Within its range in the southeastern United States, Walter's viburnum is one of the first hardwood species to bloom it's showy blossoms often appearing in late winter. Click to download a large version (800x600) of this image.
Walter's viburnum is a shrub or small tree with small, shiny, opposite leaves only about 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) long. The plant can get up to 30 ft (9 m) tall, but is more commonly 6-15 ft (2-4 m) or less in height. It often has multiple trunks and sometimes, under ideal growing conditions, sends up suckers as it spreads itself into a thicket. Young twigs have a reddish fuzz that is quite pretty. Walter's viburnum stays evergreen in mild winters. The tiny flowers are creamy white with five petals and arranged in flat topped cymes that are 2-3 in (5-7 cm) across. Emerging in early spring along with the new shoots and leaves, they are mildly fragrant and very showy. The quarter inch (6 mm) fruits, maturing in late summer, are at first red, then ripen to black.
'Mrs. Schiller's Delight' is a dwarf selection especially suited to formal hedging. This cultivar was named by Florida plantsman Steve Riefler for a friend whose name resembles 'Schillings', as in Ilex vomitoria 'Schillings', the similar looking and very popular dwarf cultivar of yaupon holly.
Given a trim now and then and Walter's viburnum makes a fine addition to the landscape as demonstrated here in Steve's yard.
Location Viburnum obovatum is native to the southeastern American coastal Plain from South Carolina, through central Florida, to Alabama. It is usually found in acidic moist woods, near streams or in swamps.
Culture Light: Walter's viburnum blooms more profusely in full sun, but still grows very well in part shade. Moisture: In nature, Walter's viburnum can be found growing in moist to wet soils, often in swamps. Once established, however, it does just fine in normal landscape situations, even without supplemental watering. Just be sure to water very frequently for the first six months or year after planting out. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-9. Walter's viburnum occurs naturally only in zones 8 and 9, but it appears to be hardy to zone 6, and it might do okay in zone 10. Propagation: Cuttings from new, fast growing shoots in spring root readily. Semihardwood cuttings in fall can be rooted. The seeds require a period of dormancy and can take 2-3 years to germinate.
This Walter's viburnum grows at the edge of a wetlands along a busy highway where we enjoy it's flower display from the comfort of a speeding automobile.
Walter's viburnum is a very dense shrub and as such quite suitable for hedging. It tolerates hard pruning and could be made into topiary or formal hedges. Left to its own growth pattern, Walter's viburnum becomes a beautiful shrub with a dense, rounded form, eventually developing into a small tree with a broad spreading crown. A group of Walter's viburnums would make a fine native species hedge or screen; a single tree, a handsome specimen. Butterflies sip nectar from the spring flowers and birds and other critters eat the autumn drupes. The densely twiggy bush is a favorite nesting site for cardinals and other song birds.
There are about 150 species of viburnums in temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, and a couple dozen in North America. The honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, includes over 400 species.