90424Long before hydrangea blooms with its distinctively round floral trusses of abundant small flowers, the snowball bush, Viburunum opulus ‘Roseum’, shares its own unique version of similar bloom. Although the cultivar name suggests that the bloom would be pink or red, it is exclusively white. Hydrangea will bloom later, mostly in pink or red, with some in blue or lavender, and a few in white.

The snowball blooms of snowball bush are about thee inches wide, so are smaller than those of hydrangea, and do not last quite as long. They bloom early in spring, without subsequent bloom. The two or three inch long deciduous leaves might turn surprisingly vivid orange and red before defoliating in autumn. Mature specimens easily get taller than ten feet, and might reach fifteen feet.

Snowball bush eventually develops a relaxed and unrefined style that fits nicely into woodsy landscapes. Autumn foliar color is better with full sun exposure, but a bit of partial shades promotes a slightly more open branch structure that displays the spring bloom better. Pruning should be done after bloom. Snowball bush prefers somewhat regular watering and rich soil, but is not too finicky.

16 thoughts on “Snowball Bush

  1. I used to walk by one on my way home from grade School and was entranced with the flowers in springtime. I should get one for my garden.

    Do you find that many viburnum leaves, even on this kind, are stinky when it rains?


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    1. I noticed it on others. I really dislike most viburnums. The foliage is always so raspy and dusty. Viburnum tinus is somewhat naturalized at work. It does not look as pretty as it does in pictures from other regions. I really can not understand why others like it so much. I keep many of them, as if I will eventually learn to like them.


    1. This particular specimen is a garden variety, which may be an improved version of how they would be seen in the wild. Those that I remember when I was a kid were not quite as impressive as these are now. (There were not many around when I was a kid.)


  2. This is one of my favourite plants. I had one but where we live it got too much heat and died. One day when the other trees have grown and there is a little shade I will try again.

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    1. Well, snowballs tend to melt with a bit of heat.
      In the semi arid climate here, the foliage can get roasted if too exposed during warm weather, but it doe not damage established plants too terribly much. It just makes the rather raspy looking, and compromises fall color.

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      1. Hehe very true. If I’d thought to give it shade cloth and extra water for the first year it possibly would have gotten through the summer.

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      2. When you plant, you might want to make sure the soil is not too dense down there. It seems to me that they are susceptible to rot while young too. The first year is the most difficult.

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    1. Hydrangeas are much more common here then snowball bush is. I sort of get bored with hydrangea. I sort of prefer snowball bush because it is not so passe, not that I follow fads.


  3. Long ago in San Jose (Willow Glen) my husband and his sister would have their picture taken in front of the snowball bush if it was blooming on Easter Sunday. 20+ years later, he and I moved to a house with a mature snowball bush growing by the swimming pool. So I know it is at least 30 years old at this point, and I am still tending it, and sometimes decorating my husband’s grave with the flowers!

    I love my bush so much, I kept it in its corner when I re-landscaped the whole garden and took out the pool. In a recent year I spent two days giving it a thorough pruning to cut away the dead wood and rein it in, because it had gotten out of hand again and was encroaching on other plantings. I never water it, but here in the North Bay it has moderate summers, and probably its roots go deep by now and find moisture that has seeped from its neighbors who do get irrigated.

    As you say, sometimes the autumn foliage is spectacular, the best color around. All in all, it’s quite a performer!

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    1. I distinctly remember that snowball bush was more common (although not truly ‘common’) in Willow Glen than in Western San Jose, or regions that are not quite as old as Willow Glen. They must have been popular earlier in history, but were not popular in the 1950s when most of San Jose was developed. the big specimen that I remember in Western San Jose was planted by someone who remembered it from Willow Glen. It is nice to see them in nurseries now, even if they are just modern cultivars. I sometimes see flowering quince too.

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