Japanese Snowball Care: Learn About Japanese Snowball Trees

Japanese snowball trees (Viburnum plicatum) are likely to win a gardener’s heart with their lacy white globes of flower clusters hanging heavy on the branches in spring. These large shrubs look like they could require a lot of maintenance, but Japanese snowball care is really quite easy. Read on for more Japanese snowball information, including how to plant a Japanese snowball tree.

About Japanese Snowball Trees

Topping out at 15 feet, Japanese snowball trees might better be termed shrubs. Japanese snowball information gives a range of 8 to15 feet for mature height, and a little larger for mature spread. Snowballs are upright, multi-stemmed shrubs.

Japanese snowball trees flower heavily in spring. The pure white clusters appear in April and May, some reaching 4 inches wide. The clusters include both showy, 5-petaled infertile flowers and small fertile flowers. Butterflies enjoy visiting the snowball flowers.

The fruits of the Japanese snowball ripen as summer wanes. The small oval fruits mature in late summer, turning from red to black. Japanese snowball information confirms that the fruits are a source of food for wild birds.

The rounded, green leaves of Japanese snowballs trees are attractive, and create dense foliage in summer. They turn yellow, red or purple in fall, then drop, revealing the shrub’s interesting branching structure in winter.

How to Plant a Japanese Snowball Tree

If you want to learn how to plant a Japanese snowball tree, you’ll be happy to hear that it isn’t difficult. These shrubs thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8, where they are extremely easy to grow. Plant the seedlings in part shade or full sun.

Japanese snowball care is quite easy, as long as you plant your shrubs in well-draining soil. They tolerate many different kinds of soil as long as the drainage is good, but they do best in moist, slightly acidic loam.

These plants are drought tolerant once established. However, early Japanese snowball care includes generous irrigation for the first growing season.

However, gardeners are happy to hear that the Japanese snowball trees have no serious insect pests. They are not subject to any serious diseases either.

Japanese Snowball Bush (Viburnum plicatum) in the Viburnums Database

Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania – Zone 6b) on May 5, 2019 4:32 PM

This Japanese Snowball shrub is an old-fashioned plant first brought over from Japan in the late 1800’s to the USA. I first saw a picture of it in the Countryside Book called Home Landscaping in the early 1970’s that we used in landscape design class along with a textbook of landscape architecture. I’ve seen a few in the Chicago, Illinois region in average yards and a few in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region in average yards also. Actually in early May 2019 I rode on my bicycle in the mostly old town (borough) where I live and found 4 different specimens of this shrub planted around in yards with the houses from the 1890’s through the 1920’s. What is strange is that this sterile-flowered mutation of the species was first discovered by the West rather than the normal, fertile species that is the Doublefile Viburnum (V. plicatum tomentosum), so it got the regular scientific name. The Japanese Snowball Viburnum bears the 2 to 3 inch diameter flowers usually about 2 or 3 weeks later than the Doublefile, and the flowers begin with a greenish tinge before becoming totally white. The flowers don’t have any real odor and do not bear any fruit that would be a black drupe as is borne with the real species. The leaves are dark, with deep veins, simple, rounded, and of thick and rough texture. It is still offered by cheap mail order nursery catalogues. It can be bothered by aphids. The European Snowball Viburnum (V. opulus ‘Roseum’), that is often confused with this Japanese shrub, is also an old-fashioned plant has larger flower clusters and three-lobed leaves that are of thin texture and don’t have deep veins.

Outstanding Qualities

If you have room for a large, wide-spreading shrub, this is one of the best multi-season shrubs you can grow. Doublefile viburnum develops a branching pattern with strong horizontal layers as it matures. This creates an interesting winter framework. It is difficult for any other shrub to match the brilliant floral display in the spring: Its branches are smothered with flat sprays of pure white flowers, giving the impression of snow-laden branches. Later in summer clusters of red berries rest where the flowers once stood. fall brings on a fiery autumnal show of saturated reds. It is wide spreading, so give it plenty of space to develop its spectacular form. For smaller spaces consider removing its lower branches to create a small, multi-stemmed tree.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: spreading shrub

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 12 ft. 0 in. (3.66 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 10 ft. 0 in. (3.05 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 0 ft. 0 in. (0.00 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 0 ft. 0 in. (0.00 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 8

Flower Color: white

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun to light shade

Water Requirements: regular watering

Seasonal Interest: spring flowers & autumn foliage color

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: gold, silver, bronze

Great Color Partners: white, variegated, dark green

Mariesii doublefile is a very beautiful shrub, much appreciated in our gardens for its appealing blooming.

Viburnum plicatum Mariesii facts

Name – Viburnum plicatum v. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’
Family – Adoxaceae (formerly Caprifoliaceae)
Type – shrub
Height – 8 feet (2.5 m)
Exposure – full sun or part sun
Soil – ordinary, well drained
Foliage – deciduous
Flowering – April to June

Planting, caring for it and pruning contribute a lot to the proper growth of the Viburnum plicatum Mariesii.

Planting your Viburnum plicatum v. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’

Preferably in fall or in spring for specimens purchased in pots or in containers.

  • Follow our advice on planting shrubs.

Pruning Viburnum

No pruning is formally required, but you may of course prune it to adjust its silhouette or reduce its size.

Wait for the blooming to end if you wish to reduce or reshape the shrub.

  • Find our advice on pruning shrubs.

All there is to know about Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’

The ‘Mariesii’ viburnum is a very beautiful shrub which has a blooming as magnificent in spring as its foliage is in fall.

As part of a flowered hedge, as a standalone or in shrub beds, its growing and maintenance is easy.

Also part of the Viburnum family is laurestine or Viburnum tinus which is often found in our gardens, and also ‘Watanabe’ doublefile japanese snowball which has a blooming that lasts for a very long time, from May to October.

Smart tip about Mariesii

Avoid locations that are too exposed to harsh sun.

Viburnum Plants

Arrowwood image by Valeriy82 from Fotolia.com

How to Prune Viburnum Davidii

Viburnum davidii is a low-growing shrub with large dark green leaves, delicate pink flowers and bright blue berries. The flowers have no fragrance. Viburnum davidii makes an excellent border plant, seldom growing more than 2 to 3 feet tall, and is a superior ground cover. Viburnums attract butterflies, which many gardeners enjoy. The plants require little care, are drought-tolerant, and will grow in a wide range of soils. They grow best in USDA hardiness zones 8 and 9. They do not appreciate particularly cold or hot weather.

Cut out all dead branches in early spring, before the plant begins its new growth cycle. It should be possible to cut dead branches with pruning shears.

Thin your plant as you are doing your spring cutting. Do not over-thin unless your plant has not been trimmed in several years and needs a great deal of work. Normally a well-tended Viburnum needs only minimal pruning during spring.

Prune your Viburnum davidii for shape in late summer, after the plant has flowered. Pruning for shape before flowering runs the risk of removing the flowering parts of the plant and the berries. Waiting until after flowering to prune for shape allows you to keep most of the berries, which are a big reason for growing this particular plant.

How to Prune Viburnum Mohican

Examine the shrub, noting any dead, diseased or awkwardly growing branches that need pruning. Dead or diseased branches warrant immediate removal. Hold off pruning healthy branches until after the springtime flowering display.

Shorten a branch by making a crisp, one-motion cut of the hand pruners 1/4-inch above a lower junction branch or leaf node. A node is a dormant bud on the branch, from which a new growing tip and leaves will form.

Conduct light tip pruning of new growth or leaves across the growing season as needed, but refrain from trimming away branches after August. Viburnums begin developing their spring flower buds in autumn, so you don’t want to blindly prune away next year’s flowers.

Flowering Snowball Shrub

Known primarily for its white bushy flowers, snowball viburnum can occasionally produce pink blooms. While other viburnum shrubs develop tiny fruit clusters, the white blossoms on snowball viburnum do not produce fruit. The viburnum flowers in spring and has completed its display by summer. The flower clusters can contain up to 100 flowers and are 3 inches in diameter.


The snowball viburnum’s leaves nearly resemble the classic three-lobed maple leaf. The leaves are matte rather than glossy and spring green in color, averaging 3 to 4 inches in size. Snowball viburnum leaves do not turn colors in fall, while other viburnum plants do display autumn colors.


Snowball viburnum can reach up to 12 feet in height and 12 feet in width. Gardeners can keep the plant smaller with pruning.


Native to Europe, snowball viburnum has been grown in the United States since the colonial era. According to the University of Arkansas, the sterile snowball form of viburnum is thought to have originated in Holland well before the 16th century. Called “Gelder Rose,” the plant didn’t contain the word “snowball” in its name until at least 1760.


Gardeners can plant snowball viburnum in hardiness zones 3 to 8, which covers most of North America. The shrub grows in part sun to full sun.

How to Prune Snowball Bushes

Choose a pair of pruning shears that will cut branches of 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter. Lopping shears are needed for branches that are up to 3 inches in diameter.

Cut away all of the full-length dead branches with the lopping shears to give a rejuvenated look to the snowball bush. Lop off old blackened and overgrown branches near ground level to renew an older bush.

Trim off the branches and twigs below the blossom clusters with pruning shears to remove the dead flowers from the bush.

Cut a branch 1/4 inch above an emerging bud or near a second branch at the swollen point or branch collar to shorten it. Prune at an angle toward the outer portion of the plant to promote new growth.

Snowball White Hydrangeas Vs. Viburnum

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The snowball viburnum bears dark green leaves that grow up to 4 inches long and turn purple to red in the autumn. The snowball white hydrangea has dark green leaves that reach between 3 and 8 inches long.


Snowball white hydrangeas and snowball viburnums both feature snowball-shaped clusters of small, white flowers. Snowball hydrangea flower clusters reach 8 to 12 inches in diameter.

Time Frame

Snowball white hydrangeas display flowers from June through September, while Japanese snowball viburnums typically bloom in April and May.

Snowball viburnums reach between 10 and 15 feet tall with similar spreads. Snowball hydrangeas mature to heights ranging from 3 to 5 feet with spreads between 4 and 6 feet.


Snowball white hydrangeas are winter hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9. Indigenous to Japan and China, snowball viburnums generally thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8.


Both plant varieties prefer well-drained, loamy soils. The snowball white hydrangea thrives in fully sunny locations, while the viburnum needs partially shady to fully sunny planting sites.

How to Prune a Shasta Viburnum

Prune out diseased or dead branches. Use a pruning saw for branches over 1 inch and pruning shears for smaller branches.

Prune branches that are rubbing against each other.

Cut back suckers at the ground if the base of the plant is becoming thick and crowded.

How to Prune Autumn Jazz Viburnum

Prune your Autumn Jazz viburnum shrub within two weeks after bloom has finished for the season. Timing pruning this way will preserve the bulk of the following seasons’ buds and bloom.

Prune away any damaged, dead, dying or crossing and abrading branches down to the crown of the plant and pull the cuttings clear from the canopy.

Prune the tips of branches as needed to reduce the size of the viburnum or to improve the shape or symmetry of the shrub.

How to Fertilize a Chindo Viburnum

Rake back the mulch and any leaves or other detritus from beneath the Chindo viburnum.

Remove any weeds from within a three-foot radius of the shrub.

Spread the fertilizer, at the rate recommended on the package, to one and a half feet beyond the longest branches.

Water the area until the soil is saturated.

Spread a three-inch layer of fresh mulch around the base of the Chindo viburnum. Don’t allow the mulch to touch the bark of the shrub.

How to Fertilize Viburnum

Choose a date in the early spring to fertilize your viburnums, and then mark your calendar so you don’t forget.

Dress in long clothing the day you plan on using the fertilizer. It contains harsh chemicals and can damage your skin.

Wear protective gear, such as goggles, gloves and a mask. Again, this is to protect you from the chemicals in the fertilizer.

Read the packaging label for a 10-18-12 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) slow-release fertilizer. The brand you use will most likely require you to mix the fertilizer with water before you apply it. Merrifield Garden Center of Virginia recommends this type of fertilizer for viburnums.

Apply the fertilizer around your viburnums as directed on the packaging label.

How to Prune Fragrant Viburnum

First, decide when to prune. Viburnum flowers open in spring from buds that are formed the previous summer, so if you prune later than the end of June, you’ll be cutting off the next year’s blossoms. May is ideal, though any time from the end of bloom through the middle of June will work.

Next, imagine the changes you want to make in your shrub. Is it too tall? Is it too wide? Too dense? Too close to the wall of the house? The more clearly you imagine the results of your cuts, the more skillfully you can place them.

Now, using your lopper, prune any stems that are too tall all the way to the ground. Cutting back part way forces growth out at awkward angles that spoil the shape of the shrub. When older, taller shoots are removed completely, a more open but still graceful framework is left behind.

Finally, using sharper pruners, remove any branches that extend too far to the side by cutting them off at their base, at the trunk they sprouted from. Again, cutting them off part way will force out new growth at unattractive angles.

When to Prune Viburnum Alfredo Shrubs

Viburnum Alfredo should be pruned as soon as the flowers die in the spring. Any later in the year and you will prune away next season’s flowers.

How to Prune Viburnum Nudum

Begin pruning the viburnum nudum at the base of the plant. Remove any old, woody branches growing from the ground. Do not remove any of the young shoots that are the thickness of a pencil.

Prune any too wide or tall branches to bring the plant to the desired shape. Prune these back to a node (swollen part of the branch where the leaf joins it).

Rake the planting bed to remove any fallen leaves, twigs and branches. Water the viburnum nudum until the water puddles at its base.

Three years ago I wrote a piece on viburnums. I got a long and angry letter from an older reader berating me for using an unacknowledged quote from Hillier’s Guide to Trees and Shrubs . Quite right, too – although perhaps not quite the proof positive that, as he suggested, I was a charlatan unworthy of ‘this once-great paper’s pages’. But ever since then I have always tried to acknowledge descriptions that were not my own and also to limit myself to writing about what I know. And I know so little. And I have so many books. And I read so much. And – this is the real issue – my own garden here in Herefordshire is deliberately and inevitably very limited to what we like and to what will grow happily in our wet climate and heavy clay loam.

I have a problem with winter-flowering shrubs. I don’t mean the early-spring-flowering ones such as the daphne, witch hazel, forsythia or winter-flowering jasmine. I like them as much as for their being harbingers of spring as for their flowers. Nor do I mean the latecomers, such as the few roses that will flower on to Christmas, especially when helped along by global warming. But this no-season’s land between Bonfire Night and Christmas, or not-autumn and not-quite-winter, is a season of coloured leaves, coloured barks and berries. Leaves are valued mainly in their passing. If they stayed half-alive and half-dead for more than a few weeks, we would soon be tired of them. Likewise berries, which are so shinily un-flowerlike that they are another completely new instrument playing the old tune. And bark is perfect for winter. The more coloured stems we have in this garden the more I want. It suits the season.

Each of these things is lovely on its own and well orchestrated, and they can enrich a poverty-stricken time. But no plant, at this stripped-out time of year, provides flowers in scale, form or colour that warrants space in the garden. I can look them all up, know a fair bit about them and can collate all that knowledge for you, but it does not really convince me. There is something about a lone-flowering shrub on a wet winter’s day that seems rather futile. However lovely the plant, it often fails to do enough. The lesson is not to ditch them but to think carefully about their positioning. They are not at their best in a border that is geared for summer display.

Nevertheless it would be less-than-optimistically human to abandon the precious few flowers that we do get in midwinter just because they don’t quite work in the garden. I realise that for most people they have a powerful magic. The few times I have seen really effective use of winter shrubs, they have been tucked into a corner or in the lee of a wall or by a door or window. They need to be used as a vignette, not a statement, because there is too much sky and, with a few exceptions, the statement is lost in the wind, rain and muddy grey of a winter’s afternoon. Keep it cosy.

The viburnums are the biggest and best-known group for this. I had dinner with a garden-designer friend the other day who told me that when he started out and was asked the name of a shrub that he did not know – and one of the surest rules of life is never trust anyone who can instantly name every plant in any garden – he would reply, ‘Viburnum.’ It worked every time. The reason for this is that it is such a large and diverse family, ranging from the most familiar of the lot, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ with its floret bubbles of tiny flowers on bare branches that can start appearing now and last right through to March, to the evergreen V tinus ‘Laurestinus’ or the spring- flowering Viburnum plicatum ‘ Mariesii’ that looks like an exceptionally lovely hydrangea. Viburnum farreri has a good fragrance and is best outside against a warm wall that will trap its scent. The species flowers are white, tinged with pink, whereas V farreri ‘Candidissimum’ is pure white. V tinus has no scent but the distinction of black berries, while V x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ smells, according to my letter writer (telling me a little more than I wanted to know) like cat’s pee. It doesn’t.

I have been trying to think of ways to make these shrubs work, to improve them, and it cannot be done. The truth is that I think these are dull plants and belong to dull gardening. In the summer they are hopeless and in winter, for the most part, their flowers are a token, rather like the Christmas present that you do not want. You appreciate the thought but_ They stem from a lazy view of garden-as-chore, which breeds the notion that a ‘good’ plant is one that covers most space with least work. Think of all the gardens with a strip of token border around the edge and lax shrubs planted too close to the fence dotted without rhyme or reason along it. Either that or think of the approach to an M4 corridor corporate headquarters. Better to fill the body of the garden with shrubs as understorey to a few standard trees – which is what most of them want to do.

I do have a soft spot for wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox. Like many winter-flowering shrubs, it isn’t much of a looker, but the little primrose-yellow blooms are fabulously fragrant and make very good cut flowers. The scent stays much longer if kept in a cold room. It can be trained to make a climber on a sheltered, sunny wall and, in many ways, is best grown like this, with a clematis using it for support in the summer.

I like mahonias, although I wouldn’t go so far as to plant one in my own garden – no place that feels right for them. I like the way the evergreen leaves and bright-yellow flowers combine a faintly exotic, jungly feel with daffodil freshness. An unlikely mix, but it does seem to work. Mahonia x media is perhaps the best known, with the clones ‘Charity’ and ‘Lionel Fortescue’ very available. All mahonias smell good, but M japonica is perhaps the most fragrant of all. The Asian mahonias like shaded sites and will tolerate a wetter soil than the American mahonias. They are particularly suitable for a thin soil over chalk.

Although I have been dismissive of these scant winter-flowering shrubs, I do grow a couple of varieties of winter-flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima and L purpursii and the evergreen version, L standishii. I somehow acquired them years ago and, tucked away almost entirely out of sight on a north-facing wall, they provide the best-scented of all winter flowers. It is rare for them to flower this early, but there are usually a few tentative tiny flowers by Christmas, and they hit their full stride by the middle of January.

My roots: A week in Monty’s garden

Did I say that we got through the floods unscathed? I spoke too soon. Between writing last week’s words and these, the water has lapped at our door and laps yet. To try to provide drainage, we have dug a trench right down the length of the garden and laid a perforated land drain. It was dug fast, by eye, and curves subtly.

The floods rose again as this was being done and the trench promptly filled to the brim, without making any noticeable difference to the water levels in the garden. The trench was cut down a grass path, but the rain made the sides collapse overnight, so parts of Jewel garden borders had to be evacuated so this could be repaired. While the emergency digging went on, Poppy, our Jack Russell terrier, went on a manic vole-hunt, digging dozens of holes in the borders, spraying tulip bulbs at every pass and destroying the roots of scores of plants. Sort of funny, but also sort of the last straw.

Although the canal/trench is a thing of sinuous beauty, there is a huge amount of soil thrown up from it. This is now completely saturated. An utterly sodden 70m mound of mud. The demarcation lines between grass, flood and mud are indecipherable runes ploughed into the ground.

The truth is that if we knew then what we know now, we would have laid this garden out in a completely different way to accommodate the inevitable flooding. Over the past week, I have toyed with taking a JCB to the place and doing just this, but balk a little at that. If I inspect my motives honestly I have to confess that I feel I have not displayed what we have done enough. I want more TV crews, more public sharing in this place before I rip it apart. Vanity or altruism? Neither, really. Just a natural born show-off.

Despite the waters rising, we have continued the process of cutting four new 2m brick squares into the Jewel garden. This means digging up hard paths, potting up plants, removing topsoil and putting in scalpings and sand before laying the bricks. It is worth the trouble tenfold and has dramatically improved the garden. This garden has always been very long on places to delve and hoe and short on sites to sit and consider, which means that the large beds now revolve around these small seating areas and we can go out and drink our champagne in one of five spots according to the light and state of performance of the plants. Dressed, of course, in waterproofs and waders.

Your roots: Golden rules for prudent pruning

I know that people can get into a muddle about pruning shrubs – as though there was anything to be muddled about.

The first rule of all pruning is: when in doubt, don’t. The second rule is always to cut back to something, be it a leaf, bud or branch. And the third is that winter pruning promotes vigorous spring regrowth . So resist the evidence of your eyes and cut the existing weak growth back hardest.

Notice if the flowers are produced on the current year’s fresh growth or on the previous year’s. If the former, it is best to prune in early spring – as in the case of buddlejia – and if the latter, the time to do it is immediately after flowering – as with ribes.

When you plant shrubs, prune any weak growth hard to encourage good strong shoots from the base of the plant next spring.

If you are growing a shrub for its leaves, as I do with a cut-leaf golden elder, cut it back hard each spring and the new leaves will be both bigger and better coloured than they would be if it had been left unpruned.

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