Compact Koreanspice Viburnum in bloom

Compact Koreanspice Viburnum in bloom

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Compact Koreanspice Viburnum flowers

Compact Koreanspice Viburnum flowers

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 5 feet

Spread: 5 feet


Hardiness Zone: 5a

Other Names: Koreanspice Viburnum, Korean Spice


A smaller and dense mounded shrub with small intoxicatingly fragrant white flowers on stiff upright branches, followed by blue berries; perfect for small groupings; wine red fall color

Growing Place Choice Plants

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Ornamental Features

Compact Koreanspice Viburnum is bathed in stunning balls of fragrant white flowers with pink overtones at the ends of the branches in mid spring, which emerge from distinctive red flower buds. It has green foliage throughout the season. The small oval leaves turn brick red in fall. The black fruits are held in clusters from late summer to late fall.

Landscape Attributes

Compact Koreanspice Viburnum is a dense multi-stemmed deciduous shrub with a more or less rounded form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This shrub will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season’s flowers. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies to your yard, but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Compact Koreanspice Viburnum is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Mass Planting
  • Hedges/Screening
  • General Garden Use

Planting & Growing

Compact Koreanspice Viburnum will grow to be about 5 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 5 feet. It has a low canopy, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 40 years or more.

This shrub does best in full sun to partial shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

Viburnum carlesii

  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Shrub Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Habit/Form: Rounded Growth Rate: Slow Maintenance: Low Texture: Medium
  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Black Blue Display/Harvest Time: Fall Summer Fruit Type: Drupe Fruit Length: < 1 inch Fruit Width: < 1 inch Fruit Description: 0.3 in. red drupe turns bluish-black in fall

  • Flowers: Flower Color: Pink White Flower Inflorescence: Cyme Flower Value To Gardener: Fragrant Showy Flower Shape: Tubular Flower Size: < 1 inch Flower Description: Inflorescence is a dense, terminal, hemispherical cyme, 2-3 inches across. Flowers are pinkish to red in bud, white, fragrant, to half an inch.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Leaf Color: Brown/Copper Gray/Silver Green Deciduous Leaf Fall Color: Brown/Copper Red/Burgundy Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Opposite Leaf Shape: Elliptical Ovate Leaf Margin: Serrate Hairs Present: Yes Leaf Length: 3-6 inches Leaf Width: 1-3 inches Leaf Description: 2-4 inch long dull dark green to gray-green leaves in pairs, that are copper-colored when young. Undersides are pubescent. Not reliable for fall color.
  • Stem: Stem Is Aromatic: No
  • Landscape: Landscape Theme: Cottage Garden Design Feature: Hedge Specimen Resistance To Challenges: Deer

Viburnum Carlesii, Koreanspice viburnum

All the viburnums are garden worthy shrubs with all season interest, but this one, the first I had ever grown, remains my favorite. It is open and graceful, while generously free with its sweet fragrance in the spring. In my present garden it survives while looking wonderful in a very shady spot near the house and under trees. When I grew it formerly in the sunniest spot on the west side of a city house, it was even better.

This viburnum can take a great deal of pruning to stay within a specific space, or as an espalier. It will give you medium sized balls of creamy white, fragrant (thus the designation “spice”), 2″ to 3″ cymes of flowers in the month of April. The foliage is a grayish medium green, a bit dusty for the remainder of the summer (actually more attractive than that makes them sound), but in early fall ovate rosy berries show, and the foliage takes on tints of coral, while the berries then turn a dark black red. Overall, a pretty good show.

Viburnum carlesii

As noted, it likes afternoon sun, but will tolerate shade and still bloom, albeit in the upper parts of the bush which will receive the best light. the preference is for rich, moist soil and full sun. However, it takes a wide range of soil conditions and isn’t fussy. Hardy to zone 4. Widely vase shaped and very open when grown naturally. Grows 5’–6′ high to 5′ wide, although it can get larger. Blooms late March through April depending on situation; here, it blossoms in April. Reputed to need “summer days with high heat”, it certainly receives that here in the Midwest.

A word about fertilizers: if spring blooming shrubs are fertilized too heavily they may not flower well.

I have found all my viburnums to grow larger than the heights and widths given in most garden literature. while V.carlesii responds well, and looks good, to severe pruning, that cannot be said for many of the other types.

Key cultivation information for Viburnum Carlesii

  • pH: various
  • hardiness: zones 4 to 7
  • sun to part shade
  • moisture: moderate, but will take dryness when well established
  • slow growth rate
  • heat tolerant
  • use well balanced fertilizer, sparingly
  • blooms: spring, white tinged with pink
  • berries: fall

It is not without problems, although I personally have not experienced any. Problems listed:
Viburnum beetle, gray mold (Botrytis), rust, downy mildew, powdery mildew, wood rot, Verticillium wilt, leaf spots, and dieback. Aphids, scale insects, weevils, Japanese beetles, mealybugs, and tree hoppers.*

Origin: Korea, Japan

V. carlesii berries

Besides the beautifully intoxicating aroma, Koreanspice viburnums attract butterflies (but you have to allow the caterpillars to feed), and the berries attract and feed songbirds. The leaves color up nicely in the fall, and it is a gracefully formed shrub.

Presently I am growing English ivy and lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) underneath. All these plants are competing with greedy maple roots. If the conditions were more ideal, with sunshine and organic material amending the soil beneath, I would grow an array of little bulbs, followed by true geraniums of either the harmonious Geranium ibericum ‘Johnson’s Blue’ or more intense hybrid ‘Rozanne’. Those should match up with some autumn tints of rosy red, as well. The lily of the valley give a contrasting golden fall color, and extend the joy of fragrance in the springtime. I also have Aquilegia canadensis interspersed in this group and it is very lovely with the Korean spice bush, wholly different in flower form and giving a light gracefulness.

Viburnum carlesiiV. carlesii berriesV. carlesii autumn tints
tight flower bud full of promisedark berries of viburnum carlesii

Resources used for this article:
Pictures of V.carlesii
*Fine Gardening Plant Guide
Iowa State “Spectacular Spring Flowering Shrubs”

Viburnums Are Versatile Shrubs

Viburnums that excel from season to season

I would be hard pressed to pick just a handful of exceptional viburnums, so this hefty chart lists a few dozen. Bloom times are for Zone 6. Semi-evergreen means that the shrub holds some or all of its leaves in a mild winter. Unless noted, viburnums grow well in moist, well-drained soil in full sun, but will also tolerate partial shade. North American native viburnums and their cultivars are indicated by an asterisk.

V. carlesii (Mayflower viburnum, Korean spice viburnum)
Height and width: 10-12 x 7-8 ft. Flowers: pink buds open white, very fragrant snowballs. Bloom time: May. Fruit: red to blac. Comments: dense shrub with upright spreading branches. Zones: 4-7

V. carlesii ‘Compactum’
Height and width: 4 x 4 ft. Flowers: pink buds open white, very fragrant. Bloom time: May. Fruit: red to black. Comments: very dark-green foliage turns wine-red in fall; excellent for borders. Zones: 4-7

V. opulus ‘Xanthocarpum’ (yellow-fruited European cranberry bush)
Height and width: 6 x 6 ft. Flowers: white lacecap. Bloom time: Ma. Fruit: yellow fruit, persistent. Comments: excellent compact form; lime-green foliage turns yellow in fal. Zones: 3-7

V. opulus ‘Nanum’ (dwarf European cranberry bush)
Height and width: 2 x 3 ft. Flowers: white snowball. Bloom time: May. Fruit: rarely produces frui. Comments: excellent fall color; good for small hedge; does not tolerate wet soil. Zones: 3-7

V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Newport’ (doublefile viburnum)
Height and width: 5 x 5 ft. Flowers: white snowball; light fragrance. Bloom time: Ma. Fruit: rarely produces fruit. Comments: dark-green leaves turn burgundy in fal. Zones: 5-8

V. sargentii ‘Onondaga’ (‘Onondaga’ Sargent viburnum)
Height and width: 12 x 6 ft. Flowers: maroon lacecap flower with white floret. Bloom time: Ma. Fruit: scarlet. Comments: new foliage is maroon; must have moist soil. Zones: 3-7

V. trilobum ‘Wentworth’ (Wentworth cranberry bush)
Height and width: 8 x 6 ft. Flowers: white lacecap. Bloom time: May. Fruit: yellow to bright red, persisten. Comments: red fall color; excellent for winter garden. Zones: 2-7

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