In the early days of my quest to create a mixed border with perennials and shrubs, ninebark was relatively low on my list of “must-have” shrubs.
Somehow it struck me as unremarkable, especially since I’m so enamored with the romantic nature of hydrangeas and roses. But I’ve come to love and appreciate this North American native.
Ninebarks are known for their shaggy bark that develops after a plant is several years old. This trait isn’t so evident in newer varieties, but the colors make up for the loss.
Some ninebarks are big and bushy; others are more refined and easily tucked into bare spots in the perennial border. They’re all easy to grow. In the spring or early summer, these shrubs don coats of many white or pink flower clusters. You’ll also find a wide range of foliage colors. For best color — and disease resistance — plant ninebark in full sun. Newer introductions have fewer problems with powdery mildew, the bane of older varieties.
“Coppertina” ranks as the most beautiful of all ninebark shrubs, in my estimation. The name says it all — coppery-orange and bronze foliage on arching branches that shows off all season long, not just in autumn. Sure, it has pretty pinkish white flower clusters in early to mid-summer, but that glowing foliage is the real drama, mama.
Give it plenty of elbow room because when it’s all grown up, “Coppertina” can measure from 6 to 8 feet tall and just as wide. Don’t cram it up against other plants — it needs good air circulation.
This is a cross between “Dart’s Gold” and “Diablo,” with traits that are described as “durable and cold-hardy” and a “tough plant for difficult sites,” including acidic and alkaline soils. At first planting, it requires medium moisture, but once established, will tolerate drier conditions. It blooms on old wood. Experts say it may benefit from a good
, hard pruning as a young plant and should be fertilized in early spring with slow-release shrub-and-tree food.
“Ginger Wine” is another looker. Sporting exceptional spring-through-fall color, foliage starts out a bright orange and matures to burgundy. In late spring, white flower clusters emerge and age to red seed heads. It is a disease-resistant, low maintenance, medium-sized shrub for sunny spots. No pruning or deadheading is required.
“Tiny Wine” is a bushy, dwarf ninebark with small, refined dark bronze-maroon foliage. In spring, stems are drenched in white flowers. The shrub adapts to most soils, reaches 4 to 5 feet tall and needs no pruning. It’s also a good candidate to grow in a patio container. “Tiny Wine Gold” displays the same habits as “Tiny Wine,” but the foliage is lime-gold. Again, it is petite and perfect for pots.(tncms-asset)edb2b1b4-8e6d-11e7-add2-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
Coming in spring 2018 is a new semi-dwarf ninebark, “Festivus Gold.” This ninebark brings the gleam of gold into the garden with glowing yellow foliage in spring that turns to lime. “Festivus” keeps its color without fading in the sun. White flower clusters practically swallow the plant each spring. It is described as extra tough and adaptable to sites and soils. The foliage resists fungal diseases.
A full-figured beauty, “Summer Wine” is a reason to grow ninebark. The foliage is dark maroon and spring blooms are soft pink. It has the cascading habit of ninebarks that requires no pruning, although some very occasionally thinning might be required. It is highly disease resistant.