Common Ninebark, Physocarpus poulifolius

Common Ninebark

Physocarpus poulifolius

Sun Shade:
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Early Summer
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5
Soil Conditions: Clay, Loam
Soil Moisture: Moist, Dry, Medium
Color: Pink, White
Fragrance: No
Height: 5 - 10 feet
Spacing: 5 - 10 feet


Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) is an upright, spreading, somewhat coarse, deciduous, shrub . It typically occurs along streams, rocky banks, gravel bars and in moist thickets. Grows 5-9 feet tall. 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). Bark provides winter interest, but is usually hidden by the foliage during the growing season. Features small pink or white, five-petaled flowers appearing in dense, flat, rounded, 1-2 inch diameter, spirea-like clusters (corymbs) in late spring. Flowers give way to drooping clusters of reddish fruit (inflated seed capsules). The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer and lasts about 2-3 weeks. Later in the summer, the flower clusters are replaced by drooping greenish-red fruits (typically 2-5 adjacent fruits per flower). Each fruit is about 1/3-inch in length and angular-ovoid in shape with a slender beak originating from one side. The fruit surface is inflated and membranous; var. opulifolius has a glabrous surface, while var. intermedius has a hairy surface. The interior of each fruit is seedy and dry. This shrub reproduces by reseeding itself.

Habitats include bluffs, thinly wooded hillsides, cliffs, rocky banks of streams, sandy seeps, thickets, and hedge rows. This shrub is used occasionally as an ornamental plant in gardens and yards.

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. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Plants may be cut close to the ground in winter to rejuvenate.

Plant Notes and Herbal Uses
  Able to grow in harsh conditions.
  Plants can be divided in the early spring, with a sharp spade, chopping right through the middle.
  Upland gamebirds may eat the seeds.
  Prune as needed immediately after bloom and no later than mid-August.
Further Information

 Wisconsin Fruit Trees
 Wisconsin Edible Berry Shrubs
 Widsconsin Edible Plants-Eat On The Wild Side
 8 Dandelion Recipes
 Wisconsin Native Plant Nurseries