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Common ninebark

Flowers of common ninebark.

Ninebark is a cold hardy, tough, native shrub for mixed borders. Pinkish-white flower clusters in late spring, persistent seed capsules and exfoliating bark adds to the seasonal interest. Foliage of cultivars varies in size and color from purple to lime green.

"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Physocarpus opulifolius

All common names:

common ninebark; ninebark; Atlantic ninebark; eastern ninebark

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet),
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet),
  • Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 2,
  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

Seasons of Interest:

  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Arching,
  • Mounded,
  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

Size & Form

An upright, spreading, dense shrub with arching branches reaching 6 to 10 feet tall and wide.
Cultivars vary in size and leaf color.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun to light shade in well-drained soil. Tolerant of wet to dry alkaline soil.
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Should be pruned regularly. Older shrubs can be renewal pruned by cutting to the ground in winter.
Moderately short-lived.

Disease, pests, and problems

Leaf spots, powdery mildew, cankers

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 8
Central and eastern North America.
In the wild it is found growing along stream banks, rocky ledges and moist thickets.

Attracts birds & butterflies

Persistent papery seed capsules attract seed-eating birds.

Bark color and texture 

Young twigs are shiny and reddish- brown. Older stems are brown and exfoliate in papery strips.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, 3 to 5 lobed simple leaf. Dark green above and  paler green beneath.
Fall color is usually a bronzy yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Tiny, white flowers in 2 inch clusters. Each flower has hairy petals and prominent purple-colored stamens. Showy in late May to early June. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Drooping clusters of reddish fruit (inflated seed capsules) that ripen in July and remain on plant until they shatter in winter.

Cultivars and their differences 

This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."

Amber Jubilee Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Jefam'): Rounded, 5 to 6 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide; new growth is yellow to orange, changing to lime green. Fall color is purple.

Coppertina™  Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Mindia'): Upright, spreading reaching 6 to 8 feet high; new foliage is copper changing to reddish-bronzy.

Diabolo® Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo'): Upright, 8 to 10 feet high,  dark purple leaves, pinkish-white flower clusters in early to mid summer.

Little Devil Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius "Donna May'): Rounded, 3 to 4 feet high and wide; deep burgundy leaves with clusters of pinkish-white flowers.

'Nugget' Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Nugget'): Compact, 5 to 6 feet high; finely-textured, golden yellow to lime green foliage.

Summer Wine™ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Seward'): Compact 5 to 6 feet tall shrub with deeply cut wine-red foliage. Good mildew resistance.

Tiny Wine® (Physocarpus opulifolius 'SWPOTWG'): A small, bushy 3 to 4 feet high and wide shrub with fine-textured, deep purple leaves; small clusters of white flowers bloom up and down the stems.

Location of Physocarpus opulifolius (Common ninebark) at the Arboretum