Diabolo NinebarkPhysocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo'
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Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo'
Outdoor Growing zone
The Diabolo® Ninebark grows quickly into an upright, arching bush between 4 and 8 feet tall and wide. This deciduous shrub has bright red leaves in spring, maroon red leaves in summer, and copper red leaves in fall. In late spring to early summer the branches are festoons with clusters of pinkish-white flowers, which make a beautiful contrast against the dark foliage. In fall and winter clusters of red seed pods decorate the branches. Grow this tough plant wherever you need color contrast, and a reliable, hardy, low-maintenance plant.
Full sun will keep the leaf colors of the Diabolo® Ninebark at their brightest. Colors are strongest in cooler regions, and this plant is completely winter hardy even in zone 3. It grows well in difficult soils, from gravels to clays, and in urban soils too. An indestructible plant for the toughest spots, and yet beautiful and always attractive, this plant is not bothered by pests or diseases and it needs no regular maintenance. Remove a few of the oldest stems from older plants in spring, to rejuvenate it and encourage the best growth.
Using colored foliage is the way to go when you want to bring easy color into your garden. Today we have an enormous range of plants with colored leaves, and it is hard to believe that at the end of the last century there were very few of these shrubs available to us. Their arrival was groundbreaking, and one of the first – and still one of the best – is the Diabolo® Ninebark. A chance discovery among a field of plants, this wonderful shrub is as reliable as its green parents, and it brings us brilliant red foliage to lift our gardens to another color dimension. This incredibly tough shrub thrives in heat and dryness, yet it is also very cold hardy. It tops off its gorgeous foliage with pinkish flowers and interesting red seed pods, and it is the #1 choice when low-maintenance is needed, without sacrificing color and variety.
The Diabolo Ninebark is a hardy, deciduous shrub, growing between 4 and 8 feet tall and wide, depending on its location and your climate. It grows larger in warmer zones, and in richer soils, although it tolerates poor soils very well. The arching stems grow up from the base, making a dense, bushy plant. The bark is reddish, and peels in strips, making an attractive feature in winter, when it is not hidden by the profusion of leaves. The foliage grows all along the stems, in clusters, and the leaves are up to 4 inches long, with 3 to 5 lobes, a little like a maple leaf. What makes this plant so special is the color of those leaves. In the wild plant they are green, but in this bush they begin the season a rich, brilliant deep red, glowing out across your garden. In summer they darken to a maroon red, and in fall they turn intriguing shades of coppery red – always colorful, and yet changing with the seasons.
In late spring or early summer, the Diabolo Ninebark flowers, with beautiful 2-inch clusters of many small flowers. These are pink in the bud, opening to a pinky-cream that contrasts beautifully with the foliage. On ordinary ninebarks, the flowers are inconspicuous because they blend into the yellowish-green of the leaves. Not here, where they stand out among those dark red leaves, and really make an impact. The flowers are followed in fall by unusual red seed pods, that are soft but dry clusters of inflated pods. They become very noticeable after the leaves fall, and they persist into the winter.
A tough, reliable plant like this one is a real garden asset. Wherever you need a splash of color, use it. Grow it in shrub beds with other bushes – it really shows well with yellow or variegated plants – and it makes a permanent element as flowers come and go. Use it as a specimen on a small lawn, or plant it by a stream or pond. Grow a row as an informal boundary or screen against an unsightly old fence or wall. Its bold color is always useful, and this plant is very tough and easy to grow.
The Diabolo Ninebark grows best in cooler zones, and it is completely hardy even in zone 3. This makes it very valuable for gardeners in the coldest areas, where it can be relied on to take exposed positions and extreme cold. It does not take the heat and humidity of zone 8 in the southeast so well, but it will grow well in the cooler summers of the north-west. In hot summers the foliage may become a little greenish for a while.
For the best foliage colors, grow the Diabolo Ninebark in full sun. It will tolerate a little partial shade too, but the leaf color could become more greenish. This plant is very undemanding for soil, and it thrives even in poor soils, such as sandy gravels and urban construction soils. The only requirement is for good drainage – this plant will not grow well in soils that are constantly wet, but it is so tough it will grow in heavy clay, which does hold water for long periods.
Free of pests and diseases, and not high in the grazing preferences of deer, this plant is one of the easiest and toughest plants you can grow. It can be trimmed into a hedge if you need to, or left to grow naturally when it will develop an attractive arching form. Older bushes can have a few of their oldest branches removed low down in early spring, before growth begins. This will encourage new shoots and keep your bush vigorous and attractive.
The Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius, grows naturally all through the eastern states, from New York to Florida. It can be found growing on riverbanks, in gravel areas, and at the edges of woods. Wild plants have greenish-yellow leaves, and for a long time this was the only form grown.
In June of 1968, at Kordes Jungpflanzen, a nursery in Bilsen, Germany, Gunter Kordes and Hans Schadendorf were looking at a field of 120,000 ninebark seedlings they were growing. They spotted one plant with red leaves and separated it from the others. This was the very first red-leaf ninebark ever discovered, thanks to the sharp eyes of those experienced nurserymen. After growing it for a long time to test its reliability, in 2000 it was patented by Monrovia nurseries, of Azusa, California, with the name ‘Monlo’. That patent (PP# 11,211) has now expired, and the tree is sold with the trademark name of Diabolo®.
All our plants are grown from stem pieces tracing back to that original special seedling, so they are genetically identical to it, with its fabulous red foliage. This plant remains one of the very best of the ninebarks for your garden, and it is always in high demand. Order now while it is still in stock – good plants sell out fast.