Wildflower Tales-Ninebark


“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir


IMG_3209Technically this last Wildflower Tale post is not about a flower, but is about a native shrub.  Physocarpus opulifolius or Common ninebark is part of the Rose Family (Rosaceae).  The ninebark that I grow (and pictured here) is one of the newer cultivars, ‘Diabolo’.

 This upright, spreading shrub’s interest comes from its peeling bark.  The bark continues to peel during the growing season revealing new bark underneath that is a slightly different color.  It is said the name ‘ninebark’ comes from the idea that this shrub has nine layers of bark although this has never been scientifically proven.  It is a wonderful shrub for winter interest.

With the the introduction of purple-leafed cultivars, like ‘Diabolo’, this shrub has become a must-have in the landscape. Both the IMG_4159green-leaved species shrub and the cultivars have wonderful coarsely lobed leaves.  The green leaf species changes to a yellow color in fall while the burgundy leaf cultivars become a lovely red (pictured right).

This shrub is beautiful enough to use in any landscape, and even in place of trees if you are looking for a fast growing screen.  So even though it is not a wildflower, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme to showcase this native shrub.


Growing Conditions

Ninebark is one of the easiest shrubs I have grown.  It survives and thrives in my cold , snowy climate. The only problem I have ever noticed is the occasional powdery mildew if we have especially extended wet period and the shrubs grow too close together.

IMG_1975Ninebark grows in many soil types from hard clay and rocky soils to loamy average, even dry soil making it drought tolerant.  And it even likes wet sites in sun to part shade.

Ninebark can grow quite large, 5 to 8 feet, so we prune it back to about 4 feet high right after it flowers.  Pruning it later will cause a loss of flowers next year as it flowers on old wood.  It can even be cut almost to the ground in winter every 5 or more years.   Ninebark likes to have old and damaged wood removed as this rejuvenates the shrub especially coaxing more flowers to bloom.

Ninebark benefits from top dressing it with compost and organic mulch such as leaves, wood or pine needles.

Ninebark can be propagated through cuttings or planting seeds in the fall.


Where Are They FoundIMG_3208

Physocarpus opulifolius can be used as a screen or erosion control on hillsides and banks.  Perfect for a native plant garden too.  Common ninebark is native to eastern North America.

It is found along streams banks, rocky hillsides, woodland edges and in moist thickets.



Benefits to Wildlife

The pinkish, white flowers that pop out in spring attract pollinators and butterflies.  Rabbits and deer tend to avoid the IMG_1971bark, but I have found deer nibbling on new leaf growth.

Birds enjoy the seeds in late summer and fall.  I  hardly noticed the seed heads as the birds usually devoured them quickly.  The shrub also provides a great nesting site for songbirds.  We have found sparrows nesting in ours.



Folklore and Tales

As a native plant, ninebark was either thought to be poisonous or medicinal.


Native American tribes, including our local Iroquois, used the inner bark as a laxative, analgesic, remedy for TB, to help with urination, abscesses and an gynecological aid especially to help with fertility.   The wood was also used as a poultice to treat sores.

In the Language of Flowers, ninebark does not have a specific meaning.  But as it is related to the hawthorn tree and the rose family, the meanings can be extended to ninebark.  Hawthorn is a symbol of hope and roses a symbol of love.


I hope you have enjoyed the wildflowers I have showcased each month in 2013.  You can find a complete list with links to all the posts below.



“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt


Check out other posts in the series, Wildflower Tale:

November:  Cardinal Flower

October:  Hardy Hibiscus

September:  Twinleaf

August-Anise Hyssop

July-Joe Pye



April-Shooting Stars

March-Common Yarrow


January-Virginia Bluebell


Next up on the blog:  On Monday, it will be time to reveal some new plans for Gardens Eye View and me.  Then it will be the first Monday of the month in our New Year.  I hope you will continue to follow in 2014, and I thank you for your readership.

I wrote a guest post over at Vision and Verb.  I hope you will visit this wonderful website of women writers.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my latest post.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

sharetheloveI am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

52 Replies to “Wildflower Tales-Ninebark”

  1. I love the shrub, actually I am drawn to plants with purple foliage, they aren’t too keen on my very free draining soil but I think they are worth a little extra care as they add so much to the garden over a long period.

  2. I so love ninebark! The species is my favorite. Our local garden show handed out seedlings and mine grew into a lovely shrub quite rapidly too. I’ve never had any problems from it. I had no idea Diabolo was not Diablo! I’ve been doing it wrong all this time. Happy Holidays to you Donna.

    1. I learned the correct name as well Tina…I had called it Diablo for so long. I am looking for a species ninebark to add to the garden, but I want to find the right spot first. So it goes on the list of definites. Happy Holidays Tina and a very Happy New Year to you!!

  3. Donna – super post – one of my favourite shrubs that grows in my garden – great profile. Interesting to read of it’s medicinal uses in it’s native habitat.
    They thrive in the conditions in my garden and it’s difficult not to love a plant that thrives.
    I grow 3 cultivars, unfortunately Diablo is not one of them. It’s always way more expensive than other cultivars when I see it on sale.

    1. Indeed Angie one must love a plant that thrives…the cultivars are all so lovely with the different colored leaves in spring, summer and fall. It is too bad I couldn’t give you a cutting for your garden.

    1. Thanks for letting me know how easy it is to propagate Sue. I do want a species ninebark and then I can propagate some for the rest of the garden. I am trying to do more propagation this year.

  4. It is a top selling shrub at my friend’s tree and shrub farm. Diabolo being a favorite or most homeowners. Seeing them in bloom by the hundreds is a wonderful sight. Monrovia introduced them in 1999 from a plant found in 1968 at Kordes Nursery near Hamburg, Germany. I know you mentioned them as recent, and I guess that is sort of recent.

    1. I think they have become more of a favorite and continue to be as the years pass Donna…yes sort of recent especially some of the other cultivars they keep creating…lovely to know where they discovered the plant!

  5. I love this eastern native a lot, I have a couple of dark-leaved ones in my garden. But living in the PNW, I also have our own western native version, P. capitatus, growing in several spots. It’s just as beautiful in bark and flower.

  6. I love this shrub, I have Diabolo and wouldn’t be without it. I didn’t know it was called ‘Ninebark’ or that it had been used medicinally. A Very interesting post.

  7. Ninebark is fairly new to our gardens and last year seemed to be well established with lovely coloured leaves and blooms. It was also host to some ladybug eggs. Hoping its branches have survived this awful ice store we have had.

    1. Linda what a delight to have ninebark host ladybugs. It seems a sturdy shrub for our winter. I will bet it will do fine after all the ice. And besides it likes to be pruned even if Mother Nature does some of the pruning herself. 🙂

  8. I love how fast nine bark grows and so planted several varieties. Unfortunately they are prone to a heavy mildew causing dieback here and I pulled out a couple. The golden specimen I cut right back to about 10 inches and one diablo that a friend started from seed doesn’t seem to be too bad.
    A good article to introduce a new gardener to a great shrub Donna.

    1. Oh Judith I am sorry to hear this about the mildew. We have to keep ours pruned as they are planted a bit too close and will also have too much mildew. I thought I was going to lose all 3 a few years back but the continual pruning has helped. Glad you liked the post!

  9. Dearest Donna, Lovely post as usual and I especially like the little hint of changes afoot for 2014? It’s been such a pleasure to cross paths with you over the last year and to find you on Vision and Verb too!! Here’s to a wonderful even greener year for you with plenty of adventures and possibilities too. x

    1. Oh Catherine I too was so happy to have found you, your gorgeous inspirational photos and blog. And what a sweet treat to be invited to Vision and Verb with so many incredible women such as yourself. I wish for you sunny adventures that fill your heart and soul with bliss in 2014!!

  10. a lovely shrub Donna, I like purple leaf shrubs too, thank you for all your wildflower posts, though many are not native to my country I enjoy reading about yours, the folklore, medicinal and other information makes the posts so much more interesting, Frances x

    1. Frances it has been such a pleasure to post about my wildflowers. And it has been fun for me also learning so much more about these plants. I hope to feature more this coming year!

  11. My neighbor has a ninebark in her garden so I get to enjoy hers vicariously, since I don’t have room for one in mine. I wish a truly tiny one would be developed so I could grow one in a pot. They are just so beautiful!

  12. Am I the only person in the blogosphere that doesn’t have a nine bark? I am looking for a shrub to replace my blue mist shrub that is damaged every year by the winds. But I think nine bark may be too big for the spot. I should find somewhere else to put one of these beautiful plants. Happy New Year, Donna! P. x

  13. What a lovely shrub! I love both its leaves and flowers. I had already researched this plant and unfortunately discovered that it won’t grow well in my climate. If only I could grow ALL the plants I admire! I wish you the best in 2014, and happy gardening!

    1. Oh that is too bad Deborah. I know what you mean about wishing we could grow all the plants we love. So many are not hardy here. Wishing you a fabulous New Year in 2o14.

  14. I like your new design, Donna! Ninebark is a common shrub around here, too, and recommended by the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. I’m thinking about pulling some of my non-native shrubs and this would be a potential replacement. Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks I finally figured out the theme I wanted…just took a year. Sounds like a nice plan for the garden…I want to add a species ninebark as well. Happy New Year Beth!!

  15. I love the new look of your blog. I really need to do something about mine but haven’t gotten up the nerve. Nine bark is beautiful for flowers, foliage, and bark. There is a newer cultivar with red calyxes after the petals fall, maybe Inner Glow or something like that.

    1. Thanks Carolyn. Took forever for me to figure out what I wanted and I kept losing my nerve as well. But I like how it looks for now. I had not heard about this new cultivar…I will have to find a picture of it.

  16. My favorite John Muir quote is “Most people are on the world, not in it– having no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them– undiffused seporate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but seporate. ” I think John Muir would appreciate who you are and enjoy spending a little time with you. He would love your posts.

    1. Oh Charlie that is the nicest thing to say…I am humbled to think John Muir would enjoy my posts. You are too kind. I wish you a wonderful, peaceful New Year!!

  17. Yes, I’ve seen this wildflower and wondered what it was called. I just read your post on Vision and Verb and enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing the link, Donna. Happy New Year 🙂

    1. So happy you liked the post on Vision and Verb. I talk about it in today’s post, but somehow the comments were shut off…they are back up now. Wishing you the best in this New Year Loredana!!

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