Viburnum obovatum, commonly called small-leaf viburnum or Walter viburnum, is an evergreen to semi-evergreen to deciduous large shrub that typically grows with a dense rounded habit to 10-12’ tall and as wide, but will occasionally soar (sometimes in small tree-like fashion) to as much as 20-25’ tall. It is native to swamp margins, stream banks and moist low open woods along the coastal plain from South Carolina to Florida and Alabama.
Small-leaf viburnum is in part noted for its large size and very small leaves. The oblanceolate to spatulate to obovate-rounded leaves grow to only 1-2” long. Leaves add varying amounts of purple color in fall but remain semi-evergreen to evergreen in warm winter climates. Tiny, white, 5-petaled flowers in dome-shaped clusters (2 1/4” diameter cymes) bloom March-April. It is one of the earliest viburnums to flower in spring. Egg-shaped blue-black fruits (1/ 4” long) mature in September or October.
Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-9 (probably also Zone 6) where it is easily grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates close to full shade. Best growth occurs with consistent and even moisture. Tolerates wet soils in the wild. This is an evergreen shrub, but it tends to be semi-evergreen to deciduous near the northern edge of its growing range. Plants appreciate some afternoon shade in hot summer climates. In optimum growing conditions, plants may spread by suckers to form thickets. If growth is attempted in USDA Zone 6, plants should be sited in protected locations and given a winter mulch. Broadleaf evergreen shrub for informal hedges, screens, barriers, foundations, borders or open woodland areas. Fragrant late spring flowers, fall fruit and evergreen foliage make this an interesting and attractive landscape shrub.