Guelder rose with the scientific name Viburnum is a shrub or low tree that is native to Europe, northern Africa and central Asia. The fragrant shrub blooms in May and June with striking white flowers that look like snowballs. The Guelder rose is also known by the name water elder, cramp bark, snowball tree, common snowball, and European cranberrybush.

The native shrub or tree contributes to the development of biodiversity in an area. It is a good tree for both insects such as bees, which come for the nectar, and certain species of birds. The birds find a place to hide or breed and eat the fruits in winter.

Viburnum Opulus

The translation of Viburnum in Latin is literally snowball. The globular white inflorescence is reminiscent of a snowball. The outer lure flowers of the Guelder rose attract insects with the nectar in the flowers. After flowering, hanging clusters of red berries appear on the branches. These are edible to humans in small quantities, but not very tasty. In larger quantities they are poisonous.

The berries are widely eaten by birds. Birds eat them mainly in winter, when a frost has passed over them. Before the frost, the fruits are in fact not tasty for the birds either with their bitter taste.

Funnily enough, the Guelder Rose is not a rose, it is a shrub.

Guelder Rose shrub or tree

Guelder rose tree or shrub?

The Viburnum can grow between 1.5 and 6 meters tall. The shrub can be grown as a shrub form and as a tree. The average height is 3 meters. The autumn color of the bushy shrub is of added decorative value in the fall. The leaves turn red, pink and purple. In winter, the shrub loses its leaves, only to sprout again in spring. The shrub or tree is hardy. There are also an evergreen variety, for example the Viburnum Tinus.

Where to plant the Guelder rose?

Viburnum likes a slightly moist soil, but not a permanently wet one. The Guelder rose prefers a spot in the sun or light shade. To be very precise, this may be the morning or evening sun. The hot afternoon sun is less appreciated. In terms of soil, the Viburnum has few requirements, but a preference for calcareous soil.

guelder rose berries

Guelder rose berries

The berries of the Guelder rose are edible, but as previously written not very tasty. In large quantities they are also poisonous. So you can try one for the taste. The taste is bitter. Even the birds leave them hanging until winter. After the frost has passed over them, the taste becomes slightly sweeter. Birds eat the berries and spread the seeds through their droppings. By the way, it is only a few species of birds that will eat the berries. The biggest enthusiast is probably the Bohemian waxwing.

Guelder rose pruning

The shrub is good to use as a natural hedge and can also be pruned as such. It is best to prune in the months of April and September. For the growth and well-being of the plant pruning is not necessary, so only prune for the shape. You do this in the shape you want. When doing this, prune away the dead and strange branches and try to prune away a maximum of 1/5 of the plant.

Viburnum varieties

There are over 250 different Viburnum varieties worldwide. A number of species and their characteristics are shown below in an overview.

Viburnum opulus Roseum

Viburnum opulus Roseum

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ is one of the species that has a distinct spherical inflorescence. The species grows to approximately 250 centimeters in height. It likes a sunny spot in the border and blooms in the months of May and June.

Viburnum opulus compactum

​Viburnum opulus compactum

As the name suggests, this is a compact species among viburnums, growing up to 1 meter in height. The white flowering species produces many red berries in the autumn. You can plant them as a low hedge or in a group together. The red-orange autumn color is striking.

Viburnum Tinus

Viburnum Tinus

A beautiful evergreen snowball that blooms during the winter months. The flowers appear in November and remain until May. These are white in color and slightly fragrant. Viburnum Tinus prefers a sheltered spot, otherwise it might have some trouble in a frost period. The maximum height the shrub reaches is 3 meters.

Viburnum Plicatum

Viburnum Plicatum

This species is known by the name Japanese Snowball. It is an ornamental shrub with very many flowers in the flowering period. The flowers appear in the months of April and May. In the fall, dark-colored berries develop. The shrub grows wide and reaches a height of 175 centimeters.

Viburnum carlesi

Viburnum carlesii

A deciduous shrub with white flowers. Flowering occurs in the months of April and May. A very hardy species that reaches a height of 1.5 meters.

Viburnum x burkwoodii

Viburnum x burkwoodii

A semi-evergreen species that can grow up to 2.5 meters high. The flowering of the tubular white flowers is in the months of March and April. In the fall it develops red fruits that discolor to black.

Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

A type of snowball with a pinkish flower, blooming from November to March on the bare branches. After flowering, the leaves emerge in spring. The deep green leaves turn orange, red and purple in the autumn and fall off in the winter. This slow grower is suitable for a small garden.