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Deciduous, Shrubs

Ninebarks are so named because of their peeling bark, which is many layers deep. These deciduous shrubs resemble spirea and are closely related to it, bearing round clusters of tiny white or pinkish flowers in spring or early summer. All have medium green leaves with lobed edges. Prune plants as needed after bloom; rejuvenate by cutting old stems to the ground.

Physocarpus capitatus

Native to the mountains of western North America. Grows to 5–100 ft. tall and wide, with dense clusters of white flowers. Clustered buds are as attractive as the opened blossoms.

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’

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Physocarpus opulifolius

Native to eastern and central North America. Grows to 9 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide, with leaves to 3 in. long. Many white or pinkish blossoms in each cluster. Varieties are more attractive than the species. ‘Diabolo’, to 9–12 ft. tall and wide, has intense reddish purple leaves (foliage color can tend toward dark green in very hot summers or when plant is grown in partial shade). Leaves of ‘Luteus’ are yellow when plant is grown in sunlight, yellow green in shade.

Compact varieties to 4–6 ft. tall and wide include ‘Dart’s Gold’, similar to ‘Luteus’ but brighter; ‘Nanus’, with small, shallowly lobed dark green leaves; and ‘Nugget’, with leaves that unfold golden yellow, gradually mature to lime green, and then turn gold again in fall.

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