Spectacular fall color is everywhere! Trees and bushes almost become new plants when leaves change color. Fresh autumn flowers pick up where summer blooms slowly leave off. Gourds and squash such as pumpkin give new geometric shapes, textures and colors to work with in decorations.
Orange red leaves of Viburnum opulus var Americanum add fall color to this symphony. Go backwards to summer: orange red berries complement green leaves. Backwards again to spring: lacy white flowers appear all over the bush. How’s that for three season interest? Winter’s not so bad either when brown gray branches capture snow and support busy sparrows.
Viburnum opulus variation Americanum is the the most current name of this shrub. The new name may be more difficult to ask for at the nursery or garden center, so keep these other two common names in mind.
One is Viburnum trilobum because the leaf has three oval parts or lobes. The other is American cranberry – a name used to separate this Viburnum from a similar bush that grows in Europe. While it has berries that can be made into jam, this bush is not related to the cranberry plant that grows in bogs and provides us the large tart red berries we have at Thanksgiving dinner.
This Viburnum is native to the region along the Canadian/U.S. border. In Canada it grows from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. In the U.S. it grows from New York, along the Great Lakes to South Dakota and west to Oregon.
Not only does it provide three season color, it soaks up water. Planted in a berm to protect the house from water that runs into the yard from neighbors’ yards it receives the moisture it needs without sitting in water.
- Zone: Cold hardy in 2 – 7.
- Soil: Moist that is also well drained, not standing water.
- Sun: Full sun to part shade.
- Average height: 8 – 12 feet.
- Average width: 8 – 12 feet.
- Location: Consider the height before planting. Place it where it can grow to its full height of 8 – 12 feet otherwise prune it to a shorter size every year. It expands in width when new shoots grow out from the ground near the original bush. A branch touching the ground will take root to produce a new plant that gets larger every year.
- Bloom: In late spring and early summer, flat white lacy flowers appear all over the bush.
- Leaf: Green with three lobes in summer which turn orange red in fall.
Water: Considered medium, but since it is native to low wet areas, watering well during hot dry spells will keep it healthy.
Fertilize with compost once a year in the fall to feed the roots.
Prune: After it flowers.
An insect called crown borer can cause dieback of the bush. The bottom of the trunk is where they do their damage. Larvae drill under the bark and feed on the inside of the trunk. They also feed on branches and roots. This weakens and destroys it.
Keep the plant healthy. The insect is less likely to be attracted to it. Water during hot dry spells and fertilize in fall with compost.
Borders, hedges and any place that water collects temporarily. Just make sure the water drains off.
Arrange cut branches with berries in a tall vase as a background for other flowers or use alone in a container.
Viburnum opulus var Americanum is an enduring shrub in the yard. It’s easy to care for when planted in a spot that meets its needs. It’s interesting in three seasons and attractive to songbirds. It’s worth planting!
Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried