Witherod grows as a large, upright, shrub with several main stems. The handsome oblong leaves are glossy dark green in the summer and develop rich burgundy red tones in autumn. In spring, smooth witherod bears large flat clusters of small creamy white flowers. These are followed by many small, plump, oval fruits. In early to mid autumn the fruits change from green to light yellow, then pink and ultimately dark Navy blue, often with multiple colors appearing together. Smooth witherod is a fine choice for woodland gardens, rain gardens, and other naturalistic landscapes.
Common name: Smooth witherod or possumhaw
Botanical name: Viburnum nudum
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 5 to 9
Height: 6 to 12 feet
- Sun: Full sun or partial shade
- Soil: Grows in most soil types; prefers acidic soil (pH below 7)
- Moisture: Average or slightly wet
- Mulch: 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch
- Pruning: Light pruning in early spring if needed
- Fertilizer: Apply compost or balanced fertilizer as needed
Pests and diseases
- Few pest problems, except for viburnum leaf beetles where they are present (mainly in the northeastern US).
- ‘Angustifolium’ has narrower leaves than the species.
- Brandywine (‘Bulk’) is reported to be self-fruitful.
- ‘Winterthur’ has large fruit clusters and excellent fall color.
- Like many viburnums, smooth witherod is typically not self-fruitful so it’s best to plant a combination of several cultivars and/or the straight species to ensure cross pollination for good fruit set.
- Smooth witherod’s tolerance of moist soil makes it a great choice for rain gardens or pondside plantings.
- Combine smooth witherod in mixed plantings with fall-blooming perennials and ornamental grasses.
All in the family
- Smooth witherod is a member of the muskroot family (Adoxaceae), a small group of plants that were previously included in the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae).
- There are more than 150 species of viburnum, many of them valued as ornamental landscape plants.
- Witherod viburnum (V. cassinoides) is a closely related species (in fact it’s sometimes listed as a variety of V. nudum) that has a more northern range and can be grown through Zone 3.