Little Devil Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo‘) is a stylish upright and dense, multi-stem shrub that gardeners love growing thanks to its rich purple foliage. It also comes with small, spirea-like flowers with colors that vary between pinkish and white in summer.
The flowers produce reddish fruits that blend well with the purple leaves in autumn. These ornamental features make the plant a darling to gardeners.
The plant’s bark is known for peeling off in layers when mature. It’s a hardy plant that can serve you as an excellent low hedge and is relatively maintenance-free.
You will enjoy more of Little Devil Ninebark in a small-spaced garden, as a border plant, or as an accent. You could also mass plant it or grow it in large patio planters.
Growing Little Devil Ninebark
Little Devil Ninebark grows to about 3-4 inches at maturity. It thrives in hardiness zones 3-7.
The growth rate is medium, and under favorable conditions, it can live up to 30 years. The plant also forms a low canopy by growing 3-4 inches wide.
To grow it best, you want to ensure the plant is in an environment with partial shade to full sunlight. You should also ensure that the soil moisture is moderate and consistent.
Usually, Little Devil Ninebark tolerates locations that have both moist and dry conditions. It loves well-draining soil but is not selective regarding the type of soil it has to grow through or the pH.
For exponential growth, make it a habit to prune the plant regularly. Luckily for you, the plant has no toxic effects on humans or animals.
Companion Plants For Little Devil Ninebark
Finding companion plants for a particular plant species requires thinking along two lines:
1. The companion plants should not compete for resources with the primary plant. Instead, both species should complement each other’s growth.
2. The primary plant and companion plants should look aesthetically pleasing together.
For that matter, Little Devil Ninebark has companion plants that relish growing around it.
Some great companions to Little Devil Ninebark include Garden Phlox, The Coneflower, and The Russian Sage.
Let’s get down to details about these plants.
Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Phlox is a Greek word for flame, and the naming stemmed from some of the plant varieties having intense flower colors. The plant is a native of several states: New York, Iowa south, Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
The plant is an upright growing perennial; however, different species have different growth patterns. Garden Phlox is an excellent companion to little devil ninebark, and they form a perfect color blend together.
Some plants of this genus are low-growing (creepers) and work best as ground covers. You will find the tall Phlox handy as a colorful background plant; medium-height varieties can fit anywhere.
The creeping Phlox helps fill spaces, especially under trees, and is suitable for forming slopes and trails.
Thanks to its billowy blooms and long flowering season, the plant is popular amongst gardeners.
Early spring is when Phlox begins blooming, and some varieties will go on until the hard frost that comes in fall.
Its range of colors and cultivars is quite broad, leaving you spoilt for choice. Garden phlox thrives well in zones 4-8.
It grows up to 4 feet, with some varieties going beyond that. It spreads 2-3 feet wide on stiff stems with pointed, elliptic, dark green leaves that can grow up to 6 inches long.
Planting Garden Phlox
You can grow Phlox in your garden from transplanting or cuttings. This option is more effortless than propagation through seeds.
The best time for planting is during spring; at this time, your plant will be safe from the effects of frost. They love fertile soils that are well-draining and evenly moist.
When preparing your garden bed, loosen the soil and ensure it’s 12-14 inches deep. Mix the soil with a 4-inch layer of compost.
Phlox lighting requirements vary by species. As a general rule, maintain a sunlight exposure of 6 hours daily.
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
The coneflower is a popular plant in the Eastern parts of North America. It is also among the most common plants in the Mississippi and the Ozarks.
It loves growing in the prairies, dry open woods, and barrens. Apart from E. purpurea, other common varieties include E. pallida, E. paradoxa, and E. tennesseensis.
The plant is drought resistant which makes it a good perennial. You can quickly grow it in your garden, and the good part is that it will bloom for months.
Coneflowers produce excellent cut flowers. These flowers range from colorful shades of yellow, pink, orange, chartreuse, and red.
You will also love its flower forms that range from horizontal ruffs to standard shuttlecock and Powerpuff center doubles. Coneflower thrives in various zones but typically grows well in zones 3 to 9.
The plant grows to 5 feet tall and spreads 2 feet wide. It loves total sun exposure but can also survive in partial shade.
If growing them in hotter climates than their ideal habitats, maintain a partial afternoon shade to prevent burning. Coneflower blooms from June to August and beyond.
Coneflowers love sunlight, and you should ensure to plant them in areas that receive at least 6 hours of daylight. Too much shade will make your plant susceptible to diseases such as powdery mildew.
Seedbed preparation is more or less like the one for garden phlox. Loosen the soil to 12 inches and add a four-inch layer of compost to the topsoil.
Your seeds should germinate in 3-4 weeks. True leaves form after 12 weeks.
If transplanting the seedlings, we advise digging holes twice as large as the pot. This allows the plant’s root ball to be at the same level as the soil top, thus providing room for new roots to grow.
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Russian sage is a herbaceous perennial loved for its lavender-purple flowers and fragrant grey-green foliage. The plant is known for growing in coastal areas.
It thrives well in hardiness zones 4-9. However, you will need to protect the plants in zone 4 from harsh winters.
As long as the roots survive, you should see new growth in spring. The Russian Sage is a perfect companion of Little Devil Ninebark and will grow alongside other border plants like rudbeckias, echinaceas, and eryngiums.
Mature Russian sages can grow up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. They grow tall but bend over due to the weight of their flowers.
Russian Sage is drought-resistant and can thrive in hot and dry areas. That explains its love for full sunlight.
The plant begins blooming in July through to August. The flowers gain entire brilliant colors over time but eventually become subdued again.
Planting Russian Sage
Grow the plant in well-drained soils during fall or early spring. Use a well-balanced potting mix during planting to boost growth and encourage blooming.
Ensure to grow the plant in sunbathed locations to bloom. Partially shaded areas make the plant sprawl.
Space the plants 2-3 feet apart during planting and maintain regular watering during dry spells; however, they may not need much water once established.
We advise using gravel instead of organic matter when mulching because it enables moisture evaporation. If you are planting to have a hedge, consider a spacing of 50 cm apart.