Every yard needs at least one Viburnum species (if not more).
Native Viburnums bloom in May and June with a familiar seasonal display of white flowers. The large flower clusters offer plenty of support for the many early season pollinators attracted to the disc-shaped landing pads. The prolific flowering eventually gives way to abundant fruit. Cardinals, Eastern Bluebirds, Robins and Cedar Waxwings are just a few of the birds that visit Viburnums for the berries that ripen in the fall. The late season brings notable changes in leaf color too, ranging from gold to burgundy or red to purple.
Throughout the growing season Viburnums can host an array of leopidoptera – butterflies and moths. The Holly Blue Butterfly, the Pink Prominent, Hummingbird Clearwing, and Green Marvel moths are all known to host on Viburnums during their caterpillar phase. The presence of caterpillars is yet another reason Viburnums are popular with birds, as the juicy caterpillars are an important source of food for nesting birds with chicks to feed.
Vibrunums have “perfect” flowers. That is, the individual flowers have both male and female parts. These flowers are self-infertile and cross pollination between different plants is needed for reliable fruit production. When planting viburnums, we recommend planting at least two of one species in order to achieve decent fruit production. Only one shrub is needed for flowering, as they will flower profusely in any case, but at least two shrubs are needed for the cross fertilization of the flowers.
Viburnums are generally understory and/or riparian species, and as such are a good option for replacing invasives, such as Buckthorn, Honeysuckle, and other shrubs that invade lightly wooded areas.
One of the largest Viburnum shrubs, Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) is very adaptable and grows well in a wide range of conditions. A riparian species, its preferred (indigenous) setting is the low woods, or near stream banks in full to partial sun. Plan for heights of around 20 feet with Nannyberry.
The native Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) is smaller than Nannyberry, but a remarkable wildlife shrub all the same. The Plentiful spring blooms attracts many many pollinators. The fruits of Highbush Cranberry are bright red, and persist into the winter, highlighting the stark landscape. The berries are usually passed over by wildlife until the fruit has had time to ferment. Eventually the fruit plays a critical role and it will be consumed, if not by winter birds, then by hungry cedar waxwings and robins returning in early spring. At maturity, Highbush Cranberry is about 12 feet high.
Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) is a forest understory shrub that grows in full sun and in shade. A landscape favorite, this viburnum has all of the wildlife power of the above two species. While it is oftened pruned into a single trunk (small) tree, Blackhaw has especially beautiful form as multi-trunked large shrub with slender arching branches. It closely resembles Nannybery, but is smaller, with heights of up to 15 feet.
Read more about creating a bird-friendly yard…