Viburnum tinus (Laurustinus)

Viburnum tinus, also known as Laurustinus or Laurustine, is a large, compact, evergreen shrub with an upright to rounded form

Its reddish stems are covered with dark green oval leaves and round clusters of reddish flower buds that bloom into small white or pale pink flowers, followed by shiny bluish-black berries attractive to birds during autumn and winter.

Originating from the Mediterranean basin, it has been introduced into many other countries worldwide due to its resilience and versatility.


Quick Overview

TYPE

Type Shrub

HEIGHT & WIDTH

BLOOM TIME

SUNLIGHT

HARDINESS

hardiness (-12ºC / 10º F)

DROUGHT TOLERANCE

drought tolerance aprox 3 months

ORIGIN

origin mediterranean basin

Viburnum tinus Scientific name

  • Botanical name: Origanum rotundifolium (vy-BUR-num TIE-nus)
  • Family:  Viburnaceae (vye-bur-NAY-see-ee) previously Caprifoliaceae and then Adoxaceae
  • Common name: laurustinus, laurustine or laurestine
NameMeaning
ViburnumLatin name for the Wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana)
tinus

How to identify Viburnum tinus

Plant

Viburnum tinus is a large multibranched shrub with an upright to rounded form. It can easily be pruned into a small tree.

It is a slow-growing plant reaching an average height of  2 to 3 meters (6 to 10 feet),  and a width of around 1.5 meters (5 feet)

However, it can reach up to 5 meters (16 feet) or more under favourable conditions and spread 2 to 3 meters (6 to 10 feet) to the sides.

Stem

The stems are upright and slightly arching. They are woody at the base and more herbaceous towards the tips.

At the base, they are reddish-brown to greyish-brown, turning reddish-green to green as we move closer to the tips of the stems.

They have opposite dark-green leaves (exceptionally in whorls of three) at each node and inflorescences at the tips of the branches.

Leaf

The evergreen leaves are dark green with a shiny, leathery texture. The underside is a slightly lighter colour and sparsely haired at the margin and the veins.

They are entire, flat, elliptical or ovate with an acute tip. The margins are slightly wavy and has a short stalk. 

The leaf is, on average, 6-12 centimetres (2.3 to 4.7 inches) long and 3 to 7 centimetres (1.1 to 2.7 inches) wide.

Flower

The inflorescence is quite complex. It is an umbrella-like cluster (umbel), typically measuring 5 to 9 centimetres (2 to 3.5 inches) in diameter. This umbel comprises 2 to 3 levels of smaller clusters of flowers called corymbs.

The individual flowers are small, with five white or light pink petals that emerge from reddish-pink buds. Each flower is contained in a calyx of triangular lobes with pointed tips (acute).

The flowers are bisexual (monoecious, i.e. both male and female parts on one flower). They have five yellow stamens (male) and one stigma (female) with a rounded head (capitate stigma).

Bloom time is from mid-winter to mid-spring.

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Fruit

The fruit is a small oval-shaped berry with a metallic bluish-black colour.

It is not edible for humans due to its bitter taste and potential toxicity in large quantities, but it serves as a valuable food source for birds during the winter months.

The fruit size is around 0.7 to 1 centimetres (0.2 to 0.4 inches) in height and 0.4 to 0.6 centimetres ( 0.1 to 0.2 inches) wide.

The fruit appears after flowering and matures from early summer to early autumn, lasting until winter or until the birds have eaten them all.

Viburnum tinus Habitat

Lauristinus is native to the Mediterranean basin, in particular the western Mediterranean countries.

It is seen growing among or at the edge of pine and oak forests (holm and cork oak), preferring moist and sheltered areas up to 1700 meters (5500 feet) in elevation.

It tolerates most types of soil and can be grown in sunny or shaded areas. Flowering is more intense when exposed to more sunlight.

Viburnum tinus Usage

Ornamental

Laurustinus is a great structural plant for a medium to large sized garden. However, it can also be added to a small garden because it takes a very long time to grow, especially if it is not fertilized or watered after being established.

I have had one in my garden for 10 years, and it is still only 1.2 meters (4 feet)  high and 90 centimetres (3 feet) wide.

It is a versatile plant providing visual interest (with its form, texture, and colour) and attracts wildlife throughout the year, making it a valuable addition to any garden.

It can be used in the landscape in the following ways:

  1. Screen or backdrop: Its dense growth habit makes it ideal for creating a privacy screen providing year-round coverage and also as a backdrop for a composition with other plants.
  2. Foundation Planting: Planted near buildings or structures it is useful to soften harsh lines.
  3. Mixed Borders: It can be incorporated into mixed borders with other shrubs and perennials to provide structure and evergreen interest.
  4. Specimen Plant: Planted alone as a focal point, it showcases its elegant form and seasonal blooms.
  5. Rock Gardens: It can thrive in rocky and dry conditions making it a suitable choice for rock gardens 
  6. Wildlife garden: The small flowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, and the fruit attracts birds. It is a valuable addition to gardens focused on supporting wildlife.

Biodiversity

Viburnum tinus adds to the biodiversity of your garden in several ways.

  • Pollinator attraction – The fragrant flowers attract various pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, which play a crucial role in pollination.
  • Food source – While small in size, the fruits are rich in nutrients, serving as an important food source for small birds during colder months when other food is scarce. As birds consume the fruit, they help disperse the seeds, aiding in propagation.
  • Habitat for wildlife – Its dense foliage provides shelter and safe places for birds and small animals to build their nests.

How to care for Viburnum tinus

Cold exposure

This plant is frost hardy and tolerant to cold weather, tolerating temperatures down to -12ºC (10ºF), but only if the soil is well drained. Cold and humid soil can be fatal to it. 

However, you should add a thick layer of mulch around the plant’s base to protect the roots from cold temperatures. Using gravel mulch is preferable because organic mulch will stay humid and can cause the plant to rot.

Sun exposure

Laurustinus thrives in both full sun and shade, but it produces a greater abundance of flowers when exposed to sunlight. The plant in my garden (below) has many flowers on the side that is exposed to sunlight, but none on the shaded side.

In extremely hot climates or areas with intense sunlight, it’s beneficial to shield plants from the harsh afternoon sun. Offering partial shade during the hottest part of the day can shield the plant from excessive heat and strong sunlight.

Soil

Laurustinus prefers moist but well-drained soils. Avoid planting it in wet areas, as it dislikes soggy soil, which may lead to root rot and fungal diseases.

If your area tends to become waterlogged, you may need to keep the entire root ball above ground level and fill in with a raised mound of sandy soil, sloping gradually away from the plant’s base.

It can tolerate most types of soils, from mildly acidic to mildly alkaline. 

Avoid fertilizing the soil if you need the plant to remain robust and better equipped to handle extreme temperatures.

Watering

Laurustinus is drought tolerant and can go for some months without water once it is established (about 3 months of drought if the temperature is not too hot). 

Once established, it usually does not need watering. However, if there’s a long period without rain or very hot weather, you should water it, making sure to let the soil dry out before watering again.

During its first year after planting, it’s essential to water the young plant regularly. Depending on the soil and the temperatures, you may need to water it once a week, every two weeks or every three weeks.

When you water the plant, make sure to give it plenty of water, allowing the soil to get a good soak. This way, the water can sink deep into the soil, helping the roots grow deeper as well. With deep roots, the plant can withstand longer dry periods since the lower soil layers stay moist for a longer time.

To preserve the soil´s moisture, you should add mulch around the root area of the plant. 

Pruning

Laurustinus needs minimal pruning, however, occasional trimming helps to maintain its shape and promotes denser growth.

  • Give it a cleaning prune after flowering in early spring. You should cut back the stems that are old, weak or overly crowded. This will allow for better air circulation and light penetration which will promote healthy growth. Additionally, trim back any shoots that disrupt the shrub’s desired shape.
  • To rejuvenate an older plant or control its size, consider giving it a hard prune (always cutting above a healthy set of leaves) after the risk of frost has passed.

Laurustinus can be easily shaped through pruning:

  • If you desire a small tree, you can prune it to a single trunk.
  • It can also be pruned into a formal shape or to create hedges.

When to plant Viburnum tinus

The best season to plant is typically in the spring or autumn, but it will depend on your climate. You should avoid planting during periods of extreme temperatures.

If you live in a place with mild weather, it’s best to plant in the autumn to give it time to develop its roots during the cooler months before the hot summer arrives. In case of very cold winters, it’s better to wait until spring when the risk of frost has passed and the soil is warmer. That way, the plant can have a better chance to grow well and be healthy.

How to propagate Viburnum tinus

Laurustinus is very easy to propagate, It can be propagated by stem cuttings, layering, or seeds.

Stem cuttings: semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer or early autumn.

  1. Cut the stem just below a leaf node.
  2. Remove the lower leaves, leaving a few pairs of upper leaves intact. 
  3. Plant in a well-draining medium. Keep the medium consistently moist and keep in the shade until rooted.
  4. Once the roots have developed, transplant the rooted cuttings into individual containers and grow in cold frame during the first winter, exposing them to as much sun as possible.

Seeds: Sow seeds in late autumn.

  1. Collect ripe fruits and squash them. 
  2. Sow the seeds in a well-draining medium. Lightly press the seeds into the soil.
  3. Maintain consistent moisture and provide indirect light. 
  4. Germination typically takes 6-8 weeks. Once the seedlings have grown a few sets of true leaves, transplant them into individual containers and grow in cold frame during the first winter.

Layering: in spring.

It can easily be propagated by layering; in fact, it naturally self-layers

  1. Bend the stem down.
  2. Hold it to the ground with a peg or rock
  3. Cover it with soil.

An excellent online source for plant propagation techniques can be found in RHS propagation article.

Sources

Sources of information used for this article

Internet

Article from Jardin Sec

Article from Kew

Vol XV from FloraIberica

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