Viburnum Tinus: Odoriferous With a Side of Thrips

A row of Viburnum Tinus grow below the window of our den. The plants fill the space nicely between the ramp to the deck and our house. It’s a good-looking shrub, producing pretty flowers and berries during the winter months.  But…that smell.

We naively thought the pungent smell was coming from under the house. I thought a small animal might have died in the crawl space. My husband thought a neighborhood cat was spraying and tried a deterrent in the immediate area. The smell was so overpowering when we opened our window in the spring that we started keeping it closed while we researched the cause.

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus, early buds

Viburnum tinus, buds

Viburnum tinus, small buds look like stars and beads

Last summer we noticed the lower leaves were a grayish brown. Turns out we had thrips. Was that what caused the smell?  We ordered beneficial insects (the larvae eat the thrips), reassured that we had good insectary sunflowers nearby for the mature adults. Further, I heavily pruned the lower branches, cutting away as much damage as possible. I hauled all the underbrush away from the plants to allow air circulation.

I noticed today that the thrips are back (along with the tell-tale brown leaves) though the plant continues to grow, flower and fruit.  I did a little research, and it seems the smell and the thrips are exclusive. According to Plants For a Future  the tinus “plants give off an offensive smell in wet weather.” Several writers on the forums describe it as something a dog left.

That’s it! At long last we have our answer. Now what to do about that odoriferous smell?

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus, opening blooms

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus, flowering white

Viburnum tinus berries

Viburnum tinus berries (inedible)

17 thoughts on “Viburnum Tinus: Odoriferous With a Side of Thrips

  1. I’ve seen these at the garden store and thought they’d be so pretty. It’s good to know they should be planted away from the house. I did try them at the lake but we were in a very open location and unfortunately they didn’t survive. Would you plant them again given the smell and pests? They’re so pretty, if not for that. Assuming you’d rather not move them, can you hang a window box under the den window and fill it with great smelling stuff…Alyssum, Petunia, Trailing Snaps, Scented Geranium, Basil ….come to mind


    • What a great idea, hanging a more fragrant window box. I’m definitely going to explore that idea. Once they’ve finished flowering, I can cut them lower than they are now and try that out.

      I’m not sure I would plant them again, but when we discuss replacing them, we can’t come up with a better idea for that area. When I searched the forums, I learned that many people use them as a screen or very tall hedge and were reluctant to take them out because they performed so well, other than the smell.

      Oh man, re-reading your plant list makes me so ready for spring.


      • Come on spring! I’ll be excited to see your tulips appear at Nirvana. Hopefully your crafty squirrel friends haven’t done away with them….how are those little rascals? I imagine everything will burst into flower for you, long before we’re filling up our gardens and pots. Most people wait until June 1st here. I had window box’s on our house for years. Then we hired a painter and never put them back up the last couple of years. But it was a lot of fun deciding what to put in them every spring and I loved looking out the windows, past all the blooms and it gave the neighbours kitties a nice place to sit and look in 😉


        • Oh what a cute image: neighbors kitties looking in . I love that.

          As for the squirrels, we have a few new neighbors. Usually we see the grey and tan variety with white bellies, but I’ve seen one (maybe two) of a much darker, slightly smaller squirrel. They’re almost black, or at least very dark brown. I need to keep my camera at the ready.

          As for the digging, I’ve found one or two unearthed and one simply gone, but the others seem to be underground, undisturbed. It was funny to find one bulb simply lying above ground next to a peanut shell. Clearly the peanut won out. Works for me!

          We do get an early start on gardens here. We are very lucky that way. I do find however, that even with an early start most summer plants want the consistent heat before they grow.


          • True that, we CAN get some very nice weather in May but the warmth of the sun doesn’t really kick in till mid June so, I find anyways, best to let all the gorgeous and tempting blooms sit in the greenhouse rather than force my luck starting early. We can easily get a snow in early June (but then 70 the next day)

            How nice that your squirrels can share the yard and
            co-habitate together. A lovely blended neighbourhood, ha!


        • LOL!!! That made me laugh.

          Thank you. Some days are harder than others but it was so important to me to blog 365 days in a row, that once I set that goal, I didn’t allow myself to miss even one day. I love the challenge of writing every day and think (hope) that I’ve improved as a result. My boys are older now, too (12 and 15) so they don’t require (or even want!) the same attention they once did. The cats, however, would be happy if I would sit on the couch all day and make a warm lap.


  2. Pingback: 15-16 Sept: beginning the fall projects | Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal

  3. I know I am about five years late here, but this link seems to have the answer: the smell happens when they are under attack by Viburnum Beetles.


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