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How to Grow: Potentilla
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Midsummer until frost in colors such has yellow, white, pink and orange
Mature Height x Spread
2 to 4 feet x 2 to 4 feet
Native, attracts beneficials, deer resistant
Potentilla is a native, small, rounded shrub that is a beauty in a small garden. What’s really special about this shrub is, unlike many other deciduous shrubs, potentilla blooms in waves from mid-summer until frost. The small, buttercup-like flowers are traditionally yellow or golden colored, but newer varieties feature white, pink and even orange colored options. The finely textured, small leaves give this shrub a delicate look and its slow growth rate makes it a popular choice to pair with perennials in the flower garden. But it is also a tough shrub that doesn’t have many soil requirements and fits in many locations in the landscape as long as it has enough sun to flower well.
When, Where and How to Plant
Potentilla is hardy throughout New England. Grow potentilla plants purchased from a local garden center and plant from spring to early fall in well-drained soil amended with compost. Potentilla will grow on any soil as long as it’s not too wet. Space plants 3 to 6 feet apart.
Water newly transplanted potentilla plants well and mulch with wood chips or bark mulch to keep the soil evenly moist and prevent weed growth. Fertilize in spring with a layer of compost and an organic plant food.
Regional Advice and Care
Potentilla is a relatively easy plant to grow. However, there will be some winter dieback in cold areas. Prune out dead, diseased and broken branches in spring. Prune periodically during the summer to shape the plant. Remove suckers to prevent the shrub from becoming overcrowded. Potentilla can be cut back severely, if necessary, to rejuvenate the shrub. Avoid planting in hot-dry conditions or spider mites may become a problem. Spray the plants with insecticidal soap to kill the mites.
Companion Planting and Design
Grow potentilla under windows along the foundation or mixed in a shrub or perennial flower border. The yellow flowered varieties look attractive planted next to blue flowered baptisia, salvia and catmint. Grow potentilla as a low hedge or around a formal herb garden. Mix and match other colored varieties with perennial flowers and low growing shrubs, such as cotoneaster and dwarf spirea.
‘Abbotswood’ is a popular white flowered variety that grows to 3 feet tall and wide. ‘Abbotswood Silver’ is a white and green variegated leaf form. ‘Gold Drop’ and ‘Gold Finger’ are common varieties that have bright yellow flowers that bloom for long periods of time. ‘Pink Beauty’ has pink colored flowers on 2-foot tall and wide shrubs. ‘Snowbird’ has double petaled, white colored flowers. ‘Tangerine’ has yellow flowers flushed with orange on a 2-foot tall and wide shrub. ‘Sunset’ is a 16-inch tall new variety with yellow flowers that have red hues.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.