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Physocarpus Provides Cover For Songbirds

Physocarpus is a small genus of about ten species including our native ninebark shrub.

Physocarpus opulifolius, or common ninebark.

Ninebark is the common name given to this shrub because it has peeling bark. It blooms in early spring and produces clusters of white or pink flowers. Ninebark may be pruned right after it flowers, as it blooms on old wood. It is a medium sized shrub and can get 3 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide, if not pruned, in zones 3 through 7.

Physocarpus provides excellent cover for songbirds and other wildlife in the garden. In the wild it grows best on the banks of streams so it loves moisture. However, it is a very adaptable shrub and will tolerate almost any conditions from wet to dry, acid to alkaline, sun to part shade. It forms an efficient root system which allows it to grow well in most sites.

Red seedpods mature in late summer, and the caterpillars of the Spring Azure butterfly eat its leaves. A compact variety ‘Little Devil’ grows only 3 to 4 feet tall and has wine colored foliage. The 2 to 3 feet tall ‘Lemon Candy’ has chartreuse foliage all season through fall. This shrub has multi- season appeal and can be used in borders, foundation plantings and as accents. It is untroubled by pests or disease.

Everyone needs at least one ninebark in their garden.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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