A low-maintenance native shrub, ninebark grows best in full sun to light shade. Although it prefers evenly moist, well-drained soil, it is adaptable to rocky and clay soils and is drought tolerant once established. Here is more of what you should know about this tough plant.
Flowers and fruit enhance the color show. Clusters of pretty white or pink blossoms appear for a short time in late spring to early summer, followed by inflated fruits that add a spot of red late in the season.
Expect a few pests and diseases. As part of the rose family, ninebarks can experience some of the same problems; fire blight, leaf spot, and aphids are occasionally troublesome. Ninebarks are considered deer resistant, which we all know is somewhat of a misnomer since deer defy such labels. Foliar chlorosis may be a problem in high-alkaline soil.
Mildew is less of an issue on newer varieties. I have seen powdery mildew on ninebark foliage so densely fuzzy white that the leaves are barely recognizable as leaves. Mildew has yet to be an issue in our trial; however, ‘Chameleon’, Diabolo®, ‘Morning Star’, ‘Nugget’, Summer Wine®, and Summer Wine® Black have had minor infections. Only ‘Center Glow’ and Coppertina® were severely impacted by mildew in 2020; it was one thing I could not blame on the pandemic.
Don’t underplay the bark. Ninebark gets its name from the way the older bark splits and shreds into narrow papery layers of slightly different colors. This trait is especially eye-catching in winter and gives the garden interest in the off-season.
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