How to Prune Atlantic Ninebark


Atlantic ninebark, or physocarpus opulifolius, also goes by the name common ninebark. It is a fast-growing shrub that can achieve a height between 3 and 10 feet tall. The large, deciduous shrub is mound-shaped. It has flowers and fruit pods and turns yellow in the autumn. Pruning Atlantic ninebark when they are young helps produce a strong structure. As they mature, pruning maintains the shrub's structure, form, health and appearance. Shrubs should be cut back once a year during the dormant season--in the fall or winter--for best results.

Step 1

Decide what shape to prune the Atlantic ninebark. Its natural form is a mound. which means many lateral branches may compete for dominance. If you want to cut it into an ornamental shape, continual maintenance will be necessary.

Step 2

Put on your goggles and gloves. Safety is important when pruning.

Step 3

Use a hand pruner to cut small, thin branches. Lopping shears or small pruning saws can be used for slightly larger branches with bigger cutting surfaces and greater leverage. If you're dealing with even larger branches, about 6 inches in thickness, use a pruning saw.

Step 4

Identify the node, which is where one twig or branch meets another. Each spring, growth will start with buds, and twigs grow until there is a new node.

Step 5

Cut at the nodes to thin the main body of the shrub and allow more light and air to get past the leaves.

Step 6

Remove the branches with narrow, V-shaped connections because they are weaker and are likely already cracked. Keep all branches that are attached with strong U-shaped joints.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not remove more than one-quarter of the shrub at a time or you may cause stress and excessive production of new sprouts.

Things You'll Need

  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Hand pruner
  • Small pruning saw
  • Lopping shears


  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Forestry Resources Extension
Keywords: shaping atlantic ninebark, pruning ninebark, shrub pruning

About this Author

Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.