Growing to 3 m (10 ft) tall, it is a deciduous shrub. The leaves are opposite, 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long and 3–6 cm broad, simple ovate to oval, with a serrated margin. The flowers are produced in flat corymbs 5–10 cm (2–4 in) in diameter, comprising a central cluster of fertile yellowish-white flowers 5 mm diameter, surrounded by a ring of showy, sterile flowers 2–3 cm diameter, which act as a target guide to pollinating insects. The fruit is an ovoid blue-black drupe 8–10 mm long.
Plants from Taiwan are sometimes distinguished as Viburnum plicatum var. formosanum Liu & Ou.
Cultivation and uses
Viburnum plicatum is a popular ornamental plant, both in its native area and elsewhere in temperate regions. Some of the more popular cultivars are selected for having all of their flowers large and sterile with few or no fertile flowers; their flowerheads resemble a snowball, giving them the popular name Japanese snowball bush. Cultivars of this type include 'Grandiflorum' and 'Rotundifolium'.
Cultivars with wild-type flowerhead structure are sometimes described as a separate botanical form V. plicatum f. tomentosum. They include 'Cascade', 'Lanarth' and 'Rowallane'. Three cultivars in this group, 'Mariesii', 'Pink Beauty' and ‘Summer Snowflake’  have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
- "Viburnum plicatum". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
- Bean, W. J. (1980). Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles 8th ed., vol. 4. John Murray ISBN 0-7195-2428-8.
- Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute: Viburnum plicatum var. formosanum Archived January 1, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for Gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. ISBN 184533731X.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii'". Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Viburnum plicatum 'Pink Beauty'". Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- "RHS Plantfinder - Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Summer Snowflake'". Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 107. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
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