Physocarpus opulifolius

Common Ninebark, Eastern Ninebark




  • native to Quebec down through Tennessee
  • hardy to zone 2

Habit and Form

  • a deciduous shrub
  • multistemmed
  • 6' to 10' tall with an equal width
  • upright, spreading branches with recurved edges
  • dense appearance
  • medium growth rate
  • medium to coarse texture

Summer Foliage

  • alternate, simple, deciduous leaves
  • palmately veined, 3 to 5 lobed leaves
  • 1" to 3" long
  • crenate margin
  • cordate leaf base and pointed apex
  • medium green leaf color

Autumn Foliage

  • yellow to bronze fall color
  • not showy


  • whitish pink flowers
  • less then 0.5" in diameter
  • blooms may to June
  • flowers borne in 1" to 2" cymes


  • grouping of 3 to 5 follicles
  • glabrous
  • reddish
  • ripens in September to October


  • excessive peeling bark
  • tan, reddish brown
  • common names comes from the extreme peeling of bark; it is said the plant has nine layers of bark


  • easy to grow
  • transplants readily
  • adaptable to many conditions
  • full sun to partial shade
  • benefits from renewal pruning

Landscape Use

  • massing or grouping
  • shrub border
  • screen for winter habit


  • few pest problems
  • twiggy appearance tends to cover ornamental bark

ID Features

  • excessive peeling bark
  • a deciduous shrub
  • multistemmed
  • 6' to 10' tall with an equal width
  • flowers borne in 1" to 2" cymes
  • palmately veined, 3 to 5 lobed leaves


  • by cuttings


var. intermedius - This form grows smaller and more densely to 4' tall. Its smaller, dark green leaves add to its appeal as a subject for difficult planting sites. 'Nanus' is similar, but even smaller -- to 2' tall and wider.

'Dart's Gold' - A more dwarf yellow-foliage form, this plant grows to 5' tall and wide with bright leaf color. The strong shading fades to green by summer in warm areas. 'Nugget' is a new selection that is similar, but perhaps superior due to its more dense habit to 6' tall and wide.

'Monlo' (Diabolo®, also listed as Diablo®) - This plant has become all the rage recently in trendy gardening circles. It is similar to the species, except the leaves emerge deep purple. The effect is striking in spring and all season in cool summer areas, but the strong shading fades to green or purple-green in hot, humid climates. It may be pruned harshly each spring to promote vigorous shoots with large, highly-colored leaves.

'Snowfall' - This is a green-leaved form with a more dense habit to 7' tall and wider. It reportedly bears more showy flowers and more handsome foliage traits.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.