Southern Arrowwood Shrub Care – How To Grow Southern Arrowwood Plants

by johnah on November 15, 2020

What Is Viburnum?

Viburnum is a flowering shrub native to North America. It grows up to 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide with purple flowers. Its leaves are dark green and hairy, and it produces small white berries. The name “vibrume” comes from its resemblance to the vibration of a bell or other musical instrument.

How To Grow Southern Arrowwood Shrub?

The southern arrowwood (S. arboricola) is one of the most popular species of viburnum due to its beautiful foliage and fragrant flowers. It’s easy to grow, drought tolerant, and can tolerate temperatures down into the low 30s during winter months. You’ll need a good soil mix with lots of organic matter such as compost or manure; regular watering will keep your plants healthy. They’re very adaptable to many conditions so they thrive in a variety of habitats.

Southern arrowwood is often grown as a ground cover, but it can also be used as a houseplant. It requires little maintenance and doesn’t require much attention once established. They do well in full sun or partial shade, although they prefer bright light during the day. These plants thrive in containers so they are a good choice for urban dwellers.

What Are The Key Growing Attributes Of Southern Arrowwood Shrubs?

Southern arrowwood is a medium sized shrub that grows and spreads to form a dense mat. It has dark green leaves with an attractive light green underside and small creamy-white flowers in the spring. It is often grown as groundcover but can also be trained up a trellis or other support for an instant hedge.

What Type Of Soil Does Southern Arrowwood Like?

It prefers a soil that is well aerated and doesn’t hold water, but moist at the root zone.

How To Space Out Southern Arrowwood Shrubs?

Space plants 2 feet apart in full sun or partial shade. It can be grown as a ground cover for full shade conditions. This shrub can also be used as a large hedge or screen.

What Is The Growth Habit Of Southern Arrowwood?

This is a fast-growing, evergreen shrub that can reach up to 20 feet in height with a similar spread.

How To Take Care Of Southern Arrowwood Shrubs?

Water during extended dry periods for best appearance and health. This plant prefers acidic soils so if your soil is alkaline, consider an acidic mulch such as pine needles or brown paper to reduce the pH.

Is Southern Arrowwood Poisonous?

The berries are poisonous to humans and should not be ingested.

What Kind Of Flowers Does Southern Arrowwood Produce?

The small creamy-white flowers bloom in the spring and are attractive to bees and butterflies.

Is Southern Arrowwood Deer Resistant?

It is resistant to deer predation, but the foliage can become tattered by their grazing.

What Colors Do Southern Arrowwood leaves turn in the Fall?

The leaves change to a dark red in the fall.

What Is The Disadvantage of Southern Arrowwood?

This plant is shallow-rooted and can be top-heavy when grown as a small tree. It is prone to biennial bearing (producing no fruit one year and a heavy crop the next).

What Kinds Are Available Other Than The Southern Arrowwood Shrub?

There are several other kinds that are popular, including:

Fiveleaf ivy – (A. pentaphyllus) is an evergreen shrub that grows to about 3 feet tall and spreads rapidly. It has a green leaf with 5 leaflets.

Snowball bush – (A. laevigata) is a deciduous shrub with white flowers in the spring and white berries in the winter. It grows up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

Goji berry – (A. beharensis) is a deciduous shrub that has small yellow flowers and dark red berries in the fall. It grows to about 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

Silverberry – (A. rugosa) is an evergreen shrub with berries that persist throughout the winter. It grows up to 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide.

What Kind Of Soil Does It Like?

Southern arrowwood is tolerant of many soil types, but prefers those that are well-draining. It can grow in full sun or partial shade.

Where Does Southern Arrowwood Grow?

It is native to North America and can be found from the East coast west to Minnesota and south to Texas and Florida.

Is Southern Arrowwood Invasive?

It can be invasive, especially in conjunction with fire, as the burnt areas are quickly colonized by this and other fire-tolerant species. It is also shade tolerant which enables it to out-compete other plants when growing under closed canopy.

How Fast Does Southern Arrowwood Grow?

It grows incredibly fast in optimal conditions – up to 20 feet per year.

Pricing & Availability

Southern arrowwood is readily available at nurseries and home improvement centers. It is sold in small and large sizes ranging from 2 gallon container grown plants to large container grown plants to 5 gallon potted plants to 15 gallon potted plants. You can also buy it by the linear foot for use in landscaping.

Price Range

Container grown plants range from about $15 to $75 each, depending on size and quality. Linear foot prices range from $10 to $30.


Southern Arrowwood Shrub Care – How To Grow Southern Arrowwood Plants - Picture

Repot only as needed, preferably during the spring. If you choose to repot a mature plant, do not do it every year. Established, well-sized plants can remain in the same container for 5 or more years.

Light & Moisture

Although southern arrowwood grows in a variety of soil types, it prefers sandy loam that is moist but well-draining. It can grow in full sun to partial shade (or full shade if the plant is mature). This shrub tolerates dry conditions but does not thrive in them. Water regularly for best results. Overwatering can kill it, so err on the side of less rather than more.


Apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer in the spring. If you are using a time-release granule, scatter it around the roots but do not place it too close to them. Too much fertilizer will cause a lot of leaf growth at the expense of flower production.

Temperature & Humidity

Optimal temperature range for southern arrowwood cultivation is 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature drops below 50, the plant will enter a state of semi-hibernation and cease growing until conditions improve. Higher temperatures (above 90 degrees) will cause the foliage to develop aBurning leaves and leaf edges will developstressed appearance and may turn brown and die.

Buying Tips

When buying southern arrowwood, look for a glossy green, smooth-textured leaves. The leaf stems should be yellowish or light green. The yellowish stems have been found to produce the best foliage color and growth. If the plant has berries, they should be a vibrant red without any dimness of color in them at all, and the shrub itself should not have any dead branches. It is also important to make sure that the container you buy it in has drainage holes – otherwise, it will simply sit in a pool of water and drown.

If you cannot easily discern that the container has holes in it, do not buy the plant!

Flowering & Fruiting

Southern arrowwood will begin to flower when it is between 1 and 3 years old. The shrub will send up flower stalks (called scapes) that are about 3 feet tall. These stalks are generally unbranched and may have between 1 and 4 terminal flowers on them. These flowers can be up to 2.5 inches across and have a delightful fragrance.

They are primarily white but have up to 15 wide, flat petals that can be a light pink color and have darker pink veining. Each flower also has a prominent corona. The blooming period generally occurs from early to mid spring and lasts about 1 to 2 months. Flowering is followed by the production of small berries that start out green and eventually ripen to a dark red.

Caring For Your Shrubs

Southern Arrowwood Shrub Care – How To Grow Southern Arrowwood Plants - Picture

Once your plants have become established in the landscape, little maintenance is required other than watering. However, there are a few pests and diseases that can develop that you may need to treat.


As far as pests go, southern arrowwood is vulnerable to the same ones that affect azaleas: leaf-eating insects and fungal diseases.

Leaf-Eating Insects. Southern arrowwood is prone to infestation by the azalea leaf miner, the azalea petioid borer and azalea lace bug. These insects all attack the foliage and make leaves look very tattered. There is no way to prevent these pests, but there are chemical controls that can be used if necessary. Buy these at a garden center or nursery and follow all label instructions.

Fungal Diseases. Too much water is a common cause of fungal disease and can affect the health of your southern arrowwood plants. If you have over-watered, the foliage will likely develop brown spots or entire areas that have turned yellow and wilted. Remove all affected leaves as soon as possible to reduce the spread of the disease and limit the damage.


Southern arrowwood is prone to a few diseases that can cause serious problems if not treated. The most common are petiole and collar rot.

Petiole and Collar Rot. This disease is caused by the excessive watering of moisture-laden soil around the base of the plant. If this persists, the roots can no longer take up nourishment and the base of the plant begins to rot. This begins with the oldest stems, working its way outwards. Eventually, the entire shrub can be involved and killed.

This is a very common disease of many types of plants, especially those in the heather family such as azaleas. It is important to know the signs of this disease and to act at the first indication. If caught in time, a fungicide can be used to treat the plant.

Additional Pest and Disease Management. You can help prevent many pest and disease problems by following good cultural practices. First of all, proper planting site is important. Southern arrowwood plants should be planted in an area that has full sun to partial shade. They should be on the site for at least two years before you expect to have bloom and berry production.

This will give southern arrowwood time to become acclimated to your particular environment and lessen the chances of problems. Additionally, observe the site and remove other shrubs or trees that may compete for moisture, nutrients and sunlight.

Care should be taken not to over-water. Soil should be well-draining. Do not add lawn fertilizer, as this may cause excess moisture when it is broken down. Use only slow-release fertilizers placed in the soil at planting time. Also, do not allow lawn grass to grow up and surround the southern arrowwood plants.

When watering, water evenly throughout the entire plant and avoid putting any water on the plant just before a heavy rain is expected. This is very important, especially during the first couple years as the plants are getting established.

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Watch for insect or disease problems and treat accordingly. Use pesticides safely and only according to instructions. When in doubt, consult with a professional before applying any type of treatment.

Thank you for watching! I hope this information is helpful and encourages you to try growing southern arrowwood in your own landscape. For additional information and resources, please visit the experts at Your Local Landscape Supply.

Sources & references used in this article:

Endothall species selectivity evaluations: southern latitude aquatic plant community by JG Skogerboe, KD Getsinger – Journal of Aquatic Plant Management, 2001 –

Treatment of trace organic compounds by membrane processes: at the Lake Arrowhead water reuse pilot plant by BB Levine, K Madireddi, V Lazarova… – Water science and …, 1999 – Elsevier

Cryptosporidium parvum–Specific Antibody Responses among Children Residing in Milwaukee during the 1993 Waterborne Outbreak by …, E Zembrowski, MR Hurd, MJ Arrowood… – The Journal of …, 2001 –

Treatment of Trace Organic Compounds by Ozone–Biological Activated Carbon for Wastewater Reuse: The Lake Arrowhead Pilot Plant by BB Levine, K Madireddi, V Lazarova… – Water environment …, 2000 – Wiley Online Library

Occurrence of Cryptosporidium oocysts in sewage effluents and selected surface waters by MS Madore, JB Rose, CP Gerba, MJ Arrowood… – The Journal of …, 1987 – JSTOR



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