Trying to figure out what this tall shrub is in the front yard.

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Any ideas? It looks like it probably needs pruning, but I want to figure out what it is before cleaning it up.

1 Answer 1


Looks like a variety of ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), possibly a 'Diabolo' cultivar that is reverting to the species or is located in too much shade. Two keys to ninebark identification are the bark on the older stems and the flowers/seedheads. The bark should be exfoliating, something like a paperbark birch; that appears to be the case with two stems in the bottom photo. The flowerheads are small, ball-shaped collections of flowers, while the seeds are kind of nutlike and often pinkish in the colored-leaved cultivars. It does not look like this shrub flowered this spring, though. (Sorry about lack of scientific nomenclature; too early in the day and no coffee yet).

The shrub is certainly overgrown, but if it's a ninebark it won't like being sheared. I'd treat it like a lilac and take out about a third of the oldest stems, as close to the ground as you can get, with maybe a little pruning of specific branches higher up.

  • Thanks for the response. It's not obvious to me by looking at the plant outside that this is the right answer, but it also seems very plausible that is. As you say, it doesn't look like it flowered this spring so I don't have that characteristic to look for. I'm going to go ahead and treat it like a ninebark and hopefully next season we'll see some of these flowers which should help confirm the ID.
    – gammapoint
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 17:06
  • No competing answers, so I'll mark this as solved. Thank you.
    – gammapoint
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 15:53
  • I was downtown today and saw a city garden where the same plant was labeled a “purple leaf nine bark”, so it looks like you are correct!
    – gammapoint
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 18:19

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