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The plant genus Schneeball (Viburnum) belongs to the family of the musk plants (Adoxaceae) and consists of more than 150 different species. Snowballs are native to the temperate and subtropical climates of the northern hemisphere. Indigenous to Central Europe are the Woolly Viburnum (Viburnum lantana) and the Common Viburnum (Viburnum opulus). The genus bears its German name due to its white and sometimes almost spherical inflorescences. Among the many types of viburnum there are a number of attractive ornamental shrubs for the garden, which are also hardy for us and delight us with their flower and fruit decoration and a beautiful autumn color. The nurseries have about 12 to 15 different species and at least as many varieties and hybrids in the assortment.


Snowball shrubs grow loosely or densely branched and usually broad-bushed. Depending on the species, they can reach a height of 0.5 to 5 meters. The predominantly deciduous leaves are usually opposite or whorled on the branches. They are stalked and usually simple in shape, sometimes three- or five-lobed with a serrated or smooth leaf margin. The foliage of some species has an attractive autumn coloration.

Blooming Snowball (Viburnum)

In spring, most types of snowball are covered with flowers all over

The either ball-shaped or plate-shaped inflorescences are composed of several umbelliferous or panic-like partial inflorescences. They stand at the branch ends or on short side shoots. The small, fragrant single flowers have five fused sepals and five in the lower area tubular, mostly white, more rarely pink petals. In some species and varieties such as the common snowball, the marginal flowers of the inflorescences are sterile and outwardly somewhat enlarged, such as the Japanese viburnum (Viburnum plicatum). Each flower has five stamens, the stylus has a tripartite scar. Flowering time is mostly from April to June, but there are also some species that open the first flowers in mild weather from November and bloom into March - for example, the winter snowball (Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn') and winter Scented snowball (Viburnum farreri). From the fertilized flowers arise lonely drupes, which are colored red or blue-black at maturity. The seeds are flattened and sometimes heart-shaped.

Snowball berries red

Depending on the variety, the berries of the snowball are red, blue or black

The leaves, the bark and the immature fruits of the snowballs contain toxins. After eating the berries, vomiting and diarrhea can occur. Mature berries, however, are non-toxic. From the common snowball they are mainly harvested in Russia after the first frost and processed into jelly.

Location and ground

Snowballs prefer to be in full sun, but most species can tolerate light shadows. Frost-sensitive evergreen species such as the Mediterranean viburnum (Viburnum tinus) and the cushion snowball (Viburnum davidii) should be protected from direct sunlight, especially in winter. With a not too dry, humus-rich and well-drained garden soil, all snowballs get along well.


Snowball shrubs can be used in the garden versatile. There are also some small species such as the Korea Scented Snowball (Viburnum carlesii 'Aurora'). It is barely two meters high and wide and therefore suitable for very small gardens. Very expansive, however, the Japanese snowball is growing. It forms horizontally projecting branches, which are densely occupied with white flowers, and should therefore necessarily get a single place in the garden, where it can develop its full splendor. The simple native species fit well in the natural garden and are also suitable for mixed flowering hedges. The wrinkled viburnum (Vibunum rhytidophyllum) is evergreen and is often planted as a noise protection plant because of its thick foliage. The cushion snowball grows more broad than high and is a good groundcover for the semi-shade. The flowers of the snowball shrubs are visited by bees and other insects, but are not very pollen and nectar rich.

Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum)

The Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum) is characterized by a picturesque, expansive growth

Spring-blooming viburnum species should be planted with matching bulbous flowers. Species with beautiful autumn colors can be combined well with autumn crocuses and various late flowering perennials. In larger gardens also group plantings with other autumn-colored woody plants such as maples, dogwood or witch hazel are very effective.The slightly frost-sensitive Mediterranean snowball can also be cultivated well in large planters on the terrace and is best wintered in the cold house or well packed in a sun and sheltered place on the wall of the house.

Planting and care

The plants are easy to care for in a suitable location and need no special attention. After planting and casting you should spread horn chips in the root area and cover the ground with a mulch layer. Frost-sensitive species are better through the winter, if you wrap the crowns in sunny locations in autumn in a garden fleece.

To cut

Although snowballs are cut-friendly, they do not need a regular cut, as they are by nature very rare and bloom lushly into old age. When the shrubs become very dense, you can remove individual old branches near the ground after flowering. In frost-sensitive evergreen species such as the Mediterranean snowball, the frozen shoots are removed in spring. He is also suitable for a shape cut. When planting and cutting some species such as the Woolly Snowball and the Wrinkled Snowball, sensitive people should wear respiratory protection: the leaves are covered with fine fibers that can cause itchy eyes and irritate the respiratory system.

Scented Snowball Viburnum Carlesii

The scented snowball (Viburnum carlesii) is one of the small-sized species


Most of the snowball shrubs can be multiplied by semi-ripe cuttings in early summer. For this one uses about 8 to 15 centimeters long drive pieces. The native game species can be sowed or multiplied by plywood. This method also works with some Asian species, provided that the soil is evenly moist and humus rich. Some species such as the winter snowball sometimes form foothills. You can simply cut them off in autumn or spring and replant them elsewhere. Although the refinement is also possible, due to the high cost, it is hardly used today

Diseases and pests

Especially annoying is the snowball leaf beetle. Its larvae infest the leaves and in the worst case eat the shrub bald. In the spring you should check the shrubs regularly for signs of infestation and destroy infected leaves with the larvae on them. The common snowball is often very heavily attacked by aphids in early summer, but also some other species are prone to it. One of the most common diseases is powdery mildew. But he usually does not cause much damage.

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