Viburnum x bodnantense: growing & caring for the Bodnant viburnum

Katja
Katja
Katja
Katja

I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

Even when the rest of the garden is still in hibernation, Viburnum x bodnantense puts on a delightful display of full, pink blossoms. As it is one of the few plants that flowers in winter, it is attractive to bees and pollinators too.

Bodnant viburnum pink and white blossoms
Viburnum x bodnantense flowers before most other plants [Photo: Ole Schoener/ Shutterstock.com]

Bodnant viburnum is a low-maintenance ornamental shrub that makes a great addition to any garden, patio or balcony. Here is everything you need to know about this winter flowering bush.

Viburnum x bodnantense: flowering time and characteristics

Bodnant viburnum (Viburnum x bodnantense) belongs to the moschatel family (Adoxaceae). This beautiful shrub was cultivated at Bodnant Garden in North Wales and has received the Royal Horticultural Society’s award of garden merit. This hybrid was created by crossing the Farrer viburnum (Viburnum farreri) and the Viburnum grandiflorum.

The bodnant viburnum is an ornamental shrub and can be found in many parks and gardens. It is fairly slow-growing and takes about 10 to 20 years to reach its maximum size. When mature, it develops a dense bushy spread of up to three metres wide, so allow plenty of space around the shrub when planting. In summer, the Viburnum x bodnantense has stunning deep green foliage. The leaves adorn the red twigs and can have a wide variety of shapes. If you rub a leaf between your fingers, it gives off a distinctive, sometimes unpleasant smell. In autumn, the foliage turns striking shades of red and purple which is almost as beautiful as the shrub’s delicate pink blossom.

Green leaves on the Bodnant viburnum
Bodnant viburnum’s leaves are an eye-catcher with their red stems [Photo: Cristi Croitoru/ Shutterstock.com]

The magnificent pink and white flowers can be seen from January to April – in mild winters even as early as November. Such an early flowering time is the result of crossing the Farrer viburnum, which flowers in November, with the Viburnum grandiflorum, which flowers in spring. The flowers are a deep rich pink when they first appear then become a lighter delicate pale pink as buds open fully. Not only do these flowers look beautiful, they also have a heavenly fragrance of vanilla or cloves depending on the variety.

What does the Viburnum x bodnantense look like in summer? By the time summer arrives, bodnant viburnum’s flowering period is over, and its blossom is replaced by small round berries. These are red at first, before ripening to dark blue and lightly frosted.

Pink and white Viburnum x bodnantense blossom
The flowers develop into fruit in summer [Photo: nnattalli/ Shutterstock.com]

The most beautiful bodnant viburnum varieties

In addition to the original species, there are also other Viburnum x bodnantense varieties with different flower colours and flowering times. Here are some particularly beautiful varieties.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’: This variety has pale, almost white, pink flowers and blooms from November to mid-April. Its strong fragrance attracts many insects.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Deben’: This has a slightly shorter flowering time which lasts from February to April. The flowers are light pink.

Viburnum bodnantense Dawn in flower
Some varieties have almost white blooms [Photo: John C Evans/ Shutterstock.com]

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’: From January to April Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ puts on a display of pretty pink flowers. It grows about as wide as it is tall.

Pink flowers on Bodnant viburnum
Other varieties have bright pink blooms [Photo: Adrienne Kulcsar/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting Viburnum x bodnantense: where and how

Bodnant viburnum likes a sunny to partially shady spot. A certain amount of sunlight and warmth are essential for the beautiful flowers to develop. When it comes to soil, this plant can grow in most conditions but a well-drained, nutrient-rich, moist and slightly acidic soil is best. If the soil is not perfectly suited, Viburnum x bodnantense is usually quite forgiving, but it may not develop as splendidly. If your soil is particularly dry, place the Viburnum x bodnantense in partial shade. If you are unsure whether the soil conditions are right, you can add some compost before planting, such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, to support healthy growth. Its slightly acidic pH value is in the ideal range for the Viburnum x bodnantense and it stores water well without becoming waterlogged. Dig a planting hole 1.5 times bigger than the plant’s root ball.

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Tip: Plant the bodnant viburnum alongside a path or in a place where you spend a lot of time, so that you can enjoy the delightful fragrance.

Ideally, plant Viburnum x bodnantense in Spring or Autumn. Allow enough space (1 – 2 m) for the shrub to grow to its full width. Note: it can also spread a little wider through its runners. If you decide to change the location, do this in the first 5 years after planting, when the plant has just finished flowering. This gives your Viburnum x bodnantense the best chance of surviving transplanting.

First buds blooming in winter
In winter, when the garden is rather bare, the Viburnum x bodnantense is a real eye-catcher [Photo: Cristi Croitoru/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting Viburnum x bodnantense in a pot

The Bodnant viburnum can also be kept in large pots. While it is not optimal, with the right care it will become a magnificent ornamental shrub. Put a layer of clay shards, expanded clay or pebbles in the bottom of the pot to ensure good drainage and prevent waterlogging. Fill the pot with a suitable growing medium, such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost. To improve the permeability, mix in 30 % expanded clay or perlite. To reduce water evaporation, cover the surface of the soil with mulch.

Snow on Bodnant viburnum’s flowers
Cold temperatures do not stop Viburnum x bodnantense from flowering [Photo: hanmon/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: If you want to save space and still enjoy the full splendour of the flowers, you can grow your bodnant viburnum as a small, single stem tree. This way, the flowers on top of the slender trunk really come into their own in the garden or on the balcony without taking up too much room. Prune regularly to maintain the slim shape.

Viburnum x bodnantense care: watering, fertilising and pruning

Bodnant viburnum is a very low-maintenance shrub. In the warm summer months, water it when it is too dry. There is no need to fertilise regularly. However, if your soil is particularly poor in nutrients, apply compost or organic fertiliser in spring. For potted bodnant viburnums, apply slow-release fertiliser once a year, as the supply of nutrients in the pot is limited. Our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food, for example, is suitable for this as it provides the viburnum with all the essential nutrients gradually over a period of several months. This fertiliser improves microbial activity in soil and can be used both in garden beds and pots.

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Plantura All Purpose Plant Food

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Prune bodnant viburnum just after flowering to keep its lush and bushy growth in check. Overly long shoots can be shortened above a leaf node that points outwards. Since the Viburnum x bodnantense tolerates pruning well, it can also be thinned out. Rather than pruning the shoot tips, remove the inner shoots of the crown to thin it out. Pruning encourages the plant to keep producing lush new growth.

Tip: Remove the oldest branches every 3 – 4 years to promote flowering and keep your bodnant viburnum healthy for a long time to come.

Butterfly on the Bodnant viburnum
Insects also enjoy the early flowers [Photo: AirelleS/ Shutterstock.com]

Propagating bodnant viburnum

Stem cuttings taken in summer are the best way to propagate Viburnum x bodnantense. Take 10-15 cm cuttings once the plant has finished flowering. Remove the lower leaves from the cutting and plant halfway into pots with a suitable soil. Make a fresh cut on the end of the stem before placing in soil and roll it in rooting hormone to increase your chances of success. Keep the pots moist and place them in a bright spot out of direct sunlight. The ideal temperature is between 20 and 30 °C. In these conditions, the cuttings will soon form roots, at which point you can transplant them into larger pots. Avoid planting newly propagated summer cuttings outside in the winter as they will freeze. Keep the cuttings in a frost-free, bright place during the winter, but make sure it is neither too warm or too moist. By the following spring, the plants will be ready to transplant outside.

Viburnum’s flowers cluster in a ball
The flowers sometimes resemble snowballs [Photo: nnattalli/ Shutterstock.com]

Alternatively, you can also propagate Viburnum x bodnantense by a process called layering, where branches touch the soil and form roots while still attached to the shrub. In garden beds, low-growing branches can take root by themselves. In spring, simply separate rooted branches from the mother plant and replant them in a new location. Make sure that the new plants have plenty of water after transplanting.

How to properly overwinter Viburnum x bodnantense

Bodnant viburnum is a hardy ornamental shrub. Outdoors, place some bark mulch around the base to protect the roots from frost. Occasionally some flowers and buds freeze in icy temperatures, but this does not affect flowering. If your Viburnum x bodnantense is in a pot, overwinter it in a cool, frost-free location or wrap it well in insulating material and cover it during the chilly months.

First flowers blooming on bodnant viburnum
The first flowers can appear as early as November [Photo: angel217/ Shutterstock.com]

Is bodnant viburnum poisonous?

The fruits, leaves and bark of the Bodnant viburnum are poisonous to humans. The toxicity is low, but do not let children or pets consume any of these plant parts.

Bodnant viburnum appears to be a small winter miracle for wild bees, bumblebees and other pollinators in the otherwise barren winter landscape on the occasional mild and sunny winter days. However the plant’s elongated flower shape and the low pollen and nectar values mean it cannot be classified as especially bee-friendly.

Pink Bodnant viburnum flowers blooming in winter
After flowering, the foliage and fruits of the Bodnant viburnum appear [Photo: Somogyi Laszlo/ Shutterstock.com]

Read our article on winter flowering plants to discover more ways to add a splash of colour to your garden in the otherwise bleak chilly months.

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