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Viburnum Leatherleaf
 



Viburnum rhytidophyllum

(vi-BUR-num  rye-tie-DO-fi-lum)
Height and Spread 10 - 15 feet.
Evergreen multistemmed shrub (semi-evergreen in the North)
Easy to grow in shade to part sun zones 5-8.  

Foliage: leathery, wrinkled leaves are the most distinctive feature of this plant. They are a dark lustrous green above, a pale fuzzy gray to brownish below and they droop limply from their stems.   Leaves have deeply etched veins that give the foliage a coarse, crinkly appearance.   They are 3 to 7 inches long and 1 to 2 1/2 inches wide, are oblong, opposite and grow in pairs.

Flowers and Fruit: Late spring clusters of tiny -inch flowers form at the ends of branches. The flat-topped mildly fragrant flower clusters may be from 4 to 8 inches across and have a creamy white to yellow color.  Large bunches of flower buds then form in late summer for the following spring, resembling a loose head of cauliflower, the buds winter over under the protection of felt-like covers. Red berries follow the current season's flowers and are enjoyed by songbirds. They last into the winter, eventually turning black. To encourage plentiful berries, plant several of these shrubs.
 
Culture: Prefers shelter from wind and winter sun, can tolerate heavy shade. If damaged by freeze, prune back to ground. Has moderate to light water and fertilizer requirements. Not bothered by pests and quite versatile. Leatherleaf viburnum is a vigorous fast growing shrub that does well in almost any soil, acidic to alkaline. To get fruit, you need at least two genetically different plants to cross-pollinate. They don't have to be the same cultivar, but plants grown from cuttings from the same plant will not work because they have identical chromosomes and genes. Prune, if needed, right after flowering since the buds for next season's flowers are produced in late summer. Protect plants from strong winter winds to reduce leaf damage.

 Notes: The selection, 'Aldenhamense' has yellowish leaves. 'Mohican' is similar to the species. Prague viburnum (V. x pragense) is a hybrid between V. rhytidophyllum and V. utile. It has a spreading habit with pendulous branch tips and smaller leaves and gets only about 6-8 ft tall. Hybrid leatherleaf viburnum or lantanaphyllum viburnum (V. x rhytidophylloides), a cross with V. lantana, is only semievergreen, but is more cold hardy and vigorous than leatherleaf viburnum and a popular screening shrub in the American Midwest. 'Willowwood' is a popular selection from this hybrid that often blooms in both the fall and spring.

Leatherleaf viburnum is native to China, introduced to US in 1900.

 


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