Plants for Water Wise Pollinator Garden: Ninebark (Physocarpus species)

Plant Family

Rose Family (Rosaceae)

Common Names

Mallow or Mallow-leaved ninebark (P. malvaceus), Common or Eastern ninebark (P. opufolius)


There are several native ninebark species found in North America. Two of the most commonly used in the landscape are Physocaropus opufolius and Physocaropus malvaceus

Common ninebark flower and foliage Photo credit: Dan Mullen Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Mallow-leaved ninebark flowers Photo source: Bryan Olsen Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
A popular purple leaf cultivar with pinkish flowers of common ninebark “Diablo” Photo source: Jacki Dougan Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Physocarpus opufolius (Common ninebark, Eastern ninebark)

  • Medium to large sized shrub native to central and the Eastern U.S.
  • Mature size ranges from 5 to 8 or more feet high and to about 10 feet wide
  • Many cultivars have been produced from this species
  • Smaller cultivars are available in a variety of leaf colors including dark burgundy
  • Clusters of white to pinkish flowers bloom in late spring
  • This shrub grows best in full sun
  • Somewhat drought tolerant.
  • Adapted to USDA Hardiness Zones 2 through 7


Bees and butterflies

Note that the Calligrapha spiraeae beetle feeds on P. opufolius ninebark. Adults and larva may do considerable damage to leaves. Newer cultivars are more resistant to this beetle.

Physocarpus malvaceus (Mallow leaved ninebark)

  • Medium sized shrub native to the western U.S. and Canada
  • Mature height is about 6 feet tall and width is about 3 to 4 feet wide
  • Clusters of white to pinkish flowers bloom in late spring and early summer
  • Leaves are more rounded than those of common ninebark
  • Ninebarks can tolerate shade and survive up to 11,000 feet in their native mountain habitat.Mallow
  • Adapted to Zones 2 through 5
  • Grow best on moist well drained soils but are moderately drought tolerant



Additional Resources:

USDA Plants Database

Physocarpus malvaceus
Physocarpus opufolius