Ninebark ‘Red Baron’ (Physocarpus opulifolius)

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Plant Details

Category: Nursery
Light: Sun to Part Shade
Bloom Season: Summer
Height: 5-8' / 
1.2-1.5m
Space: 3-6' / 
1.2-1.5m
Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Lowest Temp: -40° to -30°F / 
-40° to -34°C
Colors: White

Basic Care

For best results, plant in acidic, fertile but well-drained soil. Keep soil moist, watering freely in dry weather. Prune when dormant, in late autumn or late winter.

Water

Keep soil evenly moist.

Soil

Acidic, humus-rich soil.

Feed

Apply a fertilizer formulated for acid loving varieties.

Ornamental Flower

Fruit

Looks Great in Winter

Features

This rugged beauty is tolerant of air pollution, drought, and wind. The deep red foliage is a great source of color all season long. Expect small clusters of pink flowers in early summer, followed by decorative red berries. The bark peels revealing layers of brown tones; the source of this shrubs common name, “Ninebark”.

Uses

An excellent specimen, foundation, or border plant. Beautiful grouped or massed in a shrub border. Excellent for planting along fences and walls.

Ninebark ‘Red Baron’ (Physocarpus opulifolius) Care Guide

Plant in spring or early fall to give plants the best start.

Choose a location that will allow roots to spread and branches to grow freely. Space plants far enough from building foundations, walls, and decks so that the growing foliage won’t crowd the structure. Consider whether tall trees or shrubs will block windows or interfere with the roof or power lines.

To prepare the planting area dig a hole as deep as the root ball and three times as wide. After removing the soil, mix it with some compost or peat moss. This enriches the soil and loosens the existing dirt so that new roots can spread easily.

To remove the plant from the container, gently brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot. The container can also be removed by carefully cutting it down the side.

Set the plant in the hole. If the root ball is wrapped in burlap fabric this must now be removed along with any string or wire securing the burlap. If roots are tightly packed gently rake them apart with your fingers.

Return the soil to the planting area packing it firmly around the root ball. Fill the hole until the soil line is just at the base of the plant, where the roots begin to flare out from the main stem.

Water the plant well then add a 2” (5cm) layer of mulch, such as shredded bark, around the planting area. Keep the mulch at least 4” (10cm) away from the trunk of the plant as this can keep the bark too moist and cause it to decay.

Depending on rainfall, new plants need to be watered weekly through the first growing season. A slow, one-hour trickle of water should do the job. During hot spells thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.

To check for soil moisture use your finger or a hand trowel to dig a small hole and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.

Monitor new plants through the first two years to make sure they are getting the moisture they need. After that they should be sturdy enough to survive on their own.

Pruning may be needed to remove dead branches, encourage bushier growth, promote more flowers, or maintain a specific size or shape.

Dead branches should be removed close to the trunk, flush with the bark. When pruning to control a plant’s size or shape, cuts should be made just above a leaf bud and at a slight angle. This bud will be where the new growth sprouts.

Many shrubs can be regularly sheared to keep them shaped as a hedge, edging or formal foundation planting.

Always use sharp, clean tools when pruning. There are many tools available depending on the job. Hand shears, pruners, and loppers are ideal for most shrubs. Pole pruners and tree saws are better for large, mature shrubs or trees. If a tree is so large that it can’t be safely pruned with a pole pruner, it is best to call in a professional tree service.

Established trees should be fertilized every 2-3 years. Feed in early spring when plants start growing.

Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product designed for trees and shrubs, or go with a nutritionally balanced, general-purpose formula such as 10-10-10.

Always follow the fertilizer package directions for application rates and scheduling. Over-fertilizing plants or applying at the wrong time during the growing season can result in plant injury.

Companion/Combination Plants

2 Comments

  1. Lesley Evans

    I purchased my Physocarpus opulifolious ‘ Red Baron’ in the summer last year (2022) So far it has grown pretty tall and ‘leggy’ but I haven’t had any flowers on it, could there be something wrong?

    I want to prune it as it’s grown to a good height but I’m a little confused which is the right way to go about it. Can anyone advise please?

    Many thanks
    Lesley.

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Lesley,
      Most often leggy growth occurs when a plant isn’t getting enough light – the stems start to stretch to reach light. Insufficient light can also reduce flower bud production. For best growth and flowering your Physocarpus shrub needs six or more hours of direct sunlight each day.

      Normally you would prune a Physocarpus shrub just after flowering (which is usually in May or June). Physocarpus flower buds form on the current season’s growth, so by pruning right away the plant has time to regrow new stems that will produce flower buds. If you prune months after flowering, after the plant has had time to grow, then you will likely remove buds being set for next season. See our article on Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs for information on where to make pruning cuts.

      Reply

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