With a jagged, vase-shaped growing habit, the fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri) delivers delight in March and April with sweet aroma from its tiny pink blossoms. Growing about 10 feet tall and wide, this Chinese native shrub was introduced into North America in 1910. Grow it best in gardens located in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 8a where summers do not get too warm.
This deciduous shrub grows best where it receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. Too much shade and the plant becomes leggy and flowering diminishes. Also choose a site that has a fertile soil, sand, loam or clay that is rich in organic matter. This soil must remain evenly moist but drain well so that it never becomes soggy. American plantsman Michael Dirr of the University of Georgia mentions that late spring freezes often destroy emerging flower buds, so consider placing this shrub in a protected spot in the garden, such as the southeast side of a windbreak or building.
Fragrant viburnum attains an upright, irregular but overall rounded shape at maturity. The rather unkempt look of the shrub usually works best incorporated around other ornamental shrubs in a mixed border setting. To prevent overcrowding, space this shrub at least 5 feet away from other shrubs, measured center-to-center, as it can grow 8 to 12 feet wide over many years.
Dig the planting hole the same depth as the root ball of the fragrant viburnum, and two to three times as wide. Situate the root ball so that once filled, the soil line matches the top of the root ball of the shrub. Planting too deeply slowly kills a plant as it reduces gas exchange to the roots and fungal rot occurs on the buried trunk.
Once planted, place a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch over the root zone of the shrub, keeping the mulch 2 inches away from the trunk itself. The mulch provides nutrients, retains moisture, keeps roots cool and suppresses weeds. Water the newly planted viburnum with 1 inch of water daily for the first two weeks, and then 1 inch every two to four days, gradually tapering watering to about 1 inch every week for the first six months. During dry spells within the first year after planting, water as needed to ensure the roots never dry out.