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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - April 24, 2010

From: Canton, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Shape of common ninebark in Canton MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have planted one center glow ninebark in a triangular area in between my front walk and driveway. It looks a little odd just having one plant, but I originally did this b/c of the mature plant height being 8' x 10' eventually. (there are a few hostas & day lilies in this area as well.) My question is can I shape this plant into a hedge if I add in another center glow ninebark, or is the round shape what I want to strive for?

ANSWER:

The 'Center Glow" you referred to is apparently a nursery retailer's idea of a more sellable name of a shrub than Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark). How you shape it is a matter of your preference and what works in your space, of course; the ninebark doesn't grow in Texas so we have no personal experience with it. From this USDA Plant Profile, we learned that it is native to Wayne County and hardy in your USDA Hardness Zone of 5b to 6a.

In terms of mound-shaped or hedge, the page on this plant in our Native Plant Database says:

"A 3-10 ft., mound-shaped, deciduous shrub, atlantic ninebark offers spiraea-like flowers, attractive and persistent fruit pods, arching branches, yellow fall color, and exfoliating bark." 

However, you also need to read this website from Paghat's Garden Physocarpus opulifolius. This gardener does grow the ninebark, and he refers to it as a thicket-forming, deciduous shrub that, if left to its own devices, spreads by underground runners and grows upright and slightly fountaining. That sounds to us like it would be really better to do some pruning and controlling, whether you add another bush or not, or it will rampage all over your garden. Just to help you visualize, we went to Google for images of the Ninebark. Most of these looked like they were mounding or "fountaining" and not hedges. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Physocarpus opulifolius

Physocarpus opulifolius

Physocarpus opulifolius

Physocarpus opulifolius

 

 

 

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