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How to Prune Common Ninebark

Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) has cinnamon-colored flaky bark that peels off in strips. Some people claim nine strips are around each stem and that is how the shrub got its common name. Clusters of white to off-white flowers bloom in early summer, followed by pinkish- to peach-colored berries in the fall. The leaves turn shades of bronze and yellow in the fall. Common Ninebark has a rounded arching form. It tends to get leggy, so regular pruning is needed to maintain its shape.

Use hand pruners and lopping shears to prune Common Ninebark immediately after it blooms. This may decrease the amount of berries in the fall but will not interfere with the next year’s blooms. Decide how much you want to remove from the shrub.

Use lopping shears for branches larger than 1-½ inches and hand pruners for smaller branches and stems when pruning Common Ninebark.

Remove suckers at ground level and cut waterspouts back to main branches with hand pruners. Use lopping shears to prune out diseased, damaged or dead stems and branches.

Remove branches that are deformed, twisted or crossed over other branches with lopping shears. Cut back to the main branch, the trunk or the ground.

Trim stems that ruin the shape of the shrub. Cut at a 30-degree angle about ¼ inch above a bud that faces outward. Remember to use the pruning shears for smaller, thinner branches and the lopping shears for larger, thicker branches.

Common Ninebark

Common ninebark usually grows between 3 and 10 feet tall, with an approximate 4- to 6-foot spread. Several cultivated varieties of common ninebark are commercially available. Dart's Gold," which reaches heights around 5 feet, has bright yellow foliage that may turn green during the summer in hot climates. " Other varieties include "Nanus," which grows between 2 and 6 feet tall and produces attractive red fruits; "Seward" reaches heights of 5 feet and yields purplish-red foliage; and "Luteus," which produces yellow foliage that later changes to yellowish-green. It tolerates full or partial sunlight, can live in moist or dry soil, and requires little maintenance except for occasional pruning after the plants have bloomed, to help it maintain its form. It propagates from seeds and cuttings. The symptoms vary depending on the pathogen that is causing the problem.


Common Ninebarks may have few or no blooms if pruned after mid-August. Some Common Ninebarks may not need to be pruned every year.

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