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Viburnum carlesii Hemsl.

Common name(s): Koreanspice viburnum
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Type: Woody shrub
Size: 4-6' high x wide, 8' possible
Texture: Medium
Hardiness: Zone 4b USDA
Range: Korea

Oh, what more can I ask for on a warm April day than the ambrosial fragrance of a koreanspice viburnum? The heady fragrance nearly cloys the senses when in close proximity, but these wonderfully scented blooms can be detected over 30 feet away.

This species' beauty is not limited to just one sense, but presents itself with stunningly beautiful blooms held above dusty green foliage. Blushing pink as the buds open, they gradually fade to a brilliant, waxy white. Late summer presents offerings of clustered red fruit that fade to black, drawing chattering birds to a luscious banquet. As Demeter's apprehension leads into autumn, the viburnum withdraws into tight-clustered buds and soft brown branches not with a whimper, but a bang! Wine red foliage celebrates this species' exit into winter solitude, but reminds one of its other features yet to come.

As if this plant's beauty were not enough, its tolerance to adverse conditions and trouble-free demeanor make it ideal for most environs. It can tolerate a range of soil types, acidity, and moisture, but prefers to bask in the glow of the afternoon sun.


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These broadly ovate leaves are a dark green, but are given a dull, dusty cast by the pubescence present on the upper surface. The leaf undersides are a lighter gray-green, covered with even more hairs than above.

This light color and dense pubescence softens the plant's appearance, making it a good element in the architectural landscape.

Taxonomic description:

Opposite and simple, the broad-ovate leaves are 1 to 4" long with denticulate margins and slightly impressed veination. The upper surface is dull dark green and pubescent, whereas the underside is gray-green and densely pubescent.


Opening in late April, the snowball like clusters of waxy flowers start pink, then gradually fade to white. Their intoxicating fragrance fills the springtime air for about 10 days, then disappear as the leaves fully emerge.

Taxonomic description:

Perfect, 1/2" across in 2-3" dense hemispherical cymes in late April. Pink to reddish in bud opening to white, incredibly fragrant.



Borne in dense upward clusters, the fruit are about 1/4" in length and oval, starting bright red and fading to black.

Taxonomic description:

Red turning to black, drupes are 1/4" in length and borne in late summer.

Fall Color:

Fall color varies from brilliant red to dull burgundy on this viburnum, with a tendency towards the latter. However, if care is taken in selecting a specimen, good fall color can be guaranteed.
Fall Color
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Unfortunately, this species is has troubles with bacterial leaf spot and borers. I have seen entire plants dessimated by borers, so it's good practice to cut older branches back to encourage growth.


The best way to propagate this species is through cuttings, despite literature suggesting the contrary. They should be gathered in June-July and dipped in 8000 ppm IBA-talc, followed by a brief dormancy cycle.


Koreanspice viburnums are happiest in moist, acidic, well-drained soils in full sun. However, they are tolerant of semi-shade, heavy clay soils, alkalinity, and to a certain degree, drought.

Suggested uses:

Because it is most appreciated for the wonderful fragrance of its flowers, the koreanspice viburnum is best situated near high traffic areas or windows.

Because of its growth potential, take care when planting by providing plenty of headroom and space for outward growth. Planting smaller cultivars such as 'Compactum' can minimize this size requirement while still providing the beauty of the species.

In terms of groupings, these plants make excellent foundation plantings, specimens, borders, or if smaller cultivars are used, group plantings of three or so.


'Aurora' Leaves copper-flushed, flower buds red, fading to white.
'Carlotta' Larger, broad-ovate leaves. Introduced by W.B. Clarke Co. in San Jose, CA.
'Cayuga' Actually a backcross of Viburnum carlesii x Viburnum x carlecephalum. It is noticeably different in its darker and smaller leaves and compact habit.
'Compactum' Dwarf variety, growing 2 1/2 to 3 1/2' high. Introduced by Hoogendoorn Nurseries in Newport, Rhode Island.
'Diana' A vigorous compact cultivar with hints of chocolate on young leaves. Flowers are red in the bud, then pink, then purplish, finally fading to white.
'Eskimo' A cross between 'Cayuga' x Viburnum utile, this dwarf cultivar has dense, semi-evergreen glossy leaves.

Medicinal uses:

This species has no significant medicinal uses.


  • Bean, W. J. Trees & Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles: Volume IV.. London: John Murray, 1996.
  • Bean, W. J. Trees & Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles: Supplement.. London: John Murray, 1997.
  • Dirr, Michael. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Champaign: Stipes Publishing, 1990.
  • Griffiths, M. The Index of Garden Plants. Portland: Timber Press, 1994.
  • Johnson, Warren T. and Howard H. Lyon. Insects That Feed on Trees and Shrubs. Ithica: Cornell University, 1994.
  • Rehder, Alfred. Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs. New York: MacMillan Publishing.
  • Sinclair, Wayne A. et al. Diseases of Trees and Shrubs. Ithica: Cornell University, 1993.
  • Wyman, Donald. Wyman's Gardening Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillan, 1986.

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