Scented viburnum: plant and cut

Scented viburnum: plant and cut

Origin and Distribution

Most of the 100 or so snowball species come from East Asia, and the scented snowball Viburnum farreri, which is often planted in German gardens, is no exception. This is at home in the northwestern provinces of China, where the climatic conditions are quite comparable to those of Central Europe. In its wild form, the deciduous shrub, which is up to five meters high, can be found mainly on the edges and in the light mountain forests, where it grows preferably on fresh and humus-rich soils.

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The Viburnum farreri, often referred to as the scented snowball, and the large-flowered snowball (bot. Viburnum grandiflorum) are the two parent species of the hybrid form Viburnum x bodnantense, which is also known as the scented snowball. However, the hybrid is better known under the name Winter Snowball, which it bears because of its extremely early flowering.


Plant the scented snowball either alone - for example in the middle of a lawn or as the center or background of a herbaceous border together with phlox, delphinium or bee balm - or in groups. In a group planting, you can only plant the species together, for example as a flower hedge, or with other woody plants such as rhododendrons, lilacs, dogwoods, eccentric cones or a Japanese maple.

Appearance and stature

Basically, the scented viburnum is one of the slow-growing trees that only grows about ten to 25 centimeters per year. When fully grown, the stiffly upright shrub grows up to about two meters high and two meters wide. The branches often hang over slightly, and the shrub also forms numerous runners over time. Through these and ground shoots growing from the roots, the wood can easily grow over larger areas. The crown is usually quite dense, the bark is typically slightly reddish in color. Older bark also often flakes off in extremely delicate scales.


Viburnum farreri is a deciduous shrub whose leaves turn a pretty red to deep purple autumn color. This particularly comes into its own against the evergreen background of a plantation of rhododendrons. The leaves of the scented snowball are arranged opposite each other, lanceolate to elliptical in shape and mostly pointed. They sit on about two centimeters long, reddish stems. They are up to eight inches long and four inches wide.

Flowering and flowering period

The main bloom of the scented snowball appears between March and April, but in mild weather, individual inflorescences open from the end of October / beginning of November throughout the winter. The buds have an intense pink color and are arranged in panicles at the ends of the short side shoots. The tubular flowers that open from it are, however, colored white. They are elongated in shape and can grow to about one and a half centimeters long. The scented viburnum bears its name for a reason: Its flowers give off an intense smell that most people find pleasant and can be perceived from a few meters away.


Since there are no bees, bumblebees, etc. buzzing around in our latitudes during the flowering period of the scented snowball, fertilization rarely takes place - so fruits are also unlikely. If they should develop, they have an elongated shape and have a green to reddish tinge. You should also exercise caution in such a case, the fruits of the scented snowball are slightly poisonous.


In addition to the fruits, the whole plant is considered to be slightly toxic, with no serious consequences due to poisoning to be feared. In extreme cases, nausea, diarrhea and / or vomiting occurs.

Which location is suitable?

The scented snowball prefers to stand in a sunny to partially shaded location where it can bathe in full sunlight for a few hours a day. The shrub forms a particularly large number of flowers here, provided the selected location is protected and is not at risk of late frost - the open flowers cannot tolerate severe frost. It is best to plant the wood near a protective wall or directly in front of a hedge, provided it is not too shady there. If the location is too dark, the flower of the scented snowball is noticeably sparse, and the otherwise intense autumn color is also weaker.


With regard to the nature of the soil, the scented snowball is quite undemanding. The bush feels most comfortable in a fresh to moderately moist subsoil that is rich in humus and nutrients, but which is loose and deep. Although the plant needs an evenly moist location, it does not tolerate waterlogging. In this respect, you should thoroughly loosen loamy soil before planting and work in drainage if necessary. In addition, it makes sense at every location to upgrade the soil with plenty of compost - the scented snowball has a high need for nutrients. In terms of pH, the shrub is very adaptable.

Plant scented snowball properly

Viburnum farreri is usually offered as container goods and can therefore be planted at any time, but experts recommend planting in spring. This is advantageous because the shrub has enough time to root itself thoroughly until the first winter and thus the chances are better that it will survive the cold season unscathed. In addition, if you want to limit the area, you should also use a root barrier with a diameter of at least 150 centimeters. The scented snowball likes to spread over foothills and can therefore take up larger areas over the years. Furthermore, it makes sense to add well-rotted cattle manure (€ 17.80 at Amazon *) or leaf humus to the soil before planting.

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Pour scented snowball

The scented snowball needs an evenly moist surface for its well-being, which is why you should not let planted specimens in the garden dry out. Therefore, during the hot summer months as well as longer dry phases, make sure that there is an adequate supply of water - once every two weeks should be sufficient in such a case. Scented snowballs kept in buckets should not dry out in summer and should not freeze through in winter.

Fertilize the scented snowball properly

If the scented snowball is in normal, humus-rich garden soil and has already been planted with compost or manure, it can do well without additional fertilizers. However, if the shrub is on rather poor soil or if there are deficiency symptoms, you can remedy this with a commercially available garden fertilizer.

Cut the fragrance snowball properly

The scented snowball is a shrub that is compatible with pruning, which should be regularly thinned out and cut into shape. This kind of pruning is best done immediately after flowering in March or April and stimulates the plant to new, vigorous growth and fresh budding. Remove transverse twigs, dry or dead wood and withered inflorescences.

Propagate scented snowball

The easiest way to multiply the scented viburnum is via runners, which it develops over time. All you have to do is dig them up carefully, separate them from the mother plant and plant them separately. But the species can also be propagated well via subsidence and cuttings, although cuttings are a little more complicated to root. On the other hand, you can simply plug the sinker into the ground in spring and cut it off from the mother plant as soon as the new plants develop their own shoots.


The scented snowball is hardy and does not require any special winter protection. Only the flowers that open in mild weather are at risk of frost.

Diseases and pests

The scented snowball is comparatively insensitive to infestation by pathogens or pests. An infestation by powdery mildew (“fair weather mildew”) or leaf spot disease can occasionally be problematic, whereby both fungicidal diseases can be treated quite easily. Watering with a self-made brew of field horsetail and comfrey not only provides the scented snowball with additional nutrients, but also effectively prevents fungal diseases.

In addition, the species is quite susceptible to attack by aphids or the snowball leaf beetle. Check the bushes regularly to counter any invasion in good time.


You can also cut off inflorescences that are not yet fully open and place them in the vase. The twigs will last for about two to three weeks (sometimes even longer), provided you change the water every day and place the vase in a bright place.

Species and varieties

Different species and varieties of the genus “snowball” (bot. Viburnum) are called scented snowballs because almost all of them produce more or less fragrant flowers. These are essentially two game species as well as a cross between them, which in turn is offered in different varieties:

  • Viburnum farreri: upright shrub, growth height up to three meters, white or pink flowers between January and March, deciduous
  • Viburnum carlcephalum: also large-flowered scented snowball, broad, bushy growth, height of up to two meters, strongly fragrant flowers between late April and May, deciduous
  • Viburnum × bodnantense: also winter snowball, scented snowball or Bodnant snowball, hybrids from the two above-mentioned species or from V. farreri and V. grandiflorum, growth height up to 3.5 meters, white or pink flowers mostly between March and April

'Candidissimum': bushy growth, pure white, large inflorescences, particularly free-flowering

'Dawn': upright, arching overhanging growth, whitish-pink flowers until around mid-April, depending on the weather, flowering is also possible from November

'December Dwarf': Dwarf form with a height of up to 150 centimeters

'Fioretta': compact growth, pink flowers

In addition, the following species of snowball also have fragrant flowers:

  • Viburnum carlesii: also Korean scented viburnum or fragrant viburnum, spherical to broadly bushy growth, growth height up to a maximum of 150 centimeters, strongly scented, white-pink flowers
  • Viburnum burkwoodii: also Easter snowball, loose, broadly rounded growth, growth height up to 200 centimeters, strongly scented, white and pink flowers between April and May