Dwarf European CranberrybushViburnum opulus ‘Nanum’
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Viburnum opulus ‘Nanum’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Dwarf European Cranberrybush is a unique shrub that forms a perfect, neat ball of branches and leaves, bringing a formal look without ever needing trimming. The small leaves are similar to a maple, and flushed with bronzy-red when young. In fall they turn glowing shades of purple-red. It only grows 1 or 2 feet tall, and never deviates from a perfect globe-form. Use it as accents in your beds, to fill pockets in a rock garden, or to make a neat, ‘trim-free’ edging to your beds, or along a path. It can also be used as a container plant, alone or with flowering plants added seasonally.
You can grow the Dwarf European Cranberrybush in a range of light conditions, from full sun to partial shade. It thrives in just about any soil, as long as it isn’t too dry. Although preferring well-drained soil, it will also grow in wetter conditions and heavy clays. It isn’t bothered by pests or diseases in most parts of the country, and it never, ever, ever needs trimming – promise!
When we want ‘small, round and green’ we usually turn to evergreens like dwarf arborvitae, but sometimes a deciduous shrub, and especially one with vibrant fall colors, can be a better choice. It can bring a unique texture and contrast to a small spot in the garden, or be incredibly useful for a low edging that never needs clipping or attention to stay neat and compact. Sometimes we want it for a container, to surround it with flowers and trailing plants – a little height, but not too much. When any of those needs come to mind, especially in cold zones, then the Dwarf European Cranberrybush is exactly what you need. This round ball of green leaves tops out at 2 feet tall and wide – perfect for edging a bed with something that never needs you to take out the trimmers. It’s a minor miracle how constantly neat and perky this bush is, never sending out a branch that doesn’t stay within that neat sphere, even when older. If you like ‘round’, and are constantly reaching for the trimmers, throw them away – you’ll never need them on this neat little guy.
The Dwarf European Cranberrybush is a compact deciduous shrub of many crowded branches, growing slowly to be between 1 and 2 feet tall and wide. Very old plants can approach 3 feet. It forms a near-perfect ball of leaves, hiding the stems right to the ground, and never sends out stray longer branches, or needs any trimming at all to satisfy the most demanding need for ‘neat and round’. The leaves are not large – between 1 and 2 inches long, but they give this plant a very different look to a dwarf evergreen, with its fine foliage. The leaves are a little like a maple leaf, with three lobes and an irregular, jagged edge. They are mid-green, and young leaves have a coppery-pink flush to them, giving a warm look. The leaves stay green and healthy all summer, before turning attractive purple-reds in fall. Older plants may rarely produce, in June, clusters of small white flowers, about 2 inches across, like lace-cap hydrangeas. Even more rarely these are followed by clusters or scarlet-red berries in fall, but generally plants don’t flower or fruit.
For a compact, neat rounded shrub, there really is nothing that can match the Dwarf European Cranberrybush. It never deviates from its globe form as it develops, and the very different texture from evergreens give it a unique look. Grow it as a globe of green to bring a more formal touch to your beds. It looks especially effective planted in groups of 3, 5 or 7, or as a row. Grow it at the corners of a formal bed, or plant a row, spacing them 12 inches apart, for a continuous neat edging that never, ever needs trimming. Use it to fill pockets between rocks in a rock-garden, where it makes a fascinating contrast to the usual dwarf evergreens commonly used for that purpose. It is also effective, in zone 5 and warmer areas, as a center-piece in a pot or planter box, where it can be surrounded by trailing plants, or simply grown as an attractive formal feature.
The Dwarf European Cranberrybush will grow well even in zone 5, and also everywhere else, into zone 8. It is versatile and useful across the country.
Since flowers and fruit aren’t part of the equation, you can grow the Dwarf European Cranberrybush across a wide range of light conditions, from full sun to areas with several hours of shade each day, and even in light dappled shade or the shadow-zone of trees. Soil is rarely an issue, as this plant will grow in almost any well-drained soil, although very dry sandy soils may not be suitable for the best growth. A regular supply of water will give the best results, but older plants have good resistance to normal periods of summer dryness – it may even produce better fall colors.
The Dwarf European Cranberrybush doesn’t usually suffer from any significant pests or diseases, but in some parts of the northeast the viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) may eat the foliage. This introduced pest normally doesn’t bother our American species of viburnum, and it isn’t found in many states at all. No trimming or pruning is ever needed with this shrub – even old bushes keep their remarkable neat, rounded form without trimming.
The European cranberrybush, Viburnum opulus, is found all through Europe, North Africa and much of Central Asia. It is closely related to Viburnum trilobum, its equivalent in North America, and some experts consider that plant to be just a variety of the European cranberrybush. The variety called Nanum was discovered at a nursery in France in 1841, and it has been widely grown ever since, for its curious, neat outline.
The Dwarf European Cranberrybush is a garden classic that isn’t seen in gardens much anymore. Its novel look will still draw attention, though, and it has many uses in the garden. It is rarely available today, and stock is scarce. So order now – we found some attractive bushes, but they won’t be around for long.