Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mapleleaf Viburnum - Viburnum acerifolium

People look to native plants to be adaptable, drought tolerant and tough as nails.  While that’s not always true – some plants grow only in very specialized environments – I am happy to say that one of my favorite plants meets that criteria!

Viburnum acerifolium is known as the mapleleaf viburnum based on the shape of the leaf. Many a rescuer has had a hard time discerning the difference between a small shrubby red maple (Acer rubrum) and a mapleleaf viburnum when confronted with both on a GNPS rescue site.  With enough exposure to both plants, I think people can tell the difference, but we don’t find the viburnum often enough to give people that familiarity.  The remedy then is to grow it in your own garden so you can observe and enjoy it on a regular basis!

V. acerifolium can be found across the eastern U.S. from Maine to Texas. A stoloniferous shrub, this viburnum is not only shade tolerant, but also is quite adaptable to drier conditions. We find it on development sites in fairly upland conditions, often on a gently sloping area which ensures good drainage.  The stoloniferous tendency allows it to create a bit of colony in the wild.  At home, I have used this characteristic to good advantage: limbs that have rooted to the ground can be cut away from the main plant and relocated to a new spot.  I usually dab a bit of root hormone on the cut ends and bury them in the ground as well, tacking the whole thing down with some cut wire such as from a coat hanger.  Doing this in the spring - when the plant’s natural desire to grow is coupled with plentiful spring rains - has been very successful for me.

Given sufficient sun (4 or more hours, I think), a mature plant should flower and set berries.  If you don’t get berries after the flowers, try to get a plant from another source (a friend, a different site or even one of it’s “cousins” like Viburnum dentatum) to help with cross-pollination.  A nearby ‘Blue Muffin’ cultivar has been helpful in that regard for me.

The fall foliage can be quite electric with vibrant pink colorations. When coupled with the dark blue berries, the combination is striking.  Unfortunately the berries don’t always last that long – sometimes the birds come and eat them all in a single day!  But a few berries hit the ground, and I’ve been able to pot up a few seedlings this year.  They’ve already grown over 12 inches and will make fine donations to the April plant sale ….

Plan appropriately for the size of this plant - this shrub is generally up to six feet tall.  It is tolerant of pruning to control for size, but prune just after flowering to ensure that you don’t cut off the flower buds that form in the summer.


  1. Great post Ellen. I love the mapleleaf viburnum. Had bunches of them back in Maryland, but it doesn't make down here in zone 9.


  2. Welcome to the blogging world, Ellen, I will be looking to forward to more great posts like this one!