Potentilla Plant Care: Tips For Growing Potentilla Shrub

Potentilla Plant Care: Tips For Growing Potentilla Shrub

By: Jackie Carroll

Bright yellow flowers cover shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) from early June until fall. The shrub grows only 1 to 3 feet (30-91 cm.) tall, but what it lacks in size it makes up in ornamental impact. Gardeners in cold climates will find many uses for this hardy little shrub that thrives in climates as cold as USDA plant hardiness zone 2. Use it as a foundation plant, as an addition to borders, in mass plantings and as a ground cover.

Shrubby Potentilla Info

Although the species’ shrubs produce single yellow flowers, you’ll find many cultivars with color variations and some with double flowers.

  • ‘Abbotswood’ is a very popular cultivar with single white flowers and bluish green leaves.
  • ‘Sunset’ has orange flowers that fade to yellow in the heat of summer.
  • ‘UMan’ features bicolored red and orange flowers.
  • ‘Primrose Beauty’ blooms in a soft shade of yellow and has silvery leaves.
  • ‘Medicine Wheel Mountain’ has bright yellow flowers with ruffled petals. It is shorter than most cultivars and spreads about 4 feet (1 m.) wide.

Potentilla Plant Care

Potentilla needs full sun or light shade. A little shade during the heat of the day keeps the plant blooming longer. It prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soil, but tolerates, clay, rocky, alkaline, dry or poor soils. Strong disease and insect resistance makes growing Potentilla easy. Here are some tips on how to care for Potentilla:

  • Water Potentilla shrubs during prolonged dry spells. The plant survives without consistent watering but thrives when it gets plenty of moisture. This Native American shrub grows wild in boggy soils.
  • Give the shrub a shovelful of compost in late spring as the flower buds begin to swell, or fertilize it with a complete fertilizer.
  • At the end of the flowering season, cut out the old branches at ground level or rejuvenate the shrub by cutting the entire plant back to ground level and allowing it to regrow. After a few years, it takes on an awkward shape unless you cut it all the way back.
  • Use organic mulch to help the soil retain moisture and discourage weeds. Pull back the mulch before the first freeze, and then push it back around the plant when the ground is frozen.

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How to Grow and Care for Shrubby Cinquefoil Plants

Shrubby Cinquefoil plants, Potentilla fruticosa, are a small, low maintenance,
deciduous shrubs which are an excellent addition to a Butterfly Garden,
or for areas where deer are a problem.

The yellow or pink buttercup-like flowers first appear on this 1-4 foot tall shrub in June
and will continue to brighten your landscape until the first frosts of Fall.

Cinquefoil plants are a very durable and will tolerate drought,
flooding, extreme cold, and will transplant easily.


Potentilla (Shrubby Cinquefoil)
Potentilla fruticosa – Hardiness Zone 2
Potentilla are regarded for their continuous, colourful blooms from summer to autumn. This small, hardy shrub has leaves composed of five tiny leaflets. Potentilla prefer full sunlight and well-drained soil and are frequently used for mass planting.

Potentilla Cultivars Ht. Sp. Flowers Features
Abbotswood 1 m 1 m White Hardiest, most prolific white bloomer
Coronation Triumph 1 m 1 m Bright yellow Longest blooming period of Potentilla
Floppy Disk 0.5 m 0.75 m Deep pink Double flowers
Gold Drop 0.6 m 1 m Deep yellow Compact, dwarf habit
Goldfinger 1.5 m 0.75 m Dark yellow Tallest, most popular Potentilla
Gold Star 0.6 m 1 m Golden Yellow Largest blooms of compact, dwarf Potentilla
Jackman 1 m 1.25 m Dark Yellow Large flowers and leaves
Katherine Dykes 1 m 1 m Creamy-yellow Old-fashioned favorite
Moonlight 1 m 1 m Light yellow Fuzzy foliage
Orange Whisper 1 m 1 m Orange Holds colour well
Pink Beauty 1 m 1 m Clear pink Double flowers on the new variety
Pink Princes 1 m 1 m Light pink English cultivar
Red Ace 0.6 m 1 m Deep orange Compact, dwarf habit
Red Robin 0.6 m 1 m Reddish-orange Compact, dwarf from
Royal Flush 0.6 m 1 m Rosy pink Compact, dwarf habit
Snowbird 0.6 m 0.75 m White Semi-double blooms
Tangerine 1 m 1 m Amber Orange flowers fade to copper colour
Yellow Gem 0.5 m 1 m Bright yellow Lowest growing Potentilla

Gold Finger Potentilla Hedge Red Ace Potentilla
Abbotswood Potentilla Pink Beauty Potentilla


Prune Potentilla Shrubs

Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa), also known as cinquefoil, is a cane shrub grown largely for its pretty, long-lasting blossoms. The stems fill thickly with gray-green leaves to create a rounded mound of foliage. Initial growth is rapid, but slows as the shrub ages. They develop branch frameworks where flowers grow year after year, and generally require minimal pruning. Prune dead wood to ground level. Check to make sure a stem is dead by scratching the bark with a fingernail. Remove the three oldest stems in the spring of the potentilla's third growing season if you want to control the height or shape of the shrub. Clip off about one-third of the stems in total.

  • Remove dead, damaged or diseased limbs at ground level with lopping shears or hand pruners.
  • Rejuvenate older plants that have lost their vigor by removing all the limbs within 6 inches of the ground with lopping shears or hand pruners.

Do not remove more than 1/3 of the plant during one season. You can prune Potentillas any time, but the plants may have fewer blooms or not bloom at all the following year. Clean debris from around plant. Destroy dead or diseased trimmings to prevent the spread of disease. Shred and compost healthy green trimmings.


Seasons of Interest:

Size & Form

1 to 4 feet high and wide
Rounded habit with fine texture stems.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun and well drained soil. Not tolerant of wet sites.
Withstands poor soils, hot dry sites and high pH soils.
A fiborous root system makes transplanting easy. S lo w growing.
Renewal prune by removing 1/3 of the oldest stems in late winter or early spring, or occasionally cut back all stems to the ground to rejuvenate.

Disease, pests, and problems

Spider mite can be troublesome in hot weather.
Does not tolerate permanently wet areas.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Hardy in the Midwest, withstands extreme cold temperatures
Tolerant of aerial salt spray

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 10
Native across northern U.S. and Canada

Bark color and texture

Thin, finely textured, stems with shredding bark

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate compound, pinnate leaves with 3 to 7 leaflets per leaf
Leaflets are elliptic and linear
Leave s emerge a soft grey-green and deepen to a medium to dark green mid summer

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Single, buttercup yellow flowers, a bout 1 to 11/2 inches in diameter
Long blooming period from June until frost

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A dry, brown achene, persist through winter

Cultivars and their differences

This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."

Goldfinger Shrubby Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa 'Goldfinger'): Compact, mounded habit reaching 3 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide. Bright, 1 to 2 inch yellow blooms accented against dark green foliage.

Mango Tango Potentilla ( Potentilla fruticosa 'UMan'): Tidy, compact rounded form 2 to 3 feet high and wide with mango-orange to red bicolor flowers from late spring to frost. Foliage is silvery-gray foliage.

McKay's White Potentilla (Potentilla fruitcosa 'McKay's White'): A small, mounded shrub 2 to 2 1/2 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide. Creamy white flowers and soft green folage stand up to summer heat.

Pink Beauty Shrubby Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa ‘Pink Beauty’): A rounded dense shrub reaching 2 to 3 feet high and wide with a ttractive pink flowers and bright green foliage.


Propagating Potentilla Plants and Growing them from Seeds

Potentilla Plants can be propagated by
digging and dividing established plants in the spring.
Softwood cuttings can be taken from
the new growth of Potentillas in the summer.

Potentilla seeds are short lived, and should not be stored!
Potentilla seeds can be sown directly into the garden
in late fall or early spring.
Sow seeds indoors in early spring.
Maintain a temperature in the growing medium of 65°-70° until germination,
which takes 15-20 days.


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