Fifteen years ago, I saw the most beautiful tree I’d ever seen. It was at an outdoor Master Gardener meeting in April at Glenda Thompson’s lovely garden in Canton. During the business meeting, I had a hard time paying attention because I couldn’t wait to get up and get a closer view of this gorgeous tree. Right after the business session, I remember boldly standing up, pointing and saying , “I covet your beautiful white tree up there,” what is it? Many heads turned around laughing and told me it wasn’t a tree, but a shrub, and its name — Doublefile Shasta Viburnum, botanically Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum.
After hearing how much I loved and ‘coveted’ Glenda’s Doublefile Shasta Viburnum, a fellow gardener, Susan Cox, gave me one. I was thrilled and every April, it brings me so much pleasure and many comments and complements from neighbors. I now have another one from Glenda, I selected at a plant swap. And another one from dear friends Serena and Steve Verner.
Why do I love the Doublefile Viburnum so much? It is elegant. The flowers are unlike those on any other shrub. The limbs on this viburnum grow in horizontal layers up the trunk, each tier higher and smaller than the last. The horizontal lines of its branches offer good contrast to the more upright shrubs along your property line. In mid-June it produces red berries in mid-June for the birds. In the fall its leaves turn an attractive reddish purple.
Shasta is one of the Doublefile viburnums, a name given to the group because blooms are produced in large flat-topped inflorescences down each side of these layered side branches. The showy white bloom clusters are 5 to 6 inches across and composed of an outer rim of flowers to 1 and 1/2 inches across. A deciduous flowering shrub it grows 8 to 10 feet tall and with a width of 8 to 10 feet at maturity. In north Georgia spring is the best time to plant this shrub.
Doublefile viburnums will do best on a site that has moist, well-drained soil. Don’t put it too far from a water hose. A prolonged summer drought can cause stem to die back.
When planting this shrub dig a hole 5 times as wide as root ball. Spread roots in the hole before putting soil back in place. Make sure the main stem is not planted more deeply in the earth than it grew in the pot. Pack the soil around the roots by hand, then water well. Pine straw or pine bark mulch under the new plant will help conserve moisture.
Doublefile viburnums require little care and maintenance. After it has become established, little fertilizer is needed. Water once a week for 3 weeks after planting, then watch plant for signs of water stress — the leaves hang almost vertically — droopier when the shrub is dry. Pruning Is rarely needed. This viburnum will usually make a beautiful shape without assistance.
This graceful, flowering shrub can be planted as massing screen, shrub border, foundation, specimen, or accent plant. Other cultivars of Doublefile viburnums include:
‘Pink Beauty’ which produces a smaller form with pink flowers, ‘Shoshoni’, a smaller species which grows about 4 to 6 feet high and 8 feet wide and ‘Summer Snowflake’, growing 4 to 8 feet high and produces scattered flowers over the summer. However, the ‘Shasta’ cultivar is my all-time favorite viburnum because it is wider than high, has horizontal branching, and abundant white, showy flowers!