Double-file Viburnum…Twice As Nice In Your Spring Garden

Doublefile Viburnums Brighten Up A Dreary Day

Doublefile Viburnums Brighten Up A Dreary Day

It’s a dreary day here in southwestern Connecticut (zone 6), but still my garden is shining.  Thanks in part to one (actually two) of my favorite shrubs, Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum.  That’s a botanical mouthful for double-file viburnum.

I love the way their bright white flowers brighten my border.  Even on a brilliant sunny day when other flowers and shrubs shine, the flowers of doublefile viburnum steal the show.  You’ll notice how the double-file on the left is smaller than the one on the right.  That is not a trick of the camera angle.  They were both planted on the same day about 10 years ago but the one of the right gets a few hours more sun each day.  Now you can see why gardening books give a size range for mature shrubs!

Close-Up Look at the Flowers of Double-File Viburnum

Close-Up Look at the Flowers of Double-File Viburnum

One of the characteristics of a double-file viburnum that makes it so interesting is its flowers.  Here’s a close up view.  They look almost like the flowers of a lacecap hydrangea. The double row of flowers helps to highlight the horizontal branching pattern of this shrub.  It almost looks like it’s standing at attention with its arms outstretched ready to get measured for a suit!

The Flowers are Floating above the Branches

The Flowers are Floating above the Branches

But these are no ordinary flowers.  They sit up above the leaves, almost as if they are floating several inches above the branch.  So even though doublefile viburnum is a large shrub with coarse-textured leaves, when it’s in flower it looks light and airy.  The flowers typically last 3 – 4 weeks in my garden.  In the fall, small berries appear but they are not overly ornamental.   The leaves turn a deep purple in the autumn before falling off for the winter.

Double-file viburnums are not overly picky about site conditions.  They grow in both full sun and full shade but remember mature size will be affected.   Double-file viburnums like moist, well-drained soil and can be used as a  specimen or would make a beautiful screen if planted in mass.

If you don’t have room for a full size double-file in your garden, try one of these vareties that are smaller are maturity:

  • Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum Dart’s Red Robin’ – approx. 5′ x5′
  • Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Newport’ – approx. 6′ x 6′
  • Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shoshoni’ – approx. 5′ x 8′
  • Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Summer Snowflake’ – a reblooming variety that matures to  5′ x 5′

28 thoughts on “Double-file Viburnum…Twice As Nice In Your Spring Garden

  1. Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum “Pink Beauty”, have you come across that at all?
    Overrated in my opinion. More grey than pink.

    Cornus alba ‘Variegata” is doing the same lightening up duty in my garden today.
    Let’s hope that doesn’t run out on me like the V.p. ‘Lanarth’ did. We need those bright spots on days like this.
    I wonder why the shrub suddenly folded after years of service.

    I would have liked to enlarge the doublefile image. Lovely setting.

    • joco,

      I have not seen ‘Pink Beauty’ in person but I have read about it. Interesting to hear your opinion on it. I often find that a plant doesn’t live up to the hype in person and as you mention it usually has to do with the bloom color.

      Cornus alba ‘Variegata’ is another great plant for lightening up a garden. Funny you mention it, planted next to the larger doublefile is a Cornus alba ‘Variegata’. And it does brighten the border once the doublefile goes back to sleep!

  2. The contrast between the showy white blossoms of the viburnum and the bright greens in the background is really lovely and peaceful. It’s a great spring-time look. I’m ready to hop in the hammock and enjoy the view.

    • Genevieve,

      You’re exactly right, I often lay in the hammock and examine my gardens to see what to ‘do next’. And of course it’s the ideal spot for a little catnap after a long day working in the garden!

  3. Double File shrubs have been in place for about three years. We had flowers the first year, but none since. We trimmed them back after the first year but not since. When are they supposed to bloom, and when should they be trimmed or cut back?

    • Maria,

      Here in southwestern CT (zone 6), my doublefiles are blooming now. But, that’s a few weeks earlier than normal. I’m not sure what the issue may be with the lack of blooms but you might wnat to make sure they are not getting too much nitrogen (promotes leaf growth as the expense of flowering), they are getting enough sun – mine get about 3- 4 hours/day and that you are pruning only after flowering. If none of these are an issue I would recommend going to a local independent nursery and asking if they have any further insights. They may know of something that is affecting similiar shrubs in your area.

      Good luck and please let me know how it turns out.

  4. This is great information – and great photos. Thank you! I live in CT as well (Durham – south central CT). I have a couple of bare spots in my front border and I wanted to put doublefile viburnum in at least one of them. One spot is very large with good sun, but some shade. I think it will be perfect. The other spot is smaller and fairly sunny. There, I might try one of the smaller varieties you suggest. How do they take to pruning? In case I need to keep them a little tidy because they’ll be in a front border with other shrubs, I may need to occasionally do a little pruning. Also, what’s the growth rate for sunny locations in zone 6? Will they grow much in 2-3 years? Thank you. PS – I love your garden!

  5. Pingback: Your Top 5 Posts of 2010 « A Garden of Possibilities

  6. I also love my doublefile viburnum. Mine’s much bigger than yours! (Had to get that in.) I think it’s my biggest success story. I planted a 2 foot seedling from St. Lawrence Nursery (all native plants) and today it’s huge, suckering and getting even wider.

    • Fern, It sounds like your doublefile is huge since my largest is at least 10′ tall. How long ago did you plant yours? Thanks for the heads up on St. Lawrence Nursery, I’ve never heard of them but will check them out since I’m always looking for sources of native plants.

  7. I am looking for the Double File Viburum you have featured on this website. No nursery seems to have them. Do you know where I can find them? They all seem to carry the Summer Snowflake but that is not the same. I am in the Philadelphia area. Thank you for your help!

    • Hi Wayne, After a little research it does seem like many sources are just carrying ‘Summer Snowflake’. I did see Nature Hills carries the species but it looks to be out of stock right now. I’d suggest visiting a few indie garden centers in your area and seeing if they can order it from their supplier. If they know someone is interested in it, they will probably order a few extras for the nursery. Good luck.

    • Donnie, I’ve never seen a double file viburnum grown as a standard but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. However, the horizontal spreading habit of its branches makes me assume it it not a good candidate for the process.

      • Hello There,

        I recently just purchased (March 2012) a Viburnum ‘Summer Snowflake – doublefile’ in a standard form, aka Patio, 10 gallon from Capital Nursery in Sacramento, CA that just announced their filing of bankruptcy, sadly. But the standard form is absolutely beautiful and I’d encourage you to try it. Mine’s about 4 ft. tall and about 2ft. spread, planted near a fountain. It seems to want to grow taller and not wider. If you have limited space like I do, this may be the perfect thing for you. The nursery tag said it’ll get to be about 8ft tall with 5 ft. spread at full maturity. We’re in zone 8a. I imagine if the horizontal habit is more than you want that it could be trimmed back to manage this.

        This standard form is extremely difficult to locate. I’m looking for another one myself to plant opposite the other by the fountain.

        The standard/pation form was from Hollandia Nursery out of Modesto, CA. I’d encourage all to inundate them with requests to encourage them to grow more as there seems to be a market for it.

        Good Luck & Happy Gardening!

  8. I am getting conflicting reports on whether Double File Viburnums flower in the shade. I was sold to me as a plant that will flower in the shade.

    • Laurie,

      This is a tough question to answer without seeing your site because there’s shade and there’s shade. I have 5 doublefiles in my garden, all in varying degrees of shade. I’ve found those in high dappled shade, that get at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day, grow faster, are denser and flower better that those that don’t get as much sun. So, yes, I consider doublefile viburnum a shrub for shade but not dense shade. Hope that helps.

  9. beautiful photos. I planted 8 doublefiles 4 years ago as a hedge. 3 of them are doing wonderfully. the others not. we’re wondering if a nearby black walnut tree is the problem. have you ever heard of this problem?


  10. I bought a DoubleFile 3 yrs ago, can’t remember the container size, it was however about 2 ft tall when I planted it. I placed it out in full sun, and it seem to wilt during the heat of the day ( Central Indiana). So, I moved it next to my garage, facing south. It gets full sun from 10/11am until 5-6pm or longer, however it gets tons of water when it rains due to the garage roof. This year, 4th year of it being planted, the plant is now 8ft tall and 4ft around (I trim mine into a circular shape after blooming). It’s by far the best looking shurb I’ve had the pleasure of growing. Yesterday…… I bought 2 more!!! Oh, and the flowers, spectacular!

  11. Hi: About 3 years ago I planted a shrub only to find out today it is a doublefile viburnum. I is in a lot of shade but the flowers this year were unbelievable. I am located in MA. I’m hoping to find another to put in the other corner of the yard.Right now it is about 5 to 6 feet tall–I have been pruning. Is it possible by pruning to keep it a tree that does not grow much taller than that? Thank you.

    • Joanne, I suppose it’s possible but certainly not in the best interest of the shrub. Doublefiles are BIG shrubs that want to grow to about 10′ – 15′ tall. If you need a shrub that matures at 6′ tall, I’d consider using another viburnum instead and moving your doublefile to a spot where it can grow unencumbered and really shine.

  12. I have seen some doublefiles planted against houses in the area that I live in and they are beautiful. I am considering just planting a compact shoshoni (?) doublefile along with hostas only along the front of my house (new owners to this home and needs planting). I loved the look of the doublefiles, but is it terrible to plant as the boarder against the house??? Please give me your opinion. I live in PA near Philadelphia.

    • Catherine, I think most large doublefiles need more space than the average front foundation plantings can offer. The cultivar Shoshoni is smaller (@ 5′) than the ones I have in my garden but they still need enough room to allow them to grow to their full height and width. One thing to consider is that many homeowners like to have a mix of evergreen and deciduous plants near their foundation. Shoshoni is deciduous so it will not have as strong of a presence in the winter garden as an evergreen shrub will.

  13. I have 3 amazing Viburnum Doublefiles that I don’t trim except to remove dead branches but their bloom time seems short, especially when compared to my neighbors Dogwoods whose blooms seem to last forever even through yesterdays heavy and windy rain storm. Is it true that Viburnum Plicatum, Summer Snowflake, blooms throughout the Summer?

    • Sandra, My experience with Summer Snowflake is that it gets a heavy boom in the late spring and then blooms very sporadically throughout the summer. The rebloom is by no means as prolific as the initial bloom.

  14. My doublefiles were planted by builder seven yrs ago. All are in part shade and well over nine feet tall even with selective pruning. This year their bloom was more spectacular than ever. Clusters of bright red berries formed in June. The catbirds that nest in my yard are feasting on the berries even when I am sitting only four feet away. Isn’t this early for berries? Have I misnamed these shrubs? I live about three miles from the Atlantic in Berlin, MD. Suzy

  15. Hi Debbie. I love the photo of your mixed shrub border (beautifully done!) in this article, and I would like to try to replicate it in my own yard. Could you please tell me the names of the shrubs around/near the doublefiles? Many thanks!

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