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Click for previous Image Image 1 of 4 Physocarpus capitatus Pacific ninebark

Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)- flowers and foliage in spring

Physocarpus capitatus

Pacific ninebark

Pacific ninebark is a long-lived, winter deciduous shrub,  It has an upright growth habit and grows 5-8' tall and wide.  Rounded clusters of creamy-white flowers bloom in spring.

Plant name
Ninebarks get their common name from their bark which peels back attractively revealing several layers; probably not as many as nine though!  The genus comes from the Greek words for "bladdery" (physo-) and "fruit" (carpus-) and refers to the shape of the seeds.  The specific epithet "capitatus," meaning "headed,"  

Origin and habitat
Pacific ninebark is native to California, Utah, Montana and British Columbia.  In California, it's found on slopes and along streams in the coast ranges and Sierra Nevada mountains in redwood forest, chaparral, red fir forest, yellow pine forest and wetland and riparian areas.

Growth habit, foliage and flowers
Pacific ninebark is an upright shrub with a V-shaped or slightly fountain-like shape.  The foliage emerges in early spring and is a bright, fresh green.  As the season progresses, it matures to a slightly darker medium green.  The leaves are palmate and reminiscient of small sycamore or maple leaves.


Most books and websites report that Pacific ninebark prefers moist soil.  However, we've been growing several ninebarks in the garden here in Soquel since 2006 and they're all thriving with no watering other than rain.

Pacific ninebark Growing and Maintenance Tips

Little maintenance is needed except for occasional light pruning to maintain the desired shape.


6-8 ft


4-6 ft


6 ft

Physocarpus capitatus Characteristics


  • California native
  • Wind resistant
  • Fast-growing
  • Portola Valley Ranch approved

Flower color

  • White / Cream / Ivory

Foliage color

  • Green / Blue-green

Growth habit (plant shape)

  • Arching
  • Upright


  • Sunny all day - Coast
  • Morning sun
  • Light or dappled shade

Season of interest (flowering)

  • Spring

Season of interest (foliage)

  • Fall
  • Spring
  • Summer

Your soil type

  • Clay
  • Loam
  • Clay-loam
  • Sandy loam

Water requirements

  • None
  • None - Low

Critter resistance

  • Rabbit resistant

Wildlife appeal

  • Attracts beneficial insects
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Attracts bees
  • Attracts birds

Suggested uses

  • Under CA native oaks
  • Under eucalyptus
  • Under redwoods
  • Under pine trees


  • California
  • Pacific NW (North CA, OR, WA, BC, AK)

Plants that work well with Physocarpus capitatus

Douglas' iris Douglas' iris (Iris douglasiana)
Fringe cups Fringe cups (Tellima grandiflora)
California fescue California fescue (Festuca californica)
Soft rush, Common rush Soft rush, Common rush (Juncus effusus var. pacificus)
Basket rush Basket rush (Juncus textilis)
Pink flowering currant Pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum)
Mock orange Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii)
Bush anemone Bush anemone (Carpenteria californica)
Carmel Sur manzanita Carmel Sur manzanita (Arctostaphylos edmundsii 'Carmel Sur')
Coyote mint Coyote mint (Monardella villosa ssp. villosa)
San Bruno Mountain golden aster San Bruno Mountain golden aster (Heterotheca sessiliflora ssp. bolanderi 'San Bruno Mountain')
Valley Violet ceanothus Valley Violet ceanothus (Ceanothus maritimus 'Valley Violet')
Meadow rue Meadow rue (Thalictrum fendleri var. polycarpum)