taken after a rain shower. 
  • Remove the leaves from the lower third of the cutting and plant it in a mix of moistened 50/50 peat and perlite mix. 
  • Insert half of the cutting in the mix with the lower third going in first. 
  • Cover the container in plastic and place it in an area of partial shade. 
  • Make sure the mix remains moist throughout the rooting stage. 
  • This may last around 4 weeks.
pot with cuttings covered in plasticpot with cuttings covered in plastic
pot with plant cuttings covered in plastic

Propagation using hardwood cuttings:

  • For hardwood cuttings, autumn is the best time. 
  • Cuttings should be around 8″ – 10” inches long and a rooting hormone should be applied to encourage it to grow. 
  • Remove any leaves from the cutting. 
  • The remaining steps are the same as for softwood cuttings.
  • By spring, your cuttings will have started to bloom and may be transferred to different containers or garden spaces.

Japanese Snowball Pest or Disease Problems

The plant doesn’t have any serious insect or disease problems. It may however be susceptible to leaf spot.

Is Viburnum Toxic Or Poisonous?

Viburnum plicatum is not toxic for humans or animals and the fruit is actually a source of food for birds. 

It may, however, cause mild stomachs if consumed by people.

Is The Snowball Tree Invasive?

The viburnum plicatum is invasive and may threaten local plant species and animal species. 

Avoid planting it if you are unable to groom your shrubs frequently.

Suggested Viburnum Plicatum Uses 

Viburnum Plicatum has a few landscaping uses, it may be planted as a hedge or to attract bees and butterflies.

The Shasta variety has similar ornamental features and looks great in shrub borders.

The ‘Summer Snowflake’ variety has a long bloom time, all summer and into the fall providing great foliage color which would look great in any garden.

For a pop of pink go with the ‘Pink Beauty’ variety.

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