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Sorbus vilmorinii

Sorbus vilmorinii

At this time of year, the berries of this Sorbus have aged from red to a candy-coloured pink. At Rosemoor it grows in the Arboretum with other plants from China. We also have it on the Plant Centre bank where it forms part of a colourful display with other berry-producing trees such as Malus and Crataegus.

Vital statistics

Common name
Vilmorin’s rowan
Height & spread
2.5-4m (8-13ft) tall x 2.5-4m (8-13ft) wide
Deciduous tree
Well drained, alkaline to neutral
Full sun or partial shade
Fully hardy


Sorbus covers about 190 different species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found mainly in northern temperate regions, in woodland, on hills, mountains and on scree.

Sorbus species and cultivars are prized for their ornamental qualities. Their leaves are decorative and often colour well in autumn. Their small white (or rarely pink) flowers are produced in spring and early summer, followed by round or oval berries that may be white, yellow, orange, red or brown.

There are two basic types of Sorbus. The first belong to Section Aria and include the whitebeams. They have simple, often serrated leaves that are usually white or silvery underneath, giving them a shimmering look when blown by the breeze. In autumn, their clusters of brown to red fruits are attractive and their foliage turns vivid colours.

The plants of the second type belong to Section Aucuparia and include mountain ashes. Sorbus hupehensis var. obtusa belongs in this section. These plants have fern-like leaves that turn shades of red and yellow in autumn. In spring, they produce clusters of cream-coloured flowers, followed by bunches of attractive berries that are usually brilliant red, but may be white, pink, orange, or yellow. 

Sorbus vilmorinii

S. vilmorinii is an elegant, small, spreading deciduous tree to 5m in height; its fern-like leaves turning bronze, orange or purple in autumn. Flat heads of creamy-white flowers are followed by crimson fruits fading to near-white.

This fully hardy, spreading tree received its AGM in 1993. The elegant, arching branches bear 15cm (6in) long leaves that turn a wonderful purple in autumn, contrasting well with the crimson fruit. These follow white spring flowers. As the fruit ages it turns pink, then white.


Fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil and full sun (with some shade being tolerated) are best for this fine plant, which will eventually reach around 5m (16ft).

On an expedition in China, plant hunter Pere Delavay sent seeds to the French nurseryman Maurice de Vilmorin in 1889 who successfully grew the plant and provided stock to British nurseries.


  • Best grown in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Useful shrub or small tree for the smaller garden. May be short-lived on shallow, chalky soil.
  • Pruning group 2 (immediately after flowering) or 6 (prune back to framework in early spring).
  • May be attacked by aphids, blister mites and sawflies.
  • May be affected by fireblight and silver leaf.



  • Propagate by semi-hardwood cuttings in mid-summer.
  • Propagate by seed sown in containers in a coldframe in autumn.



The RHS Woody Plant Committee awarded Sorbus vilmorinii an Award of Garden Merit and described it as:

'Small, spreading deciduous tree, the fern-like leaves with many small leaflets turning purple in autumn. Flat heads of creamy-white flowers followed by crimson fruits fading to near-white.'

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Visit the Rosemoor Plant Centre for an excellent range of trees, vegetables, bulbs and seeds - including some hard to find gems.

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