Bladder spar, also known as the devil’s shrub, is a deciduous shrub belonging to the rose family. They are vigorous, upright shrubs that overhang with age, reach heights of about 3-5 m and a width of about 3 m. These perennial, perennial plants are very robust and easy to care for. They are suitable for solitary and hedge planting as well as for underplanting or as privacy or wind protection. The numerous individual flowers sit on long, 5 cm wide corymbs and appear, depending on the species, from May to July. Bladder spar is particularly impressive because of its striking, colorful foliage.


Can be planted in spring and autumn. Before planting, it is advisable to put the root ball in a bucket of lukewarm water so that the roots can soak up well with water. In the meantime, a correspondingly large planting hole is dug, which is about twice as deep and wide as the root ball. The soil in the planting hole should be well loosened. If necessary, it can be improved accordingly with compost and garden fertilizer.

Then the bladder spar is placed in the hole in such a way that the top of the ball is slightly below the surrounding soil level. Then it is filled with earth and this is pressed down well. Finally, water the whole thing well.

Location and soil

Bladder spars are very undemanding both in terms of location and demands on the soil. They thrive in almost any garden soil, in sunny to partially shaded areas, sometimes also in the shade, whereby the color of the leaves is more intense, the more sun the plant gets.

Since these shrubs are absolutely hardy, cold locations are no problem for them. As far as the soil is concerned, these undemanding ornamental trees tolerate dry soils as well as moist ones. Neither acidic nor calcareous soils are a problem for them.

Watering and fertilizing

  • Bladder spars are also very frugal when it comes to watering.
  • As a rule, watering only has to be carried out if it is persistent.
  • If necessary, you can fertilize from April to September.
  • To do this, apply a liquid fertilizer every 14 days.
  • Usually it is enough to add some compost in the spring.
  • This is worked into the soil around the trunk.


The bladder spar is absolutely hardy and does not need any winter protection even in particularly cold locations. The only thing that can be done in late winter is to clear the bush.


The propagation of cuttings, like the propagation of cuttings, belongs to the vegetative types of propagation. Cuttings and cuttings differ in that the shoot tips are used for cuttings and cuttings are cut from an annual, lignified rod. With both methods of propagation, in contrast to sowing, an exact image of the mother plant is obtained.

Propagation by cuttings

The basic requirement for successful propagation from cuttings is a healthy mother plant. Then, in June, cut about 12 cm long, slightly woody shoot tips below a stalk knot from the mother plant and remove the lower leaves. The cuttings are then left to air dry for a few hours with the cut surface facing up. This can protect them from possible infections.

Then it is best to put them in small pots in a mixture of peat and sand in equal parts and cover them with translucent film for optimal humidity. They can then stand outside in a sheltered place until autumn.
The cuttings should overwinter frost-free at temperatures between 12 and 15 degrees. In the following spring, the cuttings are then transplanted into a mixture of garden and compost soil. They stay there until they can be planted in their final location in the garden in autumn.

Propagation through cuttings

In contrast to cuttings, cuttings are cut in winter, from December to January, from this year’s or mature annual shoots. The lowest parts of annual shoots, which have well-developed buds and short interodes, are best suited for this. The parts of the stem axis that are located between two nodes and have no leaves are called interodes.

The cuttings of the bladder spar should be between 15 and 20 cm long. It should be cut at the bottom immediately below one eye and above directly above one eye, at an angle. Now the cuttings must be stored frost-free, dark and damp until next spring, for example in an unheated cellar or shed.
Crates or plastic bags are suitable for this, which are either filled with a peat-sand mixture, moist sand or peat moss. The cuttings are placed there in such a way that about two thirds of them are covered with the appropriate substrate. Regular ventilation is very important to prevent the substrate from going moldy.

In spring they can then be transplanted into an unheated cold frame, which can be covered, or a so-called cold box, in a nutrient-rich substrate. The cuttings are placed in the ground at an angle, as deep as they were covered with substrate during the winter. At least the top eye of the log should be visible.

During the summer, the substrate should be kept evenly moist and shaded if necessary. In autumn, the cuttings have usually formed enough roots so that they can be planted in the garden.

To cut

  • The bladder spar is very easy to cut.
  • In order to preserve the typical shrub shape, it makes sense to thin them out in early spring.
  • The best way to do this is to cut out the old shoots directly above the ground.
  • These old shoots can be recognized by their broom-like side shoots and the fact that their bark flakes off very heavily.
  • Exclusively shortening is not advisable for this plant.
  • It would then form numerous side shoots and its typical overhanging habit would be lost.
  • Cross-grown and crooked branches can be cut out in late winter.

Particularly beautiful species

  • Bladder spar – Physocarpus opulifolius ´Nugget´ – This bushy growing variety impresses with its bright white flowers and intensely golden yellow to lime green foliage. It reaches heights of about 1.80 m with an annual increase of between 20 and 40 cm. It is easy to care for and hardy. When planting, a distance of about 100 cm should be maintained.
  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Luteus’ – Gold Bladder Spar – This medium-sized shrub grows bushy and upright. It is well branched and is between 2 and 3 m high and up to 2.50 m wide. The flowers, which are about 5 cm wide, are arranged in clusters of clusters and have a creamy white and pink tinge. They appear from May to July. The leaves are yellow when they shoot and later yellow-green to bronze-yellow. This variety is very suitable for a hedge but also as a solitary shrub.
  • Bladder spar – Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ – This new, rather low cultivar grows very compactly and reaches a height of up to 1.50 m. Its intense red leaves, which later turn brownish-red in autumn, form an impressive contrast to the white flowers of this plant. It is hardy and suitable for single planting, for flowering hedges but also for cultivation as a container plant.
  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Dart’s Gold’ – Snowball-leaved bladder spar – The special thing about this variety ‘Dart’s Gold’ is its golden yellow, slightly greenish color of the leaves. The shoot is golden yellow with a delicate orange-yellow edge, later greenish and in autumn the foliage takes on a red-orange color. The rather inconspicuous white or cream-colored flowers appear from June to July. The red fruits that this plant develops contrast beautifully with the colorful foliage. It does very well in a stand-alone position but also for underplanting.
  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’ – Red-leaved Bladder Spars – This vigorous, deciduous variety of bladder spars is known to many as red-leaved and snowball-leaved bladder spar. It is very robust and windproof and is between 2 and a maximum of 5 m high and around 1.50 to 2 m wide with an annual increase of 30 to 50 cm. As with other bladder spars, the branches are broadly overhanging with age. The up to 5 cm wide, multi-flowered, white to pink-colored corymbs appear in June and only really come into their own thanks to the contrast to their black-red foliage. This variety is a very good contrast plant, for example, to green hedges or plants with yellow or silvery foliage.
  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Red Baron’ – Red-brown bladder sparrow – This spreading shrub grows about 2.50 m in height and 2 m in width. The leaves are slightly bronze colored when budding and later brown-red. The creamy white racemose flowers appear from June to July. In mixed hedges, this bladder spar variety sets very special accents with its red-brown foliage.
  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Amber Jubilee’ – This newly bred, particularly decorative variety captivates with an extraordinary play of colors. It is a cross between the varieties ‘Diabolo’ and ‘Dart’s Gold’ and got its name from Queen Elisabeth as part of her 60th anniversary to the throne. At first the leaves are yellow, then change to orange and red in summer and end in an autumnal purple. The white flowers appear from May to June. This winter hardy ornamental shrub reaches heights of growth of around 2 m. Due to its spectacular leaf color, it is equally effective in individual positions, in combination with other shrubs but also in privacy hedges.
  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Little Devil’ – This upright and very compact growing shrub remains relatively small at up to 1.50 m and produces 5 cm wide, creamy-white, slightly pink-tinged flower clusters from June to July. The foliage is blood red when it shoots and then changes its color to red-green. The combination of the creamy white flowers, the red-green leaves and the bright red bark make this shrub a very decorative plant.

The bladder spar is a fascinating plant, which impresses with its white or cream-colored flowers, but above all its colorful foliage. Its high-contrast foliage can be combined very well with other flowering or ornamental leaves, but is also a real eye-catcher in isolation. It is very undemanding and easy to care for, so that it is also very suitable for gardeners. The bladder spar is also relatively robust and insensitive to diseases and pests.

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