Snowball Tree

Get Your Snowballs from the Snowball Tree

The snowball tree is one of the most remarkable flowering trees or bushes that you will ever see.  It’s sterile, which means that it can’t reproduce from seeds, but instead has to be propagated from cuttings.  The deciduous snowball tree is an obvious landscaping choice for an ornamental or decorative shrub.  Landscape Architects often choose to group this tree near azaleas or other colorful flowers so the plants can naturally compliment each other.

Some people call the snowball tree a bush.  It grows best is hardiness zones four through eight, however it is generally only found in southern climates.  It thrives in partial or full sun.  It can be pruned to be planted as a hedge, or it can be left to grow as a tree.  The branches will still be fairly low, but it can top 15 feet at maturity.  Many experts suggest that the snowball be planted as a border, along a fence or property line, or along the foundation of a house.  There are many landscape designs that could easily incorporate this tree.

As a young tree, the snowball will grow in an oval shape, but as it matures, the branches, if not pruned and trained, will begin to spread and it will look more like a tree.  There is not another flower, bush, or tree that has such large clusters of flowers.  There are literally hundreds of blooms in each cluster, and several clusters on each branch.  The clusters are usually as big as a grapefruit.  Starting out green, the massive clusters of flowers then turn an almost iridescent white by mid spring.  The white blooms almost glow at night.  The flowers will continue to bloom into mid summer. 

The flower clusters are so heavy that the branches actually droop with heaviness.  For this reason, it’s important to keep the branches in good health and to prune any branches that are damaged.  If you don’t, the weight of the flowers when they are wet, such as after a rainstorm, will tear and crack the branch.  Pruning will prevent this and will make the tree more healthy overall.  When the petals start to fall, your yard will look like it has just snowed.  This is beautiful for a few days, but many homeowners don’t like the mess that the petals make. 

The tree performs another stunning show in the fall and early winter months.  The tree’s dark green leaves will turn red and purple to add amazing fall colors to your garden landscape.  As the foliage is putting on its colors, bright red berries appear and begin to ripen.  The berries will remain on the tree through the winter months.  Several birds, but especially Cedar Waxwings, are attracted by the berries which they snack on throughout the winter. 

Since the Snowball Tree is sterile, in order to share this tree with your friends, you’ll need to establish a cutting.  This can be done by rooting a semi-hardwood or hardwood cutting of the tree in the early summer.  Take several cuttings since they won’t all take root.  The cuttings should be about a foot long and remove most of the foliage.  Place the cuttings potting soil about five inches deep.  Be sure to use good soil and this it drains well.  Place the cuttings in an area that gets partial sun and keep them well watered throughout the summer. 

By the next spring, you’ll hopefully have about half of the cutting well-rooted.  Then it’s just a matter of transplanting the cuttings yourself or giving them to your friends so you can all have a snowball fight next summer.  Your snowball tree will get so much attention, there will be a waiting list for your cuttings.



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