Happy Face® Yellow potentilla. Photo by Spring Meadow Nursery / Proven Winners

Potentilla, also called shrubby cinquefoil or bush cinquefoil, is one of the most popular landscape shrubs. It is valued for its long bloom time, exceptional hardiness, and carefree nature. Tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions, this sturdy plant stands up to drought, air pollution, and salt air, making it ideal for urban environments and beachfront locations. Despite its toughness and reliability, potentilla isn’t suited to southern regions with hot, humid summers.

A versatile addition to any landscape, potentilla shrubs can be used as hedging, massed along a slope, as a specimen in a mixed border or rock garden, and in containers. It’s also a good choice for firescaping and erosion control. The flowers are an important food source for butterflies and pollinating insects.

On this page: The Basics | Planting Potentilla | Care Tips | How to Choose the Right Potentilla | Potentilla Varieties | Landscaping Tips

THE BASICS

Zones:

2-8

Height/Spread:

Varieties from 3 inches to 4 feet tall, and 6 inches to 5 feet wide.

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade. Plants will flower best with at least 6 hours of full sun. Some afternoon shade in warmer climates will help keep plants blooming longer and the flowers from fading.

Bloom time:

Spring to fall

Color and characteristics:

The saucer-shaped blooms come in shades of white, yellow, pink, orange or red. Flowers are usually single, but can also be semi-double or double. Foliage is finely textured, bright to dark green, with palmate leaves ¾ of an inch to 4 inches long that have 3 to 15 fingerlike leaflets. Fruit is inedible and somewhat dry—resembling strawberries—hence nickname “barren strawberry.” Fall color is insignificant on most varieties.

Toxicity:

Potentilla is an herb whose flowers and leaves are used as natural remedies for stomach upsets or inflammation. It is not known to be harmful to children or pets.

Background:

A member of the rose family, potentilla is native throughout the Northern Hemisphere, found growing in mountain or meadow habitats. There are 500 species, including shrubs and perennials, with a small percentage being annual or biennial. Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) is a small-to-medium-sized deciduous shrub most often used by landscapers and home gardeners, though perennial and groundcover types are also available. The common name cinquefoil, meaning “five leaves,” refers to the five leaflets found on many varieties.

PLANTING POTENTILLA

Combine Happy Face® White potentilla with Superbena® Pink Shades for bright summer color. Photo by Proven Winners.

When to plant:

Potentilla is best planted during cooler months in spring or fall. Spring is optimal so that roots have a full growing season to become established.

Where to plant:

In a sunny site with fertile, well-draining soil that will stay evenly moist.

How to plant:

Cover the planting area with 2 inches of compost and mix into the soil 6 to 8 inches deep. Dig a hole 1-1/2 times larger than the root ball and remove the plant from the container. Gently tease out the roots if potbound and place in the hole so the top of the root ball is just slightly higher than the soil surface. Gently tamp down soil around the base and water well. Space 3 to 6 feet apart, depending on mature size. Note: Adding compost, planting high, and watching the amount of water is especially important in clay soils.

CARE TIPS

Pruning and deadheading:

Begin pruning shrubs to retain structure in the third year after planting. Potentilla can suffer some winter dieback in colder regions. In late winter or early spring before new growth emerges, cut out any dead or diseased wood. Lightly prune the entire plant to shape as needed. To rejuvenate older specimens, cut plants back by a third every few years. Flowers are self-cleaning and need no deadheading.

Soil:

Potentilla does best in moderately fertile soil, and is tolerant of clay, alkaline, rocky, dry, or poor soils as long as there is good drainage. Soil pH should range between 5 and 7. Yellow leaves or stunted growth can be symptoms of iron deficiency.

Amendments & fertilizer:

Potentilla needs little fertilizer and few amendments once established. In spring, place a 2-inch layer of compost around the base or apply an all-purpose fertilizer according to package instructions. Mulch with organic material such as leaves or wood chips to suppress weeds and conserve moisture.

Watering:

Keep plants evenly moist during the first growing season to encourage deep, healthy roots. Water once or twice a week during extreme heat; plants are drought tolerant once established. Water with a soaker hose or drip irrigation rather than overhead to help prevent fungal problems.

Diseases and pests:

When planted in ideal conditions, potentilla is resistant to most pests and diseases. Too much shade, lack of air circulation, or high humidity can cause fungal diseases such as downy mildew, powdery mildew, rust, or leaf spot. Poor drainage or overwatering can result in root rot. Possible insect problems include spider mites or aphids.

Deer resistance:

Deer will leave potentilla alone, though extreme conditions can result in deer grazing on plants they wouldn’t otherwise.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT POTENTILLA

With different forms and sizes to choose from, here are some tips to consider:

For beds, borders and rock gardens:

Larger varieties can be planted midway in a mixed border in combination with other shrubs, trees, and perennials. Smaller forms can be sited towards the front of a bed or border. Choose alpine types for rock gardens.

For hedging:

Smaller varieties are suitable for edging pathways, while larger types can be used as hedging to define garden rooms or property lines.

For slopes:

Mass any type that’s suitable to the scale of your landscape along a slope for low-maintenance erosion control.

For containers:

Plant smaller varieties in containers by themselves, or in combination with other low-maintenance plants with similar needs.

POTENTILLA VARIETIES

Swipe to view slides

Photo: Proven Winners

Happy Face® White (syn. ‘White Lady’)Buy now from Proven Winners
Potentilla fruticosa (syn. Dasiphora fruticosa)

Zones:

2-7

Height/Spread:

Dense mounding habit, 2-3 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Late spring to late summer

Color:

White flowers, dark green foliage

The oversized pure white flowers make an elegant statement in the garden, providing a cooling effect even on the hottest summer days. Use as a groundcover, in mass plantings, or commercial landscapes.

Photo: Proven Winners

Happy Face® Pink Paradise (syn. ‘Kupinpa’) Buy now from Proven Winners
Potentilla fruticosa (syn. Dasiphora fruticosa)

Zones:

2-7

Height/Spread:

Dense mounding habit, 2-3 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Late spring to late summer

Color:

Flowers are soft pink with a yellow center, dark green foliage

Large semi-double pink flowers bloom prolifically all summer long, holding their color better than other pink forms. A good choice for mixed borders, low hedging, and mass plantings.

Photo by: photowind / Shutterstock.com

‘Goldfinger’
Potentilla fruticosa (syn.Dasiphora fruticosa)

Zones:

2-7

Height/Spread:

Mounding spreading habit, 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide

Exposure:

Full sun

Bloom Time:

Late spring to fall

Color:

Yellow flowers, dark green foliage

The large 1-1/2-inch yellow flowers stand out dramatically against fine textured, finger-like foliage. Use as filler in a mixed border, as low hedging or foundation plant.

Photo by: Nick Pecker / Shutterstock.com

‘Pink Beauty’
Potentilla fruticosa (syn. Dasiphora fruticosa)

Zones:

3-7

Height/Spread:

Mounding habit, 2-3 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun-partial shade

Bloom Time:

Late spring through fall

Color:

Flowers are pastel pink with a yellow center, bright green foliage

Soft pink flowers set against the ferny foliage makes an elegant statement in the garden. Plant as a decorative shrub border in the landscape, along a path, or as a foundation planting.

Photo by: Rock Giguere / Millette Photomedia

Mango Tango ™ (syn. ‘Uman’)
Potentilla fruticosa (syn. Dasiphora fruticosa)

Zones:

2-7

Height/Spread:

Compact dense habit, 2 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Late spring to fall

Color:

Flowers are orange-yellow with red undertones, dark green foliage

Brightly hued blooms add a vibrant punch to the landscape. Flower color is more intense during cooler months, fading to yellow in summer. Use as a low border or hedge along walkways, or massed along a slope or foundation.

Photo by: Anna Gratys / Shutterstock.com

‘Abbotswood’
Potentilla fruticosa (syn.Dasiphora fruticosa)

Zones:

3-7

Height/Spread:

Mounding habit, 2-3 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Blooms best in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade

Bloom Time:

Late spring to fall

Color:

Flowers are white with a yellow center, dark green foliage

The single clean white flowers of this exceptionally long bloomer go with any style landscaping. Makes a good choice as a groundcover, hedging or massed along a slope or foundation.

Photo by: mizy / Shutterstock.com

‘Gold Drop’
Potentilla fruticosa (syn.Dasiphora fruticosa)

Zones:

2-7

Height/Spread:

Mounding habit, 2-3 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Late spring to fall

Color:

Golden yellow flowers, bright green foliage

Single buttercup-like flowers set against ferny green foliage provides rich color and texture all summer long. Foliage assumes a coppery golden hue in fall. Plant along walkways and borders, or as a container accent.

Photo by: Sheila Fitzgerald / Shutterstock.com

‘McKay’s White’
Potentilla fruticosa (syn.Dasiphora fruticosa)

Zones:

2-7

Height/Spread:

Mounding habit, 2-3 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun

Bloom Time:

Late spring to fall

Color:

Flowers are white with a yellow center, dark green foliage

Creamy white saucer-shaped flowers appear above ferny foliage all summer long. Good for mass plantings, in a mixed border, or as a foundation plant.

Photo by: Paul S Drobot / Millette Photomedia

‘Monarch’s Velvet’
Potentilla thurberi

Zones:

4-8

Height/Spread:

Mounding habit, 18-24 inches tall and 12-18 inches wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Early summer to fall

Color:

Flowers are deep raspberry red with a nearly black center, green foliage

Striking deep red flowers with heart-shaped petals bloom above strawberry-like leaves on this herbaceous perennial. Plant at the edge of a border, in a rock garden, or in a container. No pruning is needed.

Photo by: Tim Ludwig / Millette Photomedia

‘Sunset’
Potentilla fruticosa (syn. Dasiphora fruticosa)

Zones:

3-7

Height/Spread:

Mounding habit, 2-3 feet tall and wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time:

Late spring through fall

Color:

Orange flowers fade to yellow as they age, green foliage

The showy flowers are variable in color, from brick orange to peach-yellow, much as the spectrum of a sunset. Blooms retain their color best in cooler weather. Use as a groundcover, in mass plantings, or as a low hedge.

LANDSCAPING TIPS

There are many ways to incorporate potentilla into your landscape. Here’s how:

  • Place the same variety in different parts of the yard to unify the space.
  • Edge pathways and borders with a low hedge or mass planting for months of extended color.
  • Plant a slope with a single variety, or alternate different colors, grouping at least 3-5 plants of the same color for maximum impact.
  • For a seaside retreat, mix with other salt-tolerant plants for quaint cottage-style appeal.
  • Plant a hedge along a sidewalk where plants need to stand up to heavy pedestrian traffic and other urban challenges.
  • Use a single specimen in a container for a stand-alone accent at the end of a pathway or near an entryway.
  • Mass by themselves or in combination with other tough groundcovers along a slope to control erosion and stabilize the hillside.

RELATED:
Best Flowering Shrubs for Season-long Color
Guide to Growing Shrubs
Flowering Shrubs That Bring Joy Through the Fall Season

JOIN 75,000 GARDEN LOVERSSign up for weekly gardening inspiration and design tips

Get planting advice, garden design tips and trends, monthly checklists for your area, product specials and more in our weekly newsletter.

* Required Fields
We will never sell or distribute your email to any other parties or organizations.

More about the newsletter

Follow Us Garden Design Magazine Facebook Garden Design Magazine Twitter Garden Design Magazine Pinterest Garden Design Magazine Instagram Garden Design Magazine Youtube

Shop Garden Products

From tools to furniture, these garden products are sure to delight

Discover unique garden products curated by the Garden Design editors, plus items you can use to solve problems in your garden right now, and best sellers from around the web.

Shop Garden Design!