Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Tea Viburnum
Viburnum setigerum

Family: Adoxaceae (a-dox-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Viburnum (vy-BUR-num) (Info)
Species: setigerum (set-EE-ger-um) (Info)

2 members have or want this plant for trade.


10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

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There are a total of 14 photos.
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3 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive coriaceous On Mar 15, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is arguably the best viburnum for its September display of scarlet fruit, which often holds well into winter, if the birds hold off. (V. dilatatum may run a close second.) It's often heavy enough to weigh the ends of the branches to the ground. The spring flowering display is mediocre, and lasts 7-10 days.

I REALLY like this plant, but it isn't for everyone. It's not a plant for those who want to shear all their shrubs into a ball. Its natural habit is gracefully vase-shaped, and often fairly open. Mature plants generally lack foliage near the base. (I wanted to avoid the disparaging word 'leggy', but that's what those who want dense, shearable shrubs would call it.) You can minimize the effect by planting other, shorter plants close to the base, or mixing it with other shrubs in a border.

This shrub may sometimes reach 12', but more usually it gets about 8' tall. It should be minimally pruned, if at all. You'll lose a season's fruit on any branch you cut, no matter when you cut it, because it blooms only on old wood. It will fruit by itself, but you'll get better fruit set if there's another, genetically different plant nearby.

The leaves are slender and refined, and can color reddish-purple in the fall.

This shrub will tolerate some shade (certainly more than winterberry), but it fruits best in full sun, at least in the north. It performs best in moist, well-drained soil, and does well at the edge of streams and ponds.

This is one of the viburnums least susceptible to viburnum leaf beetle.

I think this is a wonderful shrub that should be planted more often, but only by those who appreciate its natural habit.

Positive smallville On Jun 20, 2012, smallville from Newton Highlands, MA wrote:

I bought this plant from Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Massachusetts about fifteen years ago and planted it a few yards from a path leading to my front door. It has been a multi-seasonal success, beloved of winter robins. It is shaded by a nearby maple street tree, although it is on the southwest side of the house. Also, it is planted on a slope which gets the runoff of the roof. I seem to have blundered into just the right situation for it, and even though there is no obvious pollinator nearby (some have recommended planting two of them), this one does just fine at producing its red berries. It may be closely enough related to another viburnum in the yard (a highbush cranberry) to get the benefit of its pollen.

I read that it was called monk's tea, because Chinese monks brewed the leaves. I noticed that the leaves of a branch of this plant which I brought into my house quickly turned black and brittle, and would have easily crumbled and perhaps allowed an extraction under boiling water like regular tea. I didn't think to try it, and frankly am slightly wary of doing so, not knowing just what those monks were trying to achieve with the drink. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on the subject.

Positive Decumbent On Nov 3, 2006, Decumbent from Cincinnati, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

This is an open, informal shrub that produces an enormously showy berry display in the fall, even in deep shade.

Neutral Copperbaron On Jan 28, 2002, Copperbaron from Vicksburg, MS (Zone 8a) wrote:

The tea viburnum is a medium size, multistemmed, deciduous shrub with slightly drooping branches that reaches a height of 8'-12' with a spread of 5'-8', whose leaves were once used for making tea. Flat topped clusters of showy white flowers 1"-2" in diameter cover the plant in late May. The fruit mature to a reddish-orange to orange color in profusion in late October making this the showiest of the fruiting viburnum. Fall color is an unreliable red.

The tea viburnum prefers well drained, mildly acidic soil in full sun to partial shade and flowers on new wood. It is useful in the shrub border, as a screen, in mass plantings, and is valuable for its flowers and fruit.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Clermont, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Newton Highlands, Massachusetts
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Pequannock, New Jersey
West Babylon, New York
Raleigh, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

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