PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

European Cranberry (Viburnum opulus)

European Cranberries are hard to miss this time of year with their blazing red, coral, orange, and gold autumn color show. If you have the space for a large shrub or are willing to prune it regularly once a year to keep it smaller, this is a wonderful three season plant that also serves as habitat & food for our local birds, bees, and butterflies.

The Cranberries you find in stores are not this one. They are a blueberry relative and are a vining ground cover. European Cranberry Bush produces berries that can be used like our regular cranberry but the plant is an upright shrub that can get 8+ feet tall if you never prune it. Emerald green leaves emerge in spring along with large white flying saucer shaped panicles of flowers that make winged pollinators ecstatic. Over the summer, blooms turn to red berries which become ready for harvest in November or later. *Note* – if you taste them before they’ve been through a couple of hard freezes, you will be met with the flavor of old stale gym socks. eww. After some hard freezes, however, they are wonderful and can be made into a cranberry sauce just in time for the holidays!
There is a North American native shrub that is essentially the same thing in a different geography. The local one is named Viburnum trilobum. There is also a variation (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’) that is known in the landscape world as Snowball Viburnum. It produces sterile flowers – so no berries. Autumn color on any of these is shockingly beautiful, the plant is a no-brainer to grow and keep happy in sun or light shade, and you can prune it for shape & size any time you want.