Grow viburnums for their beautiful blooms, and you’ll soon be loving them for their eye-catching berries. Viburnum shrubs produce berries in a variety of colors, including neon pink, lemon yellow, robin egg blue and deep purple-black. The viburnum berries typically shift through a sequence of colors as they ripen, which creates a changing scene in the garden. Some viburnums have berry clusters that showcase several hues at once.
The cranberry bush viburnums are well known for producing fruits that are edible and attractive to birds. American cranberrybush is Viburnum trilobum, a name that’s been recently changed to Viburnum opulus ‘Americanum.’ It produces flattened flower clusters that yield edible red berries. Colonists used the berries in jams, and modern gardeners prize this viburnum for its ability to lure birds to the garden. Viburnum opulus is European cranberry bush, which also produces bright red berries.
Viburnum davidii produces intensely colored berries, including shades of green, pink, red and turquoise blue. It’s a shorter viburnum, growing 2 to 3 feet high. It’s hardy in Zones 7 to 9. You can get a similar berry show on a larger plant (6 to 8 feet tall and wide) by planting Viburnum nudum, also known as witherod viburnum. With this viburnum, berries first appear bright pink, then shift to pastel blue and ultimately ripen to bold purple. The berry clusters often show several hues at once, adding even more interest to the garden. Another great viburnum that shows multiple colors in a fruit cluster is Viburnum cassinoides. Its berries shift through shades of green, white, pink, rose and blue.
Other strong fruit producing viburnums include doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’), arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) and Viburnum edule. With all of these viburnums, ripening fruit offers contrast with fall leaf color, which adds another dimension to the show. Viburnum berries are also strongly attractive to birds, which makes viburnums a great addition to a wildlife garden.
Sometimes viburnums won’t produce fruit, even though the plant puts on a strong flower show. The thing to know about viburnums is that each plant is usually self-infertile. This means that a plant can’t pollinate its own flowers. No pollination means no fruit. The best way to ensure that your viburnums produce fruit is to plant more than one variety of a viburnum species. Alternatively, you can plant a closely related viburnum that flowers at the same time as the plant you want to produce fruit.
It sounds complicated, but all you need to do is a little homework before buying viburnums. Check with your local extension office to learn which viburnums are the best pollinators for the plant you want. Or ask at the nursery where you’ll be making your viburnum purchases. You can also search online in garden forums to learn what viburnums other gardeners in your area use to pollinate one another.