Winter shrubs have two main requirements: flowers and fragrance. They have to stand the worst the winter can throw at them, and if their foliage is attractive and evergreen or if their autumn berries hang on into winter, so much the better.
Viburnums fit the bill and there is quite a choice. They fall into three distinct groups and it would be no bad thing if we had one plant from each. For fragrant flowers, the forms of twiggy and deciduous Viburnum x bodnantense stand out. The four or five varieties available are similar and you’ll be pleased with any named form. The pink buds open to scented white flowers at any time from November to March and occasionally all the way through.
Evergreens form another group and Viburnum tinus, one of the toughest shrubs known to gardeners, is a dependable winter essential. Viburnum tinus ‘Gwenllian’ bears flowers and berries at the same time, but Viburnum tinus ‘Spirit’ is neater in habit.
Varieties that hold their berries into winter make up the third group. They bring a different style and several colours, but you can never tell how long the berries will last before the birds finish them off.
Winter viburnums – quick facts
- Position: best in full sun, but happy in a little dappled shade.
- Hardiness: all are hardy, but deciduous flowering types are best shaded from winter morning sun.
- Height x spread: 2-4m x 1.5-4m
- Care: most soils are suitable, but avoid waterlogged and parched conditions, and prepare well, adding compost or soil improver. Pruning is usually unnecessary but, if their size needs reducing, make your cuts after flowering in early spring. Mulch with weed-free organic matter in autumn.
Browse our list of the best winter viburnums, below.
Viburnum tinus Spirit (‘Anvi’)
Viburnum tinus ‘Spirit’ bears pink buds that open to white flowers from October to March, followed by blue berries that turn black.
Height x spread: 2m x 2m
Viburnum opulus bears white, summer lacecap flowers are followed by shining scarlet berries. Bright autumn colour.
H x S: 4m x 4m
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ bears rounded clusters of rich pink buds open to flared, fragrant flowers from November to March.
H x S: 2.5m x 1.5m
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ is a prolific grower, with bright pink flowers to cut and bring indoors.
H x S: 2.5m x 1.5m
Viburnum nudum has greenish-white summer flowers, which are followed by pink berries that mature to a deep bluish-purple.
H x S: 2m x 2m