American Viburnum


The American viburnum is a perennial shrub with an active growth period during the spring and summer. It has white flowers and dense, green foliage. The fruit is bright red. The American viburnum is a slow grower and takes over 20 years to reach its maximum height.

Names and Alternate Names

The American viburnum is commonly known as the cranberry tree. It is also known as the guelder rose, red elder, marsh elder, squaw bush, and the pincushion tree. Scientific synonyms are Viburnum trilobum and Viburnum opulus ssp. trilobum.


The American viburnum grows from 6 to 10 feet in height. The leaves are three-lobed and grow opposite one another. They are about 2 to 5 inches long and about 3 1/2 inches across. The leaves turn scarlet during the fall. The flowers are creamy white and bloom in late May to early June. The flowers are about 3 1/2 inches across. The bloom has an outer ring of sterile flowers. The inner ring is composed of tiny, fertile flowers. The red fruit ripens in September and October and stays on the branches throughout the winter.

Growth Requirements

The American viburnum tolerates some drought but should be watered in periods of excessive dry spells. It requires high moisture, but the soil should be loose enough so that it has excellent drainage. The American viburnum does not tolerate salt and needs at least 90 days that are frost free, and should not be exposed to temperatures below minus 33 degrees Fahrenheit. It prefers partial shade.


The American viburnum produces a lot of seed, though this shrub cannot be propagated by its seed. To propagate the American viburnum, use cuttings or the bare root. Dip the cuttings or bare root into rooting powder (available at your local nursery or big box gardening store). Plant the cutting or bare root into fertile soil. Once the cutting establishes itself, transplant the cutting to a larger container. You can tell when the cutting is established by giving it a gentle tug. If it gives some resistance, the roots are established.


The American viburnum is used mostly for decorative purposes. It does not produce edible fruit or foliage. It is generally not used for lumber, as it is too small. It provides some fodder for animals that browse. Grazing animals do not bother this shrub.

Keywords: american viburnum, red elder, cranberry

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Cayden Conor is a family law paralegal who writes on various subjects including dogs, cockatoos and cooking. She has over 15 years of experience as a paralegal, and has been writing professionally for three years. Conor has a paralegal degree and majored in criminology, computer science (programming emphasis) and education.