Trees & BushesDecorativeHedges

5 Reasons to Plant a Japanese Snowball

Japanese snowball, viburnum plicatum 'popcorn'

Japanese Snowball is a fantastic tree to make your garden look special. Its’ scientific name is Viburnum plicatum ‘Popcorn,’ and its common name comes from snowball-shaped blooms. Japanese snowballs can grow up to 15 feet (10 meters) and 12 feet (4 meters) wide. You could make a case that a Japanese Snowball is rather a shrub than a tree. 

Viburnum plicatum ‘Popcorn’ is a hybrid shrub, and its parent species are native to Korea, Japan, and China. Its close relative is Viburnum V. carlesii, ‘Korean Spice,’ which is smaller and fragrant.

Reason #1: It Catches the Attention

Japanese Snowball with blooms
Japanese Snowball with blooms

Who does not want a flower and tree (shrub) two-in-one deal? These sorts of blooms are common in flowers but not shrubs. You are guaranteed to amaze visitors during summertime when you have Japanese Snowball growing in your garden or backyard. If you don’t plan on inviting many visitors for barbeques or get together in your garden, you might get to enjoy the visits of butterflies!
Leaves of Japanese Snowball turn into beautiful red with an orange hue during autumn.

Reason #2: Low Maintenance

As mentioned before, it has stunning snowball-shaped flowers which can grow 4 inches (10 cm) wide! Japanese snowball blooms appear in early spring, either in March or April, depending on your location. But beauty does not come at a cost; they are easy to take care of. 

Here are a few tips to help you to take care of this intense-looking tall shrub.

  • It thrives in USDA zones 5-8
  • It enjoys the sun! Plant it in full sun or partial shade
  • Japanese snowball can grow in most soils but prefers slightly acidic and moderately moist loam.
  • This shrub tolerates periods of dryness, although you might want to generously water it for a year after planting.
  • Fertilize once per year; after planting, add organic material around it; it really helps the growth.
  • In zones 5-6, add mulch around the base of the plant, as it helps against frosting, and during growing periods, it prevents the growth of weeds.

Reason #3: Japanese Snowball Bears Fruit

This type of shrub really is full of surprises; not only it has beautiful blooms, but it also has stunning red berries (during autumn), which are a source of food for wild birds. However, these berries turn black in the winter. Be careful! Its fruit is not toxic, but consuming large amounts can cause stomach problems.

Fruit of Japanese Snowball
Fruit of Japanese Snowball

Reason #4: Hedge Plant

That’s right; Viburnum plicatum ‘Popcorn’ makes a great hedge because it has very dense foliage in the summer, which provides privacy. If you are interested in making your neighbor jealous with a more attractive hedge, this plant is the way to achieve that. Just make sure to plant them 12 feet apart not to prevent the plants achieve full growth. 

Another reason to grow it as a hedge is that, on average, it grows 12 (0.3 m) inches a year, but in ideal circumstances, it can grow up to 2 feet (0.6 m) in a year!

Reason #5: Multi-Purpose

Hedges are not the only function of this shrub; they are also excellent shrub borders, screens, foundation plantings, and specimen plants!

Japanese Snowball
Japanese Snowball

Common Problems and Fixes

Viburnum plicatum ‘Popcorn’ is low maintenance, but it does still occasionally have a few problems.

Bacterial infection – If you notice irregular spots on the leaves of this plant, it is most probably a bacterial infection. Take a sharp cutting tool and remove parts of the plant that have these spots; definitely sterilize the cutting tool before each cut. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease.

Viburnum crown borer – It’s a type of insect that infests the Japanese Snowball stem near ground level. If not taken care of, the plant is not likely to survive. Spraying chemical pesticides on the lower part of the plant might prevent infestation of this insect; if your plant is already affected, beneficial nematodes can help.

Powdery mildew can happen during periods with very high relative humidity, especially in the autumn. It looks kind of gross but is not fatal; it usually goes away on its own. Just make sure not to add leaves or organic material at the base of the plant during autumn, and if there is any there, you might need to clean it up. Chemical fungicide is a solution, as well.

Japanese Snowball is not blooming – One of the reasons why this might happen is too little sunlight. Try to replant it to a better location or take other measures (such as pruning nearby trees if they provide shade). It is also not a good idea to prune Japanese Snowball in the spring, as it might prevent blooming.

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