How to Grow Yellow Corydalis Plants

This short-lived perennial blooms nearly year-round

A close up shot of the beautiful yellow corydalis (Corydalis lutea) flower.

 G.N. van der Zee / Getty Images

Looking for a showy, shade-loving perennial to put in that shady corner of your garden? Look no further than the yellow corydalis! Characterized by mounds of delicate, fern-like foliage and striking yellow flowers, yellow corydalis is perfect for shady borders or garden beds and is even great as cut flowers. The extraordinarily long blooming period of the yellow corydalis is one of its most attractive features - blooming from mid-spring until early fall or even as late as the first frost. Learn how to grow this gorgeous perennial and enjoy its blooms all spring and summer long.

A large cluster of yellow corydalis (Corydalis lutea) takes up the entire photograph.
Skymoon13 / Getty Images
Botanical Name Corydalis lutea
Common Name Yellow corydalis, rock fumewort
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 15 inches tall
Sun Exposure Part shade
Soil Type Moist, well-draining soil
Soil pH 6.5-8
Bloom Time Spring, summer, fall
Flower Color Yellow, orange
Hardiness Zones 5-7
Native Area Europe

How to Grow Yellow Corydalis

Yellow corydalis (Corydalis lutea), sometimes also commonly referred to as rock fumewort, is a short-lived perennial native to the woodlands of Europe in the Corydalis genus. Overall, yellow corydalis is a fairly easy plant to grow as long as it has the right conditions.

When grown in the ideal environment, yellow corydalis is even sometimes considered to be weedy due to its prolific growth, however, it is easily removed where it is not wanted. Yellow corydalis has a mounding growth habit, reaching a maximum of around 15 inches tall, although it normally stays much smaller. 

Light

Yellow corydalis is a shade-loving perennial, ideally grown in a location that receives part shade, or a maximum 6 of hours of direct light a day. While it can technically tolerate full sun, in extreme heat and sun conditions yellow corydalis may suffer from leaf burn. 

Soil

Moist, well-drained soil is best for yellow corydalis, although it does tend to tolerate drier conditions better than other corydalis species. It appreciates alkaline soil (between 6.5 and 8). Yellow corydalis likes ordinary to humus-rich soil but can tolerate a wide range of soil types.

Water

Yellow corydalis needs consistently good moisture during the growing season in order to thrive. However, it does not tolerate wet soils during the winter when the plant is dormant. Water yellow corydalis regularly during the growing season and do not allow the soil to dry out. In the winter, cut back on any supplemental watering to avoid root rot or drowning the plant. 

Temperature and Humidity

Hardy in zones 5 through 7, yellow corydalis is generally intolerant of extremely hot, humid temperatures. It prefers cooler climates with average humidity as it also doesn’t tolerate dry conditions well. In the British Isles where cooler temperatures with low humidity are the norm, yellow corydalis grows prolifically and is even considered to be a weed.

Fertilizer

Yellow corydalis does not require regular fertilization but does benefit from soil rich in humus and organic matter. While not necessary, fertilizing at the beginning of each growing season with a gentle organic fertilizer can help give the plant a boost. Alternatively, adding a shovel-full of compost or manure into the soil each year will help to provide yellow corydalis with the nutrients that it needs to thrive. 

Toxicity

Caution to all horse-owners, yellow corydalis is toxic to horses when ingested. Symptoms of yellow corydalis toxicity in horses include mouth sores, gingivitis, colic, and even sudden death if large enough quantities are ingested. If yellow corydalis has been naturalized in your area, ensure that it is not allowed to invade pastures or areas where horses frequent.

Growing from Seeds

While yellow corydalis self-seeds prolifically when grown outdoors, it is not as easily grown from seeds otherwise due to its complex dormancy requirements. However, it is also not easily divided or transplanted, so if you are looking to add yellow corydalis to your garden starting with seeds is the best option. 

To start yellow corydalis seeds indoors, sow seeds into moist potting medium and place the potted seeds in plastic bags at room temperature (approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 5 to 6 weeks. Next, the seeds need to be cold-stratified and should be moved to near freezing conditions for 6 to 8 weeks. Last, the seeds should be moved back to slightly warmer conditions and kept at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit until they germinate. Once the last frost has passed, plant young seedlings directly in the garden.