Physocarpus opulifolius, or ninebark, is an upright, spreading, somewhat coarse, deciduous, native shrub which is closely related to genus Spiraea. It typically occurs along streams, rocky banks, gravel bars and in moist thickets, or woodlands. It grows 5-9’ tall (less frequently to 10’), and is noted for its exfoliating bark (on mature branches) which peels in strips to reveal several layers of reddish to light brown inner bark (hence the common name of ninebark). The bark provides winter interest, but is usually hidden by the foliage during the growing season. There are clusters of white flowers in early to mid summer, and brown seed heads are maintained in winter for the songbirds. Flowers give way to drooping clusters of reddish fruit (inflated seed capsules). Leaves are ovate to rounded, usually 3-5 lobed (to 4” long) are dull green in summer changing to an undistinguished yellow in fall.
We have specimens of the coppertina and tiny wine.purple leaved varieties that are ideal for shrub borders or mass plantings for screening in shaded areas..
Easily grown in average, slightly acidic, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun in the northern part or its growing range, but appreciates some afternoon shade in hotter areas. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Prune as needed immediately after bloom and no later than mid-August. Plants may be cut close to the ground in winter to rejuvenate. Plants often struggle in the hot and humid summer climates of the deep South in USDA Zones 8-9.