Doomsday for the Killer Viburnum

The official first step in the Great Garden Renovation (after the Massacre of the Not-So-Innocents, that is) was to deliver some cosmic justice to my nemesis the Killer Viburnum.

Here’s the K.V. in all its allergy-provoking “glory.” I’m feeling itchy just looking at this picture!!

I’d been hacking it back severely for the past couple of years only because I thought the house would ‘show’ better to a potential purchaser if there weren’t a big empty space at the start of the front walkway; but my recent decision to stay meant that for the K.V., doomsday was now inevitable. And the sooner the better.


I began by removing as many branches as I could. To my credit, I did manage to do so without chanting – a la the dodos in Ice Age – “Doom on you! Doom on you!” …. Well, okay, maybe I did, just once. Or twice. But no more than three choruses of it, honest. Or four; I might have lost count.



And then as the tree guys were finishing up on the second day, I prevailed upon one of them to give it a swipe with his trusty chainsaw. In a trice the K.V. was finally vanquished!

I will be doing the Epsom salts trick in the spring, in order to kill the remains. If I had a trailer hitch and a chain, I’d try to get the entire thing out of the ground, roots and all. However, chemical means should work just as well (I hope.)

What I didn’t realize was that the Killer Viburnum, in the best bad-guy tradition, had been distracting my attention from noticing a different and more damaging situation that was going on right next to it. I’d been so busy glowering and muttering at the K.V. for the past few years that I’d entirely missed the presence of…… the lurking evil that is the subject of my next post!

  10 comments for “Doomsday for the Killer Viburnum

  1. December 13, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Oh, the poor thing; although I will never understand the allure of that particular viburnum. It is so itchy and nasty. I do not like evergreen viburnums anyway. There are so many better options.

  2. December 14, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Ugh. I’m really wondering what menace lies beyond. Hope it’s not a bunch of well rooted oak saplings!

  3. February 2, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    I’ll be taking out some Viburnum this spring – specifically Viburnum trilobum. What is the Epsom salts trick? I usually cut shrubs to the ground, then keep cutting down the suckers until the roots starve.

    • February 2, 2018 at 3:48 pm

      Epsom salts can be used to hasten the decomposition of the stump of a cut-down tree or large shrub. The ‘This Old House’ site has a good summary of the procedure but if you google ‘epsom salts tree stump’ you’ll find many others. Basically you drill holes into the top of the stump (the K.V’s stump is about 5″ in diameter), insert some Epsom salts, and then cover the stump so that rain won’t wash the salts out. Upending a small bucket bought at the local dollar-store will do it for the K.V. As the article mentions, sometimes the shrub/tree refuses to die and just keeps sending up suckers ad infinitum (or so it seems!)

  4. Roger Joiner
    July 27, 2018 at 8:26 am

    Thank you for this. We’d decided that the specimen here was not a thing of beauty so I began by attacking the top of it with a long pruning pole. Big mistake – immediate sharp pain in my left eye. Tried again half an hour later and the same thing happened. Google eventually revealed your KV article so I left it to my partner – she’s more stoical and only suffered some skin irritation. We’re waiting for rain and hoping it will be easier to dismantle when soaked.

    • July 27, 2018 at 9:25 am

      Attacking when the shrub’s surfaces are wet is a good idea — wish I’d thought of it at the time! Do let me know how that works. The surface of the trunk(s) seem to be free of weaponry and so once the branches are removed, the shrub can be dug out. It has an octopus-like root system, though, which will be a challenge if you have any desirable other plants surrounding it. How large is your Killer Viburnum?

  5. MacBryan Green
    October 18, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    THANK YOU for telling the story of your reaction to the leatherleaf viburnum. I am comforted to hear of someone with a similar (dreadful) experience.
    Just today I got inspired to dig up and move my 8′ K.V. to a spot with twice as much sun. At that moment I had no clue that the shrub possessed any bad trait other than the smell of its Spring blossoms. All went well as I spaded around the roots. I had it out of the ground and halfway to the sunnier spot when I suddenly began wheezing, coughing, gasping, and struggling to cope gracefully with an amazing profusion of thin clear mucus, I took a break and went for a snack, not knowing what had afflicted me.
    Refreshed, I put the K.V. into its new hole. Immediately, my ailments resumed full force. Then the itching began, mostly on my forearms and thighs. After a scrubdown shower and ‘pure’ indoor air, I am now almost back to normal. What an episode.
    You have not exaggerated by calling this shrub a potential killer!

    • October 19, 2019 at 8:53 am

      It is a nasty customer for sure (at least, to some of us.) A question: Was it a windy or breezy day? Because if, as I suspect, it’s the tiny “sharp fuzzies” that are the active irritant, it would stand to reason that wind would make them even more likely to be inhaled and cause your respiratory symptoms as well as the skin reaction.

  6. Mary Gail
    November 3, 2019 at 11:03 am

    We have planted several as they are so good for screening and the DEER do not eat them like most everything else. I will prune in the spring as I have had the same reaction and had to jump in a shower right after pruning.

    • November 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      That’s very interesting (that deer will not eat these) but it makes perfect sense: Those nasty little sharp micro-hairs on the leaf edges and newer branches would certainly give them a mouthful of pain!!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: