A trio of leatherleaf viburnums at the Mount Airy Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Leatherleaf viburnum is an evergreen shrub 8-15 ft (2.4-4.6 m) tall with elongate distinctively puckered leaves borne in opposing pairs on fuzzy twigs. This handsome shrub has many stems and an upright, domed form. The leaves are 3-6 in (7.6-15.2 cm) long and only about 2 in (5.1 cm) wide. They are shiny dark green on top with prominent, deeply incised veins, and gray-felty underneath. The little flowers are yellowish white and carried in dense terminal clusters 6-8 in (15.2-20.3 cm) across. They appear in late spring. The fruits are red, ripening to shiny black, and just as pretty as the flowers. The selection, 'Aldenhamense' has yellowish leaves. 'Mohican' is similar to the species. Prague viburnum (V. x pragense) is a hybrid between V. rhytidophyllum and V. utile. It has a spreading habit with pendulous branch tips and smaller leaves and gets only about 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) tall. Hybrid leatherleaf viburnum or lantanaphyllum viburnum (V. x rhytidophylloides), a cross with V. lantana, is only semievergreen, but is more cold hardy and vigorous than leatherleaf viburnum and a popular screening shrub in the American Midwest. 'Willowwood' is a popular selection from this hybrid that often blooms in both the fall and spring.
Leatherleaf viburnum is native to central and western China.
Leatherleaf viburnum is a vigorous fast growing shrub that does well in almost any soil, acidic to quite limey. To get fruit, you must have at least two genetically different plants so they can cross-pollinate. They don't have to be the same cultivar, but viburnums grown from cuttings that came from the same plant will not suffice - those are clones and have identical chromosomes and genes. If your leatherleaf viburnum needs pruning, do so right after it flowers since the buds for next season's flowers are produced in late summer. Protect from strong winter winds to reduce leaf damage. Light: Leatherleaf viburnum does well in partial shade, and tolerates deep shade. It must be protected from full sun in the south. Moisture: Leatherleaf viburnum needs regular watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 8. Some sources indicate that leatherleaf viburnum can be grown in zone 9 and even zone 10, but other experts say it can't take the summer heat. The hybrid, Prague viburnum, seems to be more tolerant of heat and cold and can be grown in zones 5-9. The hybrid, 'Willowwood', is hardy to zone 5. In cold climates, leatherleaf viburnum should be positioned so that it is not exposed to strong winter winds which can damage leaves and even defoliate the plant. Leatherleaf viburnum may die to the ground in severe winters, but unless the roots get frozen it will sprout back in spring (but it will not flower that year). Propagation: Start leatherleaf viburnum from semiripe cuttings in summer. Seeds may require a period of dormancy followed by cold stratification, and are generally difficult to get to germinate. See the Viburnum rufidulum profile for more on propagating viburnums.
Note next season's flower buds already developed in early fall on this leatherleaf viburnum.
Leatherleaf viburnum is grown for its distinctive evergreen foliage and showy late spring flowers. Use it in small groups or include a few of them in a mixed informal shrub border. They are tolerant of shade and well suited as underplantings in woodland gardens. A row of these evergreen, fast growing shrubs makes a great screen. Leatherleaf viburnum is valued for its tolerance of alkaline soils, and is useful in areas where limestone is at the surface.
The viburnums are just wonderful shrubs for the home landscape. There's more than 200 species of them to provide interest in all seasons, whether grown for their showy (and in some cases, fragrant) flowers; for their ornamental (and in some cases, edible) fruits; for their attractive evergreen foliage (or fall color from the deciduous species); as hedges, or pruned to small treelike specimens. Everybody loves viburnums, including the songbirds who appreciate the fruits in fall and winter. Leatherleaf viburnum is especially attractive with its large creamy white flower clusters on a background of glossy dark green foliage.