The Tree Center


Little Devil Ninebark

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Donna May' (PP#22,634)

1 Review


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


The Little Devil™ Ninebark is a new, dwarf, deciduous shrub with rich burgundy-purple foliage that holds its color continuously from spring all the way to fall leaf-drop. It only grows 3 or 4 feet tall and wide, making it perfect for smaller gardens, mass planting, edging and dwarf hedges, or for planters and containers. Hardy to at least zone 3, its a great way to bring color to northern gardens, where plant choices can be more limited. Able to thrive in poor soil and urban conditions, this attractive plant is also embellished with clusters of pink flowers in early summer, and purple seed clusters in fall and winter.

  • Rich burgundy-purple foliage from spring to fall
  • Pink flowers in early summer
  • Dwarf shrub for small spaces and planters
  • Grows well in very poor conditions
  • Cold-hardy to minus 40 degrees

For the best leaf color, plant the Little Devil™ Ninebark in full sun, although it will grow well in partial shade too. It grows in any well-drained soil, including dry and rocky soils, gravel, and disturbed soil from urban construction. With its very vigorous root system it will grow on compacted soil and hard clay. It has an exceptionally cold-hardy root system, allowing it to overwinter successfully in aboveground containers even in colder zones. It normally has no pests or diseases.

Plant Hardiness Zones 3-7
Mature Width 3-4
Mature Height 3-4
Soil Conditions Adaptable
Sunlight Full Sun
Drought Tolerance Moderate Drought Tolerance
Zones 3-7

There are only so many large shrubs you can fit into a small garden, and since so many of us have small gardens these days, growers have been working to bring us new, smaller versions of popular plants – and succeeding. Even in larger gardens, smaller shrubs are perfect for the front of big beds, and for mass planting to fill larger spaces. Even large gardens have small corners to fill, and of course if you have planters and containers to fill with color, smaller shrubs are the answer.

If you also like easy-care with your small shrubs, then look no further than the Little Devil Ninebark, a colorful small shrub that is amazingly hardy, easy to grow, and reliable in tough soil and even in outdoor containers in the coldest zones. You owe it to yourself to have plenty of easy plants in your garden, to leave you free for other things, and you can have that – and color too – with this superb dwarf shrub.

Growing Little Devil™ Ninebark

The Little Devil Ninebark is a compact deciduous bush, growing no more that 3 or 4 feet tall, and bushing out to about 3 feet wide as it matures. In spring the new leaves are a brilliant bright red, maturing to a rich burgundy. The clusters of lovely flowers that come in mid-June are light pink, and they look terrific against the dark leaves. The flowers last for three weeks or more, before developing into attractive seed clusters. These are burgundy-purple too, especially when in the full sun, and add interest even after the leaves have fallen. The leave color holds all summer and fall, darkening to a reddish brown at the end of the season, before falling to the ground. The young stems are purple, which is a real development for ninebarks, as they normally have tan or beige stems. Everything about this plant is compact, and the leaves are small too, just 1 to 2 inches long and less than 1 inch wide. They are lobed, with a slightly rough surface texture and pronounced veins. The whole plant is neatly dwarf, and nothing is out of proportion on this great shrub. 

Use the Little Devil Ninebark in small beds, alone, or in larger ones planted in groups or drifts. Space 2 feet apart for a continuous mass-planting effect. It also makes the perfect dwarf hedge, needing no clipping to be neat and low – perfect for edging a path or driveway, or along a fence. In cold areas it is hard to use shrubs in planters that stand outside in winter, because the roots die at lower temperatures than the stems. This ninebark is so tough, it survives even in zone 3 in planters above ground, because of its exceptionally hardy root system. That same root system breaks through tough ground and clay, which is why this plant is so good at surviving and flourishing on poor soils and heavy ground.

Planting and Initial Care

Grow the Little Devil Ninebark in full sun for the best foliage, stem and flower color, but it will also grow in partial shade. It grows in most soils, except for very wet ones, and that includes poor soil, heavy clay, gravel and rocky sands, and poor urban soil in areas of recent construction. It normally has no pests or diseases, and with its natural compact form it never really needs trimming. If the plants do become old, with reduced foliage, simply cut them back to the ground in late winter or early spring, and watch them vigorously spring back up again, with new shoots.

History and Origins of the Little Devil™ Ninebark

The Common ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius, is a widely-occurring native American bush found across the country, and in Quebec and eastern Canada too. It is most often found in the eastern states, and south of the Missouri river. Almost identical forms occur in the Rockies and the Pacific northwest. It grows on gravel and the banks of rivers and streams, where there is more light than deep inside the forest. In recent decades there have been several colored forms created, and the Little Devil Ninebark was the result of a careful breeding program specifically to develop a dwarf, purple-leaf form of this popular garden plant. 

David Charles Zlesak, of St. Paul, Minnesota, is an associate professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. He began his breeding program with the purple-leaf ninebark variety called ‘Monlo’, or Diabolo®, and crossed that plant with a naturally dwarf form of the common ninebark. One of the seedlings that resulted was smaller and more compact that Diabolo, but it had that plant’s purple foliage. He then used that plant (called ‘2001-1’) and crossed it again with the natural dwarf form. The result was a batch of seedlings, some of which were very small and also had rich purple leaves. in 2005 he selected the very best one and called it ‘Donna May’. It was patented in 2012, after extensive trials, and it is today marketed as Little Devil. Our plants are produced to the highest standard by licensed growers, from stem pieces of top-quality plants. Everyone is using this new, dwarf ninebark for color in smaller spaces, or for mass planting, so our supplies are dwindling fast. Order now while we can still satisfy your needs.


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Little Devil Ninebark

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Donna May' (PP#22,634)

1 Review