Viburnum odoratissimum & suspensum

Handsome, hardy viburnums are the ultimate in sturdy shrubs for hedges, and two of the most popular varieties are odoratissimum and suspensum.

viburnum odoratissimum hedge

These two plants, fairly similar in looks and habit, are some of our most commonly used shrubs.

Ride down any street in South Florida and you're likely to see one of them.

Both sprout white blossoms in spring - and the sweet scent of the odoratissimum flowers are the reason this variety is sometimes called "Sweet Viburnum."

But bloom time is short and these shrubs have other attributes to make them invaluable landscape plants for South Florida.

Need a hedge in a hurry for a sunny area? Odoratissimum is the perfect choice. Looking for shrubs for shade? Suspensum does fine in any light, and can be used as a hedge or even a large (3 feet tall) foundation plant.

viburnum suspensum leaves

Their cold tolerance makes them ideal for worry-free winters and both make outstanding hedge or privacy plants.

These shrubs work with any style landscaping - tropical, formal, you name it.

They can be kept regularly manicured or only occasionally trimmed for a more rounded, natural look.

Spaced correctly they'll stay full to the ground to create a dense wall of green.

There are other viburnum varieties - less commonly used but with very attractive qualities:

Awabuki viburnum is also called "Mirror-Leaf" for its super-glossy, large leaves.

awabuki viburnum leaves

This variety can get very big and works extremely well as a fast-growing large hedge or privacy plant. You can keep it 8 to 10 feet tall by 6 feet wide.

Walters Select grows more upright than the others, with small leaves and very pretty white flowers in spring.

walters select variety in full bloom

Its growth pattern tends to be more open and see-through unless it's regularly trimmed to about 5 or 6 feet. It's a moderate grower so you only need to trim occasionally.

This plant makes a good accent shrub or even a nice small tree.

Dwarf Walters is a little-leafed beauty, a more tender cultivar (sensitive to cold and needing more water) than other varieties.

dwarf walters variety

But it has the same flowers as Walters Select, grows more mounded and can be kept small (2-1/2 to 3 feet).

Plant specs

Viburnum odoratissimum is a fast grower; suspensum grows at a bit more moderate pace.

These evergreen shrubs  - odoratissimum and suspensum - can get very big (huge, in fact) but you can keep them trimmed to a reasonable size. Odoratissimum can be kept 4 to 6 feet, suspensum 3 to 5 feet tall.

They're cold hardy plants, fine anywhere in South Florida including Zone 9B.

Odoratissimum prefers full to part sun, but suspensum does well in sun or shade.

The spring flowers are big clusters of tiny white blooms, pretty though not overly showy. (The walters varieties have a pretty covering of white.)

These are said to be deer-resistant plants - though we make no promises.

Plant care

Add top soil (or organic peat moss) and composted cow manure to the hole when you plant.

Trim regularly if you want to keep your plants well-manicured...or just occasionally for a naturally mounded look.

Odoratissimum will grow out of a "haircut" fast; suspensum takes a bit longer.

Do a hard pruning in spring after the shrub has finished flowering.

Water on a regular basis, with enough time between waterings for the plant to dry out a bit.

Odoratissimum is moderately drought-tolerant once it's well-established, though it looks better and stays healthier with regular irrigation.

Suspensum does best with a regular watering and doesn't mind minor "wet feet" occasionally.

Fertilize 3 times a year (spring, summer, and autumn) with a quality granular fertilizer.

Plant spacing

Place these plants 3 to 4 feet apart...any closer and mature shrubs will eventually be fighting each other for a place in the sun and the base of the plants will be bare.

For planting by the house, come out 3 to 4 feet (or more). Along a walk or drive, come in 4 or 5 feet.

These plants can be container grown, though they can outgrow the pot in no time, so planting in the ground is preferable.

Landscape uses for viburnums (odoratissimum and suspensum)

  • hedge
  • backdrop for smaller plants
  • accent for the corner of the house
  • surrounding the trunks of tall palms
  • large foundation plant (suspensum)
  • along a blank wall
  • for privacy by a deck, patio or outside a pool cage
  • camouflage shrubs for A/C or pool equipment
  • lining a driveway
  • fronting taller plants

Other plants you might like: Eugenia, Ligustrum

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