Walter’s viburnum (Viburnum obovatum) is a Florida native that can be grown either as a small tree or as a shrub. It stays evergreen in more mild climates, such as Florida.
Though this plant can reach heights of up to 30 feet, it more commonly grows to six to 15 feet – or less. There are several cultivar forms available including popular dwarf forms. It often has multiple trunks and sometimes sends up suckers as it spreads itself into a thicket. Young twigs have a pretty reddish fuzz. Its leaves are small and shiny – only about one to two inches long.
This lovely tree features a mass of small, creamy-white flowers in the spring that attract butterflies, and its fall fruit attracts birds and other wildlife. It’s also a favorite nesting site for cardinals and other song birds.
Walter’s viburnum is native to the southeastern American coastal plain from South Carolina, through central Florida, back up to Alabama. It is usually found in acidic moist woods, near streams or in swamps.
Walter’s viburnum blooms more profusely in full sun, but still grows very well in part shade. It can be found growing in moist-to-wet soils, often in swamps. Once established, however, it does just fine in normal landscape situations, even without supplemental watering. Just be sure to water very frequently for the first six months or first year after planting out.
As a shrub, Walter’s viburnum is very dense and is quite suitable for hedging. It tolerates hard pruning and could be made into topiary or formal hedges. Left to its own growth pattern, Walter’s viburnum becomes a beautiful shrub with a dense, rounded form, eventually developing into a small tree with a broad spreading crown. A group of Walter’s viburnums would make a fine native species hedge or screen.