Meet one of the viburnum family’s unsung heroes: Viburnum rufidulum. This native viburnum is a terrific addition to any landscape, but its real value is seen where conditions are not ideal. Thin soil, high heat, even full shade doesn’t take out Viburnum rufidulum. This pretty viburnum holds its own in a variety of harsh situations.
Viburnum rufidulum is native from Virginia south to Florida, west to Texas, and north to Kansas, Illinois and Ohio. Its common name is rusty blackhaw viburnum or rusty nannyberry, but don’t let those quirky names dissuade you from considering this viburnum. The rusty parts of the plant include buds, the bottoms of leaves and young twigs. These parts appear rusty because they’re covered with small rust-colored hairs. The leaves have a glossy surface that’s very eye-catching in the landscape and contrasts nicely with the rusty backsides.
Professional plant people can’t say enough good about Viburnum rufidulum. It adapts to a variety of growing situations, including full sun or even deep shade. In hottest zones, like the Deep South, Florida or Texas, Viburnum rufidulum plants benefit from some protection from sizzling afternoon sun. Plants in full sun tend to have a dense, full structure, while ones in shady conditions may be a little more leggy and less filled in with branches.
In terms of soil, Viburnum rufidulum can grow in dry, wet, thin or rocky soil, as well as rich, well-drained soil. The one thing this viburnum needs is well-drained soil. Soggy, waterlogged soil isn’t a win for this plant. Once Viburnum rufidulum plants are established, they are very drought tolerant. In some places in Texas, they survive on as little as 15 inches of rain per year. This is a good plant to consider for dry landscapes or areas where irrigation isn’t practical.
When Viburnum rufidulum receives enough sun, plants flower reliably each spring, opening white flowers. The blossoms fade to form berries that color shift from green to red to blue-black as they mature. Fruit hangs in clusters on the plant and is edible with a flavor like raisins. The fruit is a wildlife favorite, luring in many birds to gulp down the berries.
There are only two drawbacks to Viburnum rufidulum. The first is that it tends to sucker or form little clusters of plants. You can keep your plant from forming a group by removing shoots as they appear. The second issue is that it can be tough to find Viburnum rufidulum for sale. Your best bet is to contact nurseries that specialize in native plants. If they don’t carry Viburnum rufidulum, they can probably get it for you.